Fifteen-year-old Grace Manning is a candy striper in a nursing home, and Mr. Sands is the one patient who makes the job bearable. He keeps up with her...more Fifteen-year-old Grace Manning is a candy striper in a nursing home, and Mr. Sands is the one patient who makes the job bearable. He keeps up with her sarcasm, teaches her to play poker . . . and one day cheerfully asks her to help him die. At first Grace says no way, but as Mr. Sands’s disease progresses, she’s not so sure. Grace tries to avoid the wrenching decision by praying for a miracle, stuffing herself with pancakes, and running away from all feelings, including the new ones she has for her best friend Eric. But Mr. Sands is getting worse, and she can’t avoid him forever.
I had really high hopes for this book—as I mentioned in my Waiting on Wednesday post, I’m really interested in medical ethics and was curious to see how the topic of euthanasia would be handled. Unfortunately I was greatly disappointed, though my issues had less to do with how euthanasia was addressed and more to do with the characterization.
It seemed like everyone used pretty much the same language regardless of his or her age—this was especially noticeable with Isabelle, a much older woman, who sometimes acted as if she was fourteen. Grace also almost never seemed to get embarrassed, even when her mom was talking about flirting with someone who wasn’t her newly adulterous and departed dad. Sure, that could be attributed to her having a strong personality, but her insecurities and inability to confront her friend Eric didn’t line up with that.
Although I appreciated the fact that Grace did a lot of thinking about her decision, she escaped having to deal with the consequences of her ultimate decision to accept or refuse Mr. Sands’ proposal. Dealing with the consequences of your actions is not only a fundamental part of life; it’s a fundamental part of growing as a character, and I felt that Grace remained fairly flat throughout the book, especially regarding the quite cookie cutter romance with Eric.
In short, although the concept had a lot of promise, it was let down by the average writing. However, I hope that Robin Epstein will continue to tackle controversial issues in future novels as she gains experience as an author, because I’ll always be keen to read them!