At 16, Alice is diagnosed with leukemia, and is given a dire prognosis.  Assuming she has months to live, she undergoes chemotherapy with the support of her lifelong friend, Harvey, whose frank and deepening love she is uncertain about returning.  On days when she has enough energy and the nausea abates, she works on a "bucket list" with Harvey's sometimes reluctant help, since the list includes revenge on two classmates who have hurt and humiliated her.  When, months into treatment, she goes into unexpected full remission, Alice has to come to terms with the consequences of some of her revenge strategies and reassess the depth of a relationship with Harvey that may last far longer than she thought she had.  Given an opportunity to choose life on new terms, she considers those new terms in a more adult way, chastened, focused, and grateful for a chance to make new choices.


The story alternates between chapters that take place "Now" and chapters that take place "Then."  "Then" refers to the weeks immediately following Alice's diagnosis, recording the shock waves that resonate in Alice's own life and those of her parents, friends, and even enemies at school.  "Now" refers to the period of remission when she is forced to reassess, resume her life (including a tentative return to her years-long commitment to ballet), and make amends and new decisions.  The writing is well-paced for a young adult novel.  The switching of time frames doesn't always work to the purpose, sometimes seeming abrupt and interruptive, but the momentum is never quite lost.  The novel offers a valuable look at some of the ambiguities of long-term illness and of cancer in particular, including the uncertainties of prognosis and how they challenge a person's most basic sense of how to live out what matters most.  Another strength is its focus on how illness affects family relationships and friendships.  Ultimately, this is a hopeful book—unsentimental, edgy, and often surprising.


Harper Collins

Place Published

New York



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