Monday, March 9, 2015

Why Me? by Deborah Kent, 1992

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Rachel wakes up one morning to find her world has been smashed to smithereens. Her whole body feels heavy and painful, and she can barely sit up. Rushed to the hospital, she learns that she has a kidney diseases. Rachel will have to be on dialysis for the rest of her life . . . or until an organ donor can be found. 
The doctors tell Rachel that the best donor would be a blood relative. But she is adopted, and knows nothing about her biological mother. All Rachel can think is, "Why did this have to happen to me?"
As she struggles to live with her illness, Rachel must also handle the emotional ups and downs of trying to find her birth mother. Will they be able to locate her? What will she be like? And will she agree to give Rachel what she needs - a second chance for life?
(184 pages)

This was a book I picked up for free at a book swap. The plot - about a medical and identity crisis rolled together - appealed to me, and I hoped it would be as good as it sounded. The short version of this review: it was.

Poor Rachel's life becomes a living hell when she suffers kidney failure and goes on dialysis. She quits ballet, the love of her life, and feels sluggish and snappy. She deals with her body's "betrayal" (as she puts it) very realistically, with tears and anger. She grows over the course of the book as she realizes that she must accept the fact that her life will never be the same. She also must come to grips with her birth mother's identity and reason for giving her up. This struggle also is extremely realistic, and I thought it was very well done.

The only flaw I can find with the book is its pacing: apparently it spans about a year of Rachel's life, starting with when her kidneys fail, but it doesn't feel like it. In fact, time seems to pass rather sporadically with detailed scenes intermingled with statements to the effect of "time passed." The passage of time is a recurring theme throughout the book, as the process of finding Rachel's birth mother takes a really long time. However, this didn't really work for me as sufficient proof: from Rachel's character growth, you would think that only a few months at most have passed.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone interested in what it's like to live after a kidney failure: the food restrictions, the dialysis, the sluggishness, etc. It's also a great story about identity and the difference between biological and adoptive family. It's perfectly fine for younger readers, so you can be comfortable handing this book to anyone whose reading comprehension is up to it. I'm very glad I found this little treasure; it gave me an up-close view of what it's like to suffer kidney failure. I just hope it's the closest look I'll ever get!

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