VOYA - Kristin Anderson
Fifteen-year-old Dani was born with a congenital heart condition. She has had to struggle with her illness for her entire life, but it has finally reached the point where she needs to receive a heart transplant or she will die. Taken alone, this premise sounds like the setup for a Lurlene McDaniel read-alike. What makes this book particularly poignant and unique is that Dani's story is juxtaposed against the story of fourteen-year-old Amanda, who has a tragic accident at a gymnastics meet and whose parents are struggling with whether her organs should be donated. Both families have adjustments to make in the wake of the transplant that ultimately occurs. Told from multiple viewpoints, the book is effective at showing the complexities of emotions that surround the organ donation and transplantation processes. Perhaps most moving is Dani's awareness that her desperate wish to receive a heart transplant is, in effect, a wish for another person to die. Only the perspective of the driver responsible for transporting the organs between facilities feels clunky and disruptive of the overall flow of the story. This book has appeal beyond the McDaniel crowd, but the cover (which is dominated by an illustration of a human heart) will not necessarily appeal to the audience that will most appreciate the book. Hand selling may be necessary but worthwhile. Reviewer: Kristin Anderson
Children's Literature - Claudia Mills
Fifteen-year-old Dani, born with a flawed heart positioned on the wrong side of her body, will die unless she receives a heart transplant in the next two weeks. Fourteen-year-old Amanda, a competitive gymnast, becomes brain-dead after a freak accident on the uneven bars. Wolfson weaves together the stories of the two girls who end up sharing one single, beating heart. In the process, she provides extensive, sometimes extremely graphic, information about exactly how organ transfer takes place: from guilty, desperate hope that someone young and healthy enough will die in the nick of time, to the extensive and somewhat gruesome operation itself, to the recovery period during which anti-rejection medication and massive doses of steroids produce unpleasant and unattractive side effects. The multiple points of view (shifting around from members of both families to hospital personnel and even to the driver who delivers organs from one hospital to another) give a well-rounded portrait of organ transplantation even as they distance the reader from identification with any one participant. While also offering a believable emerging love story between Dani and Milo, the morbidly brooding boy in the next hospital room who is waiting for a liver transplant, this is primarily a problem novel showcasing the admittedly fascinating and important issue of organ transplantation. Reviewer: Claudia Mills, Ph.D.
School Library Journal
Fifteen-year-old Dani has a congenital heart defect and is waiting for a transplant. Fellow patients in the hospital include Wendy, a pesky 8-year-old awaiting a kidney, and 17-year-old Milo, the bad-boy love interest who abused his first transplanted liver and is determined to do better if given a second chance. Dani and Wendy become "transplant sisters" when they receive organs from the same donor, a 14-year-old competitive gymnast named Amanda. Readers come to know and appreciate Amanda through the remembrances of her older brother, Tyler, who discovers her true, caring nature when he searches through her computer files. Some of the characters are truly extraneous and the writing is sometimes clichéd, but readers will still feel the wrenching agony of the donor's family. The physical and emotional anguish that transplant recipients endure appears to be realistically portrayed, as is the strong language to express their anger and frustration. It is unfortunate that the book begins with a dreadfully erroneous description of a gymnastics meet, including gymnasts who vault over a pommel horse and swing from metal uneven parallel bars. It is difficult to trust the author's medical information after such a shaky introduction to the story. Nonetheless adolescent readers may be drawn to the drama surrounding organ transplants, the teen love affair, and the dynamics of Tyler and Amanda's sibling relationship.-Patricia N. McClune, Conestoga Valley High School, Lancaster, PA
When Dani looks in the mirror she sees a "blue-lipped, cold-handed, gray-skinned fifteen-year-old." Born with the fatal heart condition dextrocardia, Dani has survived, with difficulty, but now her health is failing fast. Mere miles away from Dani's hospital bed, Amanda, a 14-year-old gymnast, flips and leaps through the air until a freak accident bonds these two strangers forever. Told mostly in Dani's witty voice, the novel reveals her intimate thoughts as readers accompany her through her transplant, as she falls in love with a fellow patient and as she wrestles with the magnitude of receiving another girl's heart. Woven throughout the text are chapters about Amanda, the most powerful of which focus on Tyler, her older brother, and give her life beyond the label of donor. Detailed, accurate descriptions of medical procedures are leavened with humor and sincerity, providing a powerful, multifaceted exploration of ethics, love and the celebration of life. (Fiction. 10 & up)