BECAUSE OF ANYA by Margaret Peterson Haddix


Age Range: 10 - 12
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A mousy fourth grader demonstrates both courage and compassion in this undisguised consciousness-raiser. Keely takes a major step toward independence when she refuses clique-leader Stef’s command to tug at classmate Anya’s hair to see if it’s a wig. In fact, it is; Anya has lost her hair not to chemotherapy, as her horrified peers automatically assume, but to alopecia areata, an uncommon, non-life-threatening immune system disorder. Haddix (Among the Betrayed, p. 733, etc.) switches points of view between Anya and Keely to show one child convulsed with shame and fear of discovery, and another who is first horrified at the prospect that someone she knows might die. Then, after the truth comes out in the wake of an emotionally devastating public accident, Keely’s resolved to find the right way to show support—something at which Anya’s own hand-wringing parents aren’t doing too well. The characters are definitely modeling good and bad behavior here, but Keely’s urge to help comes from basic decency rather than ego. And though she speaks with unlikely eloquence at the climax, what she says—and later does, with a donation of her own hair—realistically works no instant cure, but does plant seeds that soon enough flower into acceptance, both in Anya and in her classmates. The author’s sympathetic but not simplistic insight will engage readers who might find the picture book Princess Alopecia by Yaacov Peterseil (1999) too cutesy. An afterword furnishes additional information, plus addresses and Web sites. (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 2002
ISBN: 0-689-83298-2
Page count: 128pp
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1st, 2002


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