Side Effects

Side Effects

4.8 44
by Amy Goldman Koss
     
 

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As if it isn't bad enough to have cancer, practically every time we pick up a book or hear about a character in a movie who gets sick, we know they'll be dead by the last scene. In reality, kids get all kinds of cancers, go through unspeakable torture and painful treatments, but walk away, fine in the end. Isabelle, not quite 15, is living a normal life of fighting

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Overview

As if it isn't bad enough to have cancer, practically every time we pick up a book or hear about a character in a movie who gets sick, we know they'll be dead by the last scene. In reality, kids get all kinds of cancers, go through unspeakable torture and painful treatments, but walk away, fine in the end. Isabelle, not quite 15, is living a normal life of fighting with her younger brother, being disgusted with her parents, and hoping to be noticed by a cute guy. Everything changes in an instant when she is diagnosed with lymphoma—and even her best friend, Kay, thinks Izzy is going to die. But she doesn't, and her humor—sardonic, sharp, astute—makes reading this book accessible and actually enjoyable.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“At once acerbic and warm-hearted, Koss's novel offers a first-person account of a 14-year-old's grueling ordeal. . . . Though Koss lets readers know in advance that Izzy will pull through, the teen's candid, often comical narrative will involve them deeply in her adjustment to the drastic changes that come with her illness and treatment. . . . This tale will certainly open readers' eyes to the tribulations of young cancer patients and how to offer support.” —Publishers Weekly

“Vibrant and authentic, Izzy's narrative voice is unique and refreshing, as is Koss's unforgiving look at a topic that too often has no happy ending.” —Voice of Youth Advocates

“A problem novel that's nicely paced and easy to read. . . . The book has realistically typical teenage characters and apparently solid research into various Children's Hospital patients and their treatments, but it's not too heavy, complex, or long.” —School Library Journal

“Hilarious and harrowing by turns, Koss tells the story of an artistic 14-year-old girl whose garden-variety life goes bizarre when she's diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma. . . . Precisely voiced, funny and genuine, giving the reader a multifaceted look at a devastating experience.” —Kirkus Reviews

