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.
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)
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