Oregon high-school sophomore Lily has been her widowed mother’s caregiver for four years, injecting her with bee venom to counter the debilitating effects of multiple sclerosis. When the venom stops working, Mom asks Lily to help her die.
Mom hasn’t consulted a doctor since her MS specialist, father of Lily’s love interest, refused to authorize bee-venom therapy (readers aren’t told that clinical studies support his position). A veterinarian, she adheres to a strict “natural” healing regimen, even refusing hospital palliative care (perplexingly, the family diet is rich in processed foods). It’s unclear why Mom, financially secure, largely ambulatory and surrounded by loving caregivers, arbitrarily rules out dialysis and palliative care that could ease her pain and allow her more time with Lily. Mom’s decision to die and Lily’s tritely resolved feelings about it are conveyed simplistically, without reference to a larger social context or acknowledgment that many who live with disabilities find “right to die” laws troubling. This debut, hobbled by its high-concept–but-unlikely premise, is further undermined by errors and inconsistencies, especially in its portrayal of the natural world. Though thematically central, nature itself receives slapdash treatment, and Oregon’s vastly different climate zones are erroneously conflated.
Flimsy and forgettable. (Fiction. 12 & up)