Anthem for Jackson Dawes ISBN: 9781408827116
Published by Bloomsbury Publishing PLC, 2013
This would be an ordinary love story between two teenagers except for the fact that both of them have cancer and that we know almost from the title that one of them isn't going to make it. When 13 year old Megan has to go to hospital to begin chemotherapy for a brain tumour, she is horrified to find she is on a children's ward. She is also disorientated and wants to be almost anywhere but where she is. Her first and subsequent meetings with black teenager Jackson Dawes are not a success. He is the only other teenager on the ward, and he is jolly, kind, and very sure of himself. Her attempts to ward him off have very little affect, and gradually Megan begins to count on him. Her bouts of chemo don't always happen at the same time as his, but when they do, she is happier and more at ease with herself and she comes to love his Jamaican stories that he tells to the younger children on the ward. In several very tender and beautifully written scenes, we see the two of them growing closer, and Jackson's understanding of what Megan is going through is of great help to her getting through the awful sickness and loss of her hair. Being teenagers, they aren't always wise in their actions, but these are understandable. She must ultimately have an operation to remove the brain tumour, and Jackson also is facing surgery. When she comes around from her surgery, she knows something is wrong but no one is telling her why she can't see her friend - only that he has gone home. When the truth finally dawns, she is completely bereft, and she can't really explain to her parents or friends why this boy has meant so much to her. A letter from Jackson's sister helps her to understand that her love and friendship has helped him in his last days, and she begins to see the light at the end of a long and desperate tunnel. This story is very truthful about the awfulness of cancer treatment and also about the terrible emotional turmoil it brings, not only to those suffering from it, but also to parents and friends who simply don't know how to help but want so badly to try. Exceptionally moving and candid.