Everything in Kat’s life is horrible, but it is about to get so very much worse.
Kat’s 12-year-old brother, “Beep,” is dying of not one but two forms of leukemia, the second one induced by the chemotherapy that’s failed to cure him. Even a bone marrow donation from Kat fails—and she, unfortunately, believes she’s responsible. She’s fighting bitterly with her older sister, Rachel. Spending so much time at the hospital, Kat has given up homework, so she’s failing sophomore year. The boy she loved, Evan, dumped her for popular girl Tracie, but now he’s trying to restart their battered relationship. She communicates frequently online with another cancer sibling, “Drowningirl,” who’s so depressed that Kat always replies with the suicide hotline number. She’s the online pal of a high school senior who’s also dying—but loves her. Tracie and her cruel followers at school (the “Tracies”) brutally try to bully her into submission. (Most of the book’s characters appear to be white.) Kat is wise, dependable, and loving, a beautifully realized character, but this tale is so deeply infused with a surfeit of desperate pain that it is agonizing to read. One scene, where Rachel and Kat take turns smelling Beep’s ball cap just to recall his sweet scent, is overwhelming.
Some books require Kleenex at the end. This deeply moving tragedy vastly outpaces typical tissue use. (Fiction. 11-18)