Megan Bright’s life starts to fall apart when a tumour is found in her brain, she is diagnosed with cancer, and taken out of school and put into a hospital for ongoing treatment. But Megan is less frightened of potentially losing her hair than losing her friends. Lucky for Megan, in her unfamiliar and clinical new home, she is bombarded by fellow cancer patients who are determined to see that she makes a new one.
Anthem for Jackson Dawes is a little younger than young adult, falling into the 8-12 bracket. It’s a typical trait of contemporary children’s fiction that the young protagonist goes through inner turmoil and inner change throughout the novel, and that’s exactly what Megan Bright is struggling with in Anthem. It’s a beautiful, engaging story exploring Megan’s teetering relationship with herself and those around her.
Although I am ten years older than Megan Bright, I could easily imagine how it would feel having to stay in hospital for a lengthy amount of time: isolated and lonely. I would, too, worry about whether anyone was going to visit me, and if they did, how our relationship may have changed: you’re Sick and they are Well. Anthem for Jackson Dawes is not so much a love story, as a story about human relationships: Megan’s relationship with Jackson Dawes, the only teenager in the ward; her loving 95-year-old grandfather; absent father and frustratingly upbeat mother; best friend Gemma, who has an uncanny talent for putting across her views in very few words; and Kipper, a very young, sick child whose real name she does not know. It was lovely to watch each relationship forge, develop, and alter as Megan’s difficult experiences shaped her outlook.
Yes, Anthem for Jackson Dawes is sad and heartbreaking and emotional, and yes, there is a girl and a boy, but do not avoid reading it just because you’ve already read The Fault in Our Stars – it’s a very different story and I read it in one sitting. It’s also uplifting in it’s own way, a story that’ll leave you thinking about its characters, and about compassion, long after you’ve read the last page.