20 February 2013
REVIEW: ANTHEM FOR JACKSON DAWES
Series: No, standalone
UK Publisher: Bloomsbury
UK Release date: January 2013
Kindly given by the publisher for an honest review
Megan Bright and Jackson Dawes are two teenagers who first meet each other on the hospital ward where they are both being treated for cancer. Megan is scared and worried about her illness, but Jackson seems to be an old hand, having been on the ward for ages. And everybody loves Jackson! He is a whirlwind of life and energy, warmth and sparkle. Megan will need to borrow some of Jackson's extraordinary optimism to face her and Jackson's future. A moving story of first love and a remarkably powerful debut novel.
It's a very scary time for Megan Dawes when she goes into hospital for the first time. Suffering from cancer, the story focuses on her experience of illness and her stay in hospital as she receives chemotherapy. At first she finds the hospital unsettling, and filled with children and babyish decorations it's not a very comforting place for her. With her friends avoiding her and her own reaction to push her parents away, Megan is very lonely. But through the course of her treatment, Megan changes and adapts to her situation, especially with the unrelenting, positive and sunshine-like presence of Jackson. The hospital seemed gloomy until he came into the picture; his smiling personality brought warmth and humour to the plot and to Megan's life. The plot definitely benefited from Jackson's character, as it uplifted the whole story.
To me the writing felt like it had an 'old' quality to it. There were lots of old fashioned sayings and phrases in the dialogue and narrative. And although they were often words quoted from grandparents or parents, they still found their way into the teenagers' vocabulary and the general narrative. It gave me a sense of familiarity (probably because I'm getting old myself), but I'm not sure if a younger audience might find these phrases a little off and unusual.
I found the story to be a short and snappy read giving a glimpse into the different characters lives without delving too deeply in. Although there's always an undercurrent of fear and trepidation, the story isn't too depressing, making it suitable for a younger audience. Being an emotional roller coaster ride, it would have been too draining to read if it was any longer, and as it was, the plot kept a good balance of smile and cry worthy moments. However on the downside, I would have liked a little more character development. I wanted to know more about Jackson and Megan's family, and get a better understanding of their emotions and feelings around illness and loss.
Anthem for Jackson Dawes is a heartbreaking debut of two teenagers' experience of love and loss.