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Most YA novels about young cancer patients never transcend the subject. This one doesn't either--it doesn't seem to try--but it is a remarkably, even refreshingly clear-eyed treatment of the subject. Becky's pre-cancer life as a high school athlete is not projected in the round, and the boyfriend who deserts her when her sore leg turns out to be malignant is a sketch of shallow self-absorption from the start. Becky's twin sister Theo, though, is real enough to fill her function as the normal counterpoint, who feels both sympathy and resentment, and who wants to share the experience of the cancer ward but cannot go all the way with her sister. Medically, Becky gets off relatively easily--by all signs, the surgery on her leg has got the cancer in time--but she spends months in and out of the hospital, goes bald from chemotherapy like the other, less fortunate patients, and for the time, comes to find the world of dying teenagers more real than the one Theo still inhabits. Unlike the evasive staff and the forcibly optimistic mothers, the kids are blunt--passing on the news when one of them ""croaks,"" hooting en masse at the medical soaps on TV, and so on. There's just one typically touching scene--a dying little girl buries her dolls in kleenex boxes--and that is seen by outsider Theo. Then, toward the end, the patients conspire to give dying Mariela her last wish, which is to lose her virginity to Matt, the popular physical therapist. This whole invention (and especially Matt's consent) may not quite work, but Bach chooses her man and her timing so that it comes off better than one might expect. More involving, though, is simply the on-target, close-up, day-to-day view of the kids whom chance has turned into cancer patients.

Pub Date: Sept. 24th, 1980
Publisher: Harper & Row