Unexpected Side Effects

Side Effects by Amy Goldman Koss; published by Roaring Brook Press (A Deborah Brodie Book), New York, 2006; 143 pages.

Izz. Izzy-pie. Izz-a-Smell. Lizard. Moon Child. Lymphomaniac.  All nicknames for 15 year old Izzy Miller, kid with cancer.  Side Effects is a six month glimpse of life for a teen who goes from normal teenager with swollen glands to oncology patient on chemotherapy.  But it’s also a snapshot of how family, friends, and classmates cope with her illness.  Izzy often feels that she is keeping them all from falling apart.  Well, everyone but Andy Siegel (why hadn’t she ever noticed him at school before?).  Do all stories about kids with cancer end with their deaths?  Of course not.

I took my time picking up this book.  I wondered why it was selected for the Reading and Writing Festival, a day-long event at Kent State University for seventh and eighth graders.  Shouldn’t middle schoolers still be reading Newbery winners, books with happy endings and stories with strong parental figures?  But my daughter convinced me to read Side Effects before she has to return it.  I am so glad I did!  Koss’ characterization feels real, but is never maudlin; an amazing feat.  Her extensive research is obvious in the agonizing details of Izzy’s chemo experiences.  But Izzy’s determination to be a survivor keeps the story almost light-hearted.  My words just can’t do justice to this story.

Koss is the guest author at the 2010 Reading & Writing Festival.  As a youth services librarian, albeit unemployed, I wonder if I can participate?  Hmm, I think I’m going to read the rest of the books on the list and make a few phone calls to see if I can make it happen!

4P     4Q     Grade Level: 7-9 (and older with special interest or for “hi-lo” readers)

Cover Art: The stark white cover with orange and gray text are interesting, but the image of the back of a bald young lady in baggy pants in a victory stance makes the cover intriguing.  Definitely a cover that would make young adults pick up the book and read the back (which is orange with reverse type, also right on the mark for the teen audience).

From Reading List: Keepin’ It Real (Realistic Fiction)


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