Publishers Weekly
At once acerbic and warm-hearted, Koss's (The Girls) novel offers a first-person account of a 14-year-old's grueling ordeal after she is diagnosed with stage IV Hodgkin's lymphoma. In an introductory note, the author remarks that many "kids get all kinds of cancers, go through unspeakable torture and painful treatments, but walk away fine in the end." Though Koss lets readers know in advance that Izzy will pull through, the teen's candid, often comical narrative will involve them deeply in her adjustment to the drastic changes that come with her illness and treatment. Often sarcastic and glib, Izzy, diagnosed in the first chapter, delves into the details of her chemotherapy and its devastating side effects, including hair loss, mouth sores, rashes and shooting arm pain. ("Was it necessary that I have every possible side effect from chemotherapy? Couldn't I just skip a few?" she wonders.) When Izzy returns to school, she uses humor to cope with her peers' awkward, over-friendly attitude toward her, commenting that there was "something spooky and science-fictiony" about "all this smiling and nodding and helloing." Koss interjects many poignant moments, including Izzy's dread of continuing her "chemo nightmare." The teen's thoroughly likable and uplifting best friend plays an enormous role in helping Izzy to remain positive and avoid self-pity. This tale will certainly open readers' eyes to the tribulations of young cancer patients and how to offer support. Ages 11-up. (Oct.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature - Cheri Stowers
Izzy, a tough-talking, churlish fifteen-year-old, is busy navigating the teenage world of phone calls to friends, flirting with the boys, and bullying her mom. Then suddenly her whole world spins out of control. It all begins one morning when she looks in the mirror and sees that her neck is swollen. Immediately she is rushed to the doctor, who confirms that she has lymphoma, a life-threatening illness. She is thrust into a world of "medical weirdness" complete with IVs, cold, sterile hospital regimes, and chemotherapy with its litany of horrific side effects. Izzy brings the reader up close and allows him/her to experience the gamut of emotions that assail her: fear, anger, confusion, and even laughter at times as she pulls out her pen and paper and creates caricatures of the life around her. Izzy shares what it's like to return to school. Some kids don't know what to say, others are sappy-friendly, and worst of all, her best friends are "dweebs," too. If only she could hibernate and escape all the weirdness. This book is a "straight shooter," telling it like it is, in honest, teen-talk language. Some readers may be offended by Izzy's foul language, others will find an instant connection. Either way, readers will come away with a new perspective on what it's like to experience a life-threatening illness. This book is an excellent resource for any parent, teacher, counselor, caregiver, student, etc., who wants to learn more about that place where no one wants to go; the world not only of illness and pain, but of courage and friendship, as seen through a teenager's eyes.
VOYA - Amanda MacGregor
Nearly fifteen-year-old Izzy's day starts out in its ordinary fashion. Her mother pokes her awake for school, but Izzy ignores her. When her mother returns for a second attack, a disgruntled Izzy stumbles into the bathroom. Then Izzy notices her swollen glands, thought to be lingering from a long-ago flu. Izzy soon finds out that she has lymphoma, and her whole life changes. Suddenly she is spending her days at the children's hospital, undergoing various tests and treatments. Her mother is a basket case, refusing to say "cancer," somehow thinking that "lymphoma" has a less ominous ring to it. Izzy copes with it all by losing herself in her drawing-always with a blue pen, preferably on lined notebook paper. This novel is not the typical kid-with-cancer book. Izzy is bitingly sarcastic, not even letting cancer dull her razor-sharp tongue. She swears, makes witty and morbid (although inappropriate, says her mother) jokes about the circumstances, and maintains a sense of humor about something that is difficult to find funny. She rarely falls prey to self-pity and has little patience for people getting overly upset about her situation. Koss successfully makes the reader squirm with discomfort as Izzy describes hair loss, vicious vomiting episodes, and the agonizing pain of chemotherapy. Izzy does not linger too much over the idea that she may die; in fact, the thought rarely enters her mind. Vibrant and authentic, Izzy's narrative voice is unique and refreshing, as is Koss's unforgiving look at a topic that too often has no happy ending.
School Library Journal
Gr 6-10-A problem novel that's nicely paced and easy to read. Ultra-normal teenager Izzy learns that she has stage IV Hodgkins lymphoma. She undergoes standard treatments, withstands her newfound pity-popularity at school, leans on her best friend, and grows in her understanding of her mother. She narrates with a relatively light, joke-cracking tone as her ballpoint pen doodles cartoon jibes at the things making her uncomfortable. Throughout, readers see how the teen's condition affects her loving family and supportive best friend. Reassured by the preface, they will have no fear of Izzy's recovery. Rather, the story focuses in great detail on her treatments and how she gets through them, holding out for a future in which she will have "long, braided hair" and a boyfriend who can deal with serious stuff like cancer. Readers witness every hospital visit, every injection-everything that goes in, and the color of what comes out (with some spectacular pukes). The book has realistically typical teenage characters and apparently solid research into various Children's Hospital patients and their treatments, but it's not too heavy, complex, or long.-Rhona Campbell, Chevy Chase Neighborhood Library, Washington, DC Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Hilarious and harrowing by turns, Koss tells the story of an artistic 14-year-old girl whose garden-variety life goes bizarre when she's diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma. Suddenly, she's dealing with the alien world of the hospital, while finding that her cancer has made her a social alien in high school. Not that she has much time for socializing; she's too busy throwing up from the chemotherapy and then too exhausted to care. The secondary characters, such as the heroine's constantly crying, yet there-for-her-daughter mom, her loyal and gallant best friend and her honest and irritated little brother, ring true, as does the gallows humor and dead-on observations about hospital life. And the panoply of reactions from the heroine's classmates as they cope with her cancer is simultaneously funny, anger inducing and astute. The plot is the situation-a girl contracts and is treated for the disease-and the happy ending is somewhat abrupt, but the telling is precisely voiced, funny and genuine, giving the reader a multifaceted look at a devastating experience. (Fiction. 11-15)

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780312602765
Publisher:
Square Fish
Publication date:
04/13/2010
Pages:
160
Sales rank:
1,103,144
Product dimensions:
5.40(w) x 8.10(h) x 0.60(d)
Lexile:
760L (what's this?)
Age Range:
9 - 12 Years

Read an Excerpt

Side Effects


By Amy Goldman Koss

Roaring Brook Press

Copyright © 2006 Amy Goldman Koss
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4299-3582-1


CHAPTER 1

the overhead light snapped on and my shoulder got one quick shake. Pupkin, who hated the morning wars, jumped off my bed, leaving a cold spot. He followed Mom, his toenails clicking down the hall.

I grabbed a moment of peace until my mother returned to poke me in the ribs in a totally obnoxious way that started the hate stirring. Was that any way to begin a day, with stirring hate and the light burning through my eyelids?

But that's Mom's style, a series of quick, hostile advances, retreats, and repeats to annoy her victim into wakefulness, like a human mosquito. I had to sleep braced for the next attack. And there she was, yanking off my blankets. Hey!

