Monday, 28 March 2016

Review: Bittersweet by Winnie Mack

Bittersweet is one of the newest middle grade novels from Scholastic Canada. Written by Canadian author, Winnie Mack, it is a beautifully written story about a girl who is changed forever by her diagnosis of Type 1 Diabetes. Personally, I think it's hard to find a really good "issues" book for the middle grade level. It's all magical adventures, awkward humour, or friendship stories. Mack's novel addresses a real issue for kids to experience and deal with, and to come out at the end with perspective, a little education, but the good feelings of a beautiful novel.

Summary: Sam is a normal 12-year-old. She loves ice cream, sleepovers, Christmas, and her soccer team (future team captain). What doesn’t she love? Her super-annoying teenage brother, how her little sisters mess up the house and talk incessantly, and especially, how completely weird she is feeling. 

Lately, Sam has been crazy hungry and thirsty. She’s tired all the time, and, most humiliating of all, she’s started wetting the bed like a baby. 

One day, after a collapse at a soccer game, she wakes up in the hospital to find out she’s got Type 1 diabetes. Suddenly everything is different: not just her diet and the injections, but her relationships with her family and her friends. Will she learn to handle it? 

This poignant story of a young girl coming to terms with a serious diagnosis, is a hopeful tale about overcoming life’s hurdles.

Sam struggles to come to terms not only with having this disease, but also having to face the uncertainty and fear of her friends, classmates, and even her siblings. We see her learn to accept that while she will never be normal, her diabetes does not make her weak or unlucky. It is a positive story of overcoming life's unexpected challenges and learning to live the hand you were dealt.

Parents and educators, you'll be pleased to know this is a clean read for ages 8-12. There are no frightening scenes or upsetting moments involving medical emergencies. Mack has done her research, keeping Sam's symptoms down to a science, rather than weaving dramatics for interest's sake. If you have a reader at home that likes a feel-good, realistic, "issues" story, I highly recommend it!

Overall, I really enjoyed Bittersweet. Regardless if you or someone you know has diabetes, cancer, or any other form of illness or disease, this is a novel that sticks with you. Sam is a kid who is just like you, with dreams and fears, and likes and dislikes. Illness can strike anyone, at any time. Life is unpredictable and it can be unfair, but illness does not mean we are incapable of achieving our dreams.

4 Stars

Bittersweet will be published on April 1, 2016.

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