Would You Rather
A summer night. A Saturday. For Natalie’s amazing older sister, Claire, this summer is fantastic, because she’s zooming off to college in the fall. For Natalie, it’s a summer with her friends; nothing special.
But when Claire is hit by a car, the world changes in a heartbeat. Over the next four days, moment by moment, Natalie, her parents, and their friends wait to learn if Claire will ever recover.
Would You is a story about how a teen girl reacts in the aftermath of a terrible accident in which her older sister is hit by a car, which leaves her in a coma suffering from brain damage. This book begins by introducing the main character Natalie and giving a glimpse into her life. She lives an average life, with wonderful relationships with both her parents and her older sister Claire, and has a group of close friends, some of whom she loves, others who are just acquaintances. Natalie is in high school, and is also a part-time lifeguard at the local recreation centre. She enjoys hanging out at the local diner, and pool-hopping at night with her friends. Natalie and Claire are close in age and have always gotten along awesomely, except for some small sisterly arguments, and the stress that’s been bothering her lately when she thinks of Claire going off to college in the fall. To sum it up, Natalie has a terrific life and the summer looks to be full of fun.
But all of that ends immediately one evening, when Natalie returns home to find her parents waiting for her to rush off to the hospital with them. Apparently Claire has been hit by a car and is hurt very badly. It’s not until the next morning that Natalie realizes just what this could mean for her sister, her family, and herself.
The rest of the story is told from Natalie’s point of view and presents the reader with all of her thoughts about what’s going on. This is a heartbreakingly honest narrative that shows how a young girl deals with her family and her friends, while also working through the psychological and emotional effects of her sister’s accident and the possible outcomes.
As the doctor’s reveal more information about Claire’s condition, and their father becomes obsessed with statistics concerning brain injuries, Natalie finds herself playing the “Would You?” game more seriously than before. “Would You?” is a game that she’s played with friends for ages, coming up with silly or gross propositions like “Would you rather lose all your hair or all your teeth?” and “Would you rather have your father sing at the supermarket or have your mother fart in the principal’s office?” But now she’s pondering whether a person would rather die or stay alive with permanent brain damage. Or would she rather let her sister go peacefully, or keep her alive in a vegetative state.
During my youth I had not read many of those books that focus on illness, injury, or death. For whatever reason, I found them too much like afterschool specials and just didn’t appeal to me. However, Would You did appeal to me, from the moment I began reading. It almost certainly is because of how real the characters seemed to me, especially Natalie. Her actions and reactions seemed to be so true to life, for instance there is a scene where Natalie is in her bedroom which she shares with her sister, and she glances at the laptop her sister received as a grad present. From out of nowhere the thought crosses her mind that should Claire not recover the laptop will be hers. Almost instantly Natalie becomes horrified that this thought occurred to her, but in some way I think it shows that she has subconsciously has begun to accept that her sister may not make it through. That scene was terrible because of the circumstances, however I think it was important in showing how the human mind begins to prepare itself for the process of going on after a being destroyed temporarily by a life altering accident.
Would You is a very emotional read, and looks at a very dark occasion in a teen girls life. However I do think that the story being told is a valuable one. It does present emotionally scary ideas, but never becomes medically explicit. It contains a little bit of adult language used within the teens conversations, no sex, aside from some kissing, and no alcohol or drug use. So in my opinion this is a book that could definitely be read by mature middle graders as well as young adult readers.
About The Author
Marthe Jocelyn is the author of several award-winning novels and has written and illustrated picture books. Her most recent novel for Tundra Books is How It Happened in Peach Hill, which was a School Library Journal Best Book of the Year, a Bank Street College of Education Best Children’s Book, and an ALA-YALSA Best Book for Young Adults. Marthe Jocelyn lives in Stratford, Ontario.
© 2008-2010 Joanne Mosher of The Book Zombie. All rights reserved.