With swearing from me, ragging from Mom, and snarling from both of us, I stumbled to the shower. What was left of the hot water felt great, but then it was gone, thanks to my little brother, Max.

I wiped the steam off the mirror, to see what needed plucking or squeezing, trying to see myself through Jared Peterson's incredible baby-blue eyes. But something looked weird.

I wrapped myself in a towel and called, "Mom!"

"What?"

"Come here."

"Can't now. What?"

"No, really. Look."

She came, grumbling, "You're late again, and there's no way I've got time to drive you. You'll just have to —"

I cut her off and pointed to the mirror. She glanced at my reflection, cloudy with steam.

"Look at my neck; my glands are still sticking out. That flu was ages ago."

She peered closer at the mirror, then at me. "I'll call Dr. Posner, see if he can fit you in today. Now get dressed and get going. It's almost seven." Then she went back to the kitchen to yell at my brother for something.


second hour I was in Drama class. A girl, Nina, was reading her sonnet with way too much emotion. I was drawing a picture of her for my friend Kay, who couldn't draw worth shit and thought every doodle I doodled was brilliant.

Just as I was putting sweat beads on Nina's brow, a voice came through the speaker telling Ms. Blaire to send me to the office with my belongings.

Nina crossed her arms in a huff at the interruption. She tapped her foot in irritation as I shut my notebook and slid it into my backpack. I was tempted to move in extra slow motion just to see how many times I could get her to roll her eyes.

Kay mouthed the question, "Where're you going?"

I shrugged. Half the time when kids were pulled out of class it was to go to the orthodontist. The other half was because their grandparents had died. But I didn't have braces or grandparents.

My mom was in the office, signing me out. I saw her write doctor's appointment and I remembered my swollen glands. I touched my neck — they were still there. Good! If the doctor's office was crowded enough, this could eat up half the day.

In the car, Mom asked the usual: "How was school?"

"Fabulous."

She perked up. "Really?"

"It sucked, Mom. It always sucks."

"Please don't use that word."

"Which word?"

Mom sighed.

Traffic stopped to let a fat woman wearing a green garbage bag push her shopping cart across the street. It was hot out and she must've been sweltering in that outfit, plus the asphalt had to be hell on her bare feet. Someone leaned on his horn to either speed the bag lady up or encourage the guy who'd stopped for her to run her down.

"Butt-wad," I murmured.

Mom looked at me, then looked closer. "I wish you'd worn a nicer shirt," she said. She reached over to scrape some breakfast off my sleeve. If I'd let her, she would've scrubbed it with her spit.

Then we were in Posner's waiting room with a little kid throwing a very impressive tantrum. His mom's solution was to keep pointing at the aquarium, saying "See the pretty fishies?" in a very high, very irritating, very fake voice.

Why do people squeak like that at children? Is there some scientific reason? Or is it just to make sure that all kids grow up to despise and distrust their elders?

Another woman was nursing what appeared to be a blanket. There were a lot of sloppy, slurpy noises.

I was definitely too old to be there. The whole waiting room was full of baby stuff and Highlights magazines and chewed-up Dr. Seuss books.

I'd left my notebook and everything in the car, or I might have done a drawing of that weird wire thing with the colored beads, which exists only in doctors' waiting rooms. I wondered what was supposed to be fun about it. All I'd ever wanted to do was get the beads off the damn thing so I could play with them. Maybe that toy — if you can even call it a toy — was meant to teach frustration and hopelessness. Hey, kids! Feeling sick? Scared of the doctor? Well, here are some beads you can't have! Ha-ha!

Mom was chatting up the nursing mother. Why she always has to do that, I do not know. Mom was telling her something insanely boring about my infancy, or my brother's, and I practically wished I was back in school — but not quite.

Then Dora, who I actually didn't hate, took us to examining room 4. She asked me why I was there. Mom answered, "Swollen glands."

Dora asked if I'd had a sore throat or fever. Mom said no.

Dora asked me how long my glands had been swollen, and if they hurt. Mom answered the best she could.

Dora told me to hop up on the examining table. I half expected Mom to jump up there for me.

Dora said the doctor would be with us soon, but I didn't hold it against her for lying. Maybe she was an optimist and really believed that this time, Dr. Posner would make it into the room before I died of boredom.

Mom pointed to the baby scale, like she always does, and told me I used to hate being weighed.

I said, "I know."

She looked at the Sesame Street books, and I knew she wished I'd sit on her lap and let her read one to me.

"Do you think I'll get a shot?" I asked. I hated shots. The worst part about a shot was the idea of a shot, but knowing that the worst part was the idea didn't make the idea any less horrible.

"Oh, Izzy, shots aren't so bad," Mom said. "Stings for a second, then it's over."

