Anthem for Jackson Dawes

Title: Anthem for Jackson Dawes
Author: Celia Bryce
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Children’s
Publication Date: April 30, 2013
Pages: 240
Genre: Contemporary
Source: NetGalley
Rating: 3/5

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.

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I would describe this book as the younger, British version of The Fault in Our Stars. This was a sweet, if slightly predictable, story of first love. I felt this novel had a sort of mystical quality I couldn’t put my finger on that probably had something to do with the power of Jackson and the English setting. I was pleasantly surprised when I discovered the story was set in England, and I really enjoyed reading the English dialect Bryce used. It added a certain charm to the story that kept it moving for me.

I was also surprised that Megan’s character was so young (she’s thirteen and Jackson’s fifteen). At first I was a bit put off by this, but once I got used to it, I ended up being impressed by Bryce’s ability to capture the voice of a thirteen year old girl with cancer. I could really feel Megