By Gabrielle Zevin
This book follows Sadie and Sam, who met in a common room of a children’s hospital/ward. Sadie was looking for something to do while her mother was in with her sister (hospitalised with cancer) and Sam was in for another surgery on his foot that had been mangled in a car accident. They bonded over video games and so started a friendship of sorts. But how is a friendship really defined? What is acceptable for someone to do and still be called a friend? I felt that this was a thread throughout much of the story, with actions on both sides being called into question and hurting the other. Sometimes I wanted to shake them and could hear a voice shouting in my head “TALK to each other”. Were hurts formed from misunderstandings, or was there real duplicity involved? I admit, I changed my mind a few times on some. I honestly didn’t really like either Sadie or Sam, but I don’t have to like the main characters to enjoy a book, and the author was exploring some good themes. I think the sexism that Sadie experienced in her chosen career and the struggles that she had to keep her identity and receive credit for her own work was an important one, and did go some way to explain some of her actions and reading of a situation. But maybe I think that because of my own experiences of being a woman in a male dominated field and fighting similar forces. Always having to bend, both personally and professionally, can take a toll on a person. Despite that though, I would have liked to see her grow-up a bit at times. Or at least faster than she was doing in the book.
Through it all, shone a beacon for me: Marx. He was the glue in the friendship. A truly selfless person who was always trying to do what was best for Sadie and Sam and help them pursue their dreams, and nurture their friendship. I have a feeling the author wants you to like Marx best.
Despite my feelings towards Sadie and Sam, I was thinking I would rate this book 4 stars. But the ending lets it down. Towards the end we have a powerful section from Marx’s point of view. And what comes after is weak in comparison. I think the author got everyone (Sadie, Sam, the reader) to where we needed to get by the last page, but it felt it was a huge let-down from the height we reached immediately prior. This 4 star book received a 3 star ending. Hence my final rating of 3.5. Edit: a few weeks later, with other books I read since, I really feel like this was a 3 star book rather than a 3.5 star one. The only reason I had been thinking higher was because of that whole feeling that I could relate to the female in a male-dominated profession. But really, the book wasn’t higher than 3 stars.
There is more I could say and discuss, but that would bring spoilers into the mix.
Do I think this book is worth reading? Yes. Would I recommend it? Yes. Would I read it again? No.