She wasn't going to get anyone to sit on her lap and listen to Big Bird stories with that kind of sympathy.

The crinkly paper on the examining table stuck to my thighs. I asked Mom if she thought they recycled it. "You figure they roll out a fresh three or four feet for each patient," I said. "That's a lot of paper. They could donate it to schools for art projects."

Mom wrinkled her nose. "That wouldn't be very sanitary," she said.

I nodded. "You're right. There'd be skid marks from all those itty-bitty ass holes."

"Don't swear, Izzy, please," Mom said automatically.

Many years later, Dr. Posner came in and made a few lame jokes, which Mom laughed at, not because they were funny, but so Posner would doctor me well. Then he asked why I was there.

I wondered if Dora knew that he paid zero attention to the notes she took, day after day, patient after patient.

As soon as he had re-asked all Dora's questions, he felt my neck. "It's probably mononucleosis. Or, as it's commonly called," he told us commoners, "mono. But we'll have Dora take a TB test for good measure. Then I'd like you to run across the street to the hospital for a chest X-ray."

Hmmm. My pediatrician was suggesting that I run across the street?

But, cool. The hospital always takes forever, so for sure it'd be too late to go back to school afterward. I wondered if Jared would notice I wasn't in History.

When Dora came back in with the TB test, I scooted off the table and sat next to my mom. I scrunched my face into her shoulder, closed my eyes, stuck out my arm, held my breath, and squeezed Mom's hand while Dora stabbed me.

Dora teased that she'd seen braver five-year-olds and toddlers with higher pain tolerance. Nonetheless, she gave me a Hello Kitty sticker, as always.


as far as the hospital taking all day, I must've been thinking about the emergency room the time my brother, Max, got hit by a baseball or the time he fell off the skate ramp or when he burned himself so mysteriously or when he drove a nail through his finger. This was different. The radiology department was nowhere near the emergency room, and they took me in immediately.

Mom talked to everyone there, of course.

The Filipino X-ray guy with a tattoo of a lion peeking out under his sleeve moved me around in front of the X-ray machine. His hands were warm through my thin hospital gown. He said something about being Superman, seeing through me, and it's entirely possible that I blushed.

Mom and I waited around for him to make sure the X-ray had worked. But when he came back to tell me I could get dressed, he was no longer smiling or flirty. "Your doctor will call you at home" was all he said, so I figured he didn't like me anymore.

On the way back to the car, Mom asked what time my lunch hour was. I asked, "Why?"

"Because if you missed it, we can pick you up something."

I didn't like the sound of that. "I'll eat at home," I said.

"It's only twelve twenty," Mom said. "There's still almost half the school day left, and I've got to get back to the office." Mom didn't look at me; I guess she could imagine my scowl.

"Please don't make me go back, Mom," I begged. "After all that. Posner, then the X-rays. And nothing's happening today, I swear."

Mom sighed, which in this instance meant I'd won.

She called her office and told John she'd see him tomorrow. Then we went to the Toasted Bun. My omelet was extra delicious since I was supposed to be in Algebra.

"Mono is called the kissing disease, you know," Mom said, extracting the tomatoes from her salad.

Humph, I grunted, mouth full of toast.

"So, who've you been kissing?"

"Just Pupkin," I said. "Well, Pupkin, and this very nice old guy who offered me a lollipop if I'd get in his car."

"Izz, I'm serious," Mom said.

"Me too," I replied.

Mom sighed, again.

It's so unfair, I thought, that I should get a kissing disease without first getting the kissing. Of course, if you could get a kissing disease from hours spent fantasizing, I'd be a goner. Like the bus ride home from the Science field trip. I'd nabbed the seat next to Jared without, I thought, seeming too obvious. We'd talked a little to each other, but what felt even better was talking to the kids all around us, as if we were one voice. He and I talked to them — and I felt all this couplelike we-ness.

A while later, I pretended to fall asleep. I'm a tiny bit taller than Jared, so I had to scoot down to let my head fall accidentally on his shoulder. After a while, he very, very gently rested his head on mine, and it was unbelievably fabulous. A head-hug. My leg hummed, lined up against Jared's, communicating in sex-speak. Every one of my deliriously horny skin cells was practically screaming to every one of his, without a sound. It was so cosmic I could hardly breathe.

I knew that he knew that I wasn't really sleeping and that, any second, we'd turn our faces to each other and we'd kiss and it would be unbelievable. The suspense was murder.

Then Jared snored himself awake. "Oh, man," he laughed, shaking himself, "I guess I passed out." Then he turned around to talk to the kids behind us, leaving a cooling puddle of drool on my arm.

