Friday, December 10, 2010

My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult

Oh, please.

I finally picked up this book after years of dithering only because I had a credit at my bookstore and I was curious about this 'ripped-from-the-headlines', 'must read' medical ethics story about a child, Anna, conceived for the sole purpose of being a matched donor to her leukemic elder sister, Kate. But what about Anna's rights? She has spent all of her thirteen years being harvested for parts to keep Kate alive, and now, on the eve of giving up a kidney, she wants it to stop.

*phew* heavy.

I've never read Jodi Picoult (nor Nora Roberts, nor Maeve Binchy, nor any of the other chick-lit authors that seem to churn out a new novel every couple of months) so maybe the deck was already stacked against me. The flowery covers of these types of books turn me off; and I don't do covers with dogs or cats either, at all, from any author. So the bubbles (?) on this particular cover should have been warning enough to stay away. Bubbles can't be a good sign.

Prejudices abound.

But I bought the book anyway figuring I would at least dip my toe in the waters to see if my prejudices were justified. I've been wrong before (surprise, I know); and I'm always open to discovering 'new' authors; and, because of my store credit, this book was practically free, so . . .

The first red flag came when I realized that each chapter is written, in turn, from the POV of each and every character, of which there are many. (Thankfully there's no cat to weigh-in, like some other books I know) But -ehn- I can live with it; a lot of good fiction is written this way too. I just find authors get carried away, giving us far more information than is relevant to the story at hand. And I am one reader who likes to, for god's sake, get on with the story.

The next red flag is the stock characters: Anna, the precocious, snarky (can you say 'Juno'?) thirteen year-old; Jesse, the flawed, hurting, black-sheep-of-the-family brother; Kate, the sick princess; Sara, the stay-at-home-but-could-have-been-a-lawyer-don't-ya-know mom; Brian, the fire-fighter dad, whom I totally lost interest in; and Campbell, the disabled lawyer whom Anna 'hires' to take her case. Even the coffee shop guy has to be a pierced and tattooed grunge kid who calls everyone 'dude'.

Okay, so there's the POV thing. And there's the Central Casting thing. But by the time I'm a third of the way through, and still reading, I think I'm making progress. I've met all the characters, and made peace with the writing style, and and am now well on my way to getting on with the story. But no. There's a new character I have to meet who has a point of view and a history all her own. And (surprise) happens to be the lawyer's old high school flame. And (surprise) they have to work together. They have a History! This creates Tension! Oh, please. This kind of formulaic writing makes my eyes glaze over. I can't do it. My Sister's Keeper has been officially DNF-ed.


food for thought said...

i have read none of her books either, but i had my sisters keeper for over a year. i gave it to my sister to read, she reads about 200 books plus a year and she roared thru it and read everyone of jodi's books enjoying them all. me, i just couldn't do it, i don't have the same cover as you, but the one i had told me its not my kind of book. she is a bestseller galore, but i can just tell she is not my style... i feel bad when i am not willing to try something new, or i won't stop judging a book by its cover, but unlike you, i must finish everything i start. these days i am way to leery to want to get trapped in a crummy book, but the curiosity is still there... maybe after i read the other 300 and counting books i have to read next year i can think about jodi again, or maybe not :)

Elisabeth said...

I can see exactly where you are coming from. I have read and listened to quite a few of her books. She tends to use the same type of formula and has been known to repeat her endings. I consider her beach reading.

Trish said...

food for thought - your sister sounds like quite a voracious reader! If I could read things quickly I probably would sample more books, but being slow I tend to be more choosy.

elisabeth - yes, beach reading! I went through a Robin Cook medical thriller phase, which I think appeals to me more than family drama.

Coffee and a Book Chick said...

All of Jodi Picoult's books are set up the same way -- lots of legal and medical dramas from multiple POVs. I'd be interested to see what you think of Keeping Faith, which I enjoyed -- it is definitely, without a doubt, the type of reading you do on a vacation when you want to escape for a few hours... as Elisabeth mentioned, beach reading!

Trish said...

Okay, I'll keep a lookout for that one and let you know.

Truth be told, I did skim through the rest of Sister's Keeper to get to the courtroom stuff and to see how it all got resolved (a bit of a shocker, that ending!) But, really, books revolving around modern family dramas and relationships are not my bag. I won't write them off completely though, because you never know . . .

Jillian said...

I like some of Picoult's books. But this one was really bad, imo. For all the reasons you state. And the ending... kind of a cop out.

I felt like she keppt showing the lawyer (boring) love story because she needed some space-filler while she avoided the sister issue.

If you're going to take on a controversial story, try sticking to the controversial story.

And if you're going to write space filler, at least make it interesting.

Trish said...

Yes, exactly! Space filler, especially romantic space filler, drives me nuts - get ON with the story already.