The whole steamy scene had been in my head.

Now I wondered what — if anything — Jared would think when he heard I had mono. Would he be even a tiny bit jealous that maybe I'd been kissing someone?


since she was off from work anyway, Mom figured this would be a good time to pick up the dry cleaning and run fifty other errands. By the time we got home, it was practically as if I'd been in school all day. I couldn't bring myself to start my homework or else I'd have gotten nothing extra out of this at all.

When I checked the clock, it said I still had twenty-five minutes to kill before Kay got out of class and I could call her. That's how I knew it was 2:05 when the phone rang.

My mom answered, and I didn't think anything of it until I heard the strangest moan. An animal kind of moan that made me think Pupkin was hurt. Then I heard Mom's voice, but low and groaning, go, "Noooo. Oh no. Oh no." I ran to the kitchen, terrified.

Mom was on the floor, with her legs sprawled. She was slumped against the counter as if she'd slid down. She looked unnatural and uncomfortable, with the phone still in her hand. The scene was weird, but Pupkin was safe and sound, licking Mom's face. I nearly laughed, but then I thought, Shit! Someone's hurt! Or dead! Dad? Max?

But it was me.

Mom delivered the news from down there. And, as if that wasn't surreal enough, the news she had to deliver was beyond sense. "That was Dr. Posner," she said in a weird, moany voice. "He told me to take you to Children's Hospital right away. Today. Now." She looked up from the floor with a confused frown and said, "He said you have lymphoma."

"Lymphoma? What the hell is lymphoma?" I asked. And I knew it was serious because Mom didn't tell me not to swear. Her eyes were huge. She didn't get up.

"Mom!" I yelled. "What's lymphoma?"

"He said they have much better luck with it now," she answered, if you can call that an answer. Then she auto-dialed my aunt Lucy, and I heard her say, "Lou? They think Isabelle has cancer. Meet us at Children's Hospital. We're going now," and she hung up.

They thought I had what? Then I was on the floor too, as if all my bones had either melted or been suddenly removed.


if the cancer didn't kill me, the ride to the hospital would. Mom's eyes were streaming tears and she was babbling first into the phone at my dad, then just babbling in general. I watched LA go by outside the window and marveled that everything looked so normal. There was the Live Nude Girls sign that made me wonder, when I was little, whether other places had dead nude girls. We crossed the Los Angeles River, which was just a dribble of scum between graffiti-covered concrete banks.

We had never been to Children's before. We could see it now, sticking up over the shorter buildings around it — a Blockbuster, a gas station, a thrift store with a blue '50s prom dress in the window.

Mom wasn't sure where the parking lot was.

A homeless guy and his dalmatian sat on the curb in front of the public TV station, where we stopped for a red light. His sign said, Good karma 1 dollar. OK karma, fifty cents.

I pointed him out to my mom and she grabbed a handful of ones from her purse and frantically waved them at the man, calling, "Yoo-hoo!"

The light changed. The guy had trouble standing up. Cars behind us honked, so Mom crunched up the bills and threw them. Poor guy was going to have to dodge traffic to pick them up off the street.

I wanted to call Kay, but as bizarre as it seemed, it was still too early. How weird, that I'd be in History, scribbling on my folder, sneaking peeks at blue-eyed Jared, and thinking about whatever it is I thought about when I wasn't on my way to Children's Hospital with cancer.

"Mom?" I asked, interrupting her chatter. "Will I lose my hair?"

"Does that say 'patient parking' or what?" she asked, pointing to a sign. "Should I go in there?"

I shrugged.

"They said bed," Mom muttered. "They'd have a bed ready. So a parking meter won't be long enough, right? I'd have to keep feeding it quarters all night or I'd get a ticket. Would they ticket a hospital? A children's hospital?"

Tears slid down her face, getting sidetracked by wrinkles and divided into streams. There were no crying noises, thank God.

Bed? Hospital bed? That's where I was going to sleep? How much sense did that make?


the lobby of this hospital was nothing like the one we'd been in that morning. This one was big and bright and decorated to look fun. Who did they think they were kidding?

People were everywhere. Carrying babies. Pushing strollers and wheelchairs. Kids wearing surgical masks. Lots of fat people in tight clothes. I let Mom take my arm.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from Side Effects by Amy Goldman Koss. Copyright © 2006 Amy Goldman Koss. Excerpted by permission of Roaring Brook Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Meet the Author

AMY GOLDMAN KOSS is the author of several acclaimed teen novels, including The Girls, an ALA Best Book for Young Adults, and Poison Ivy (available from Square Fish). She lives in Glendale, CA, with her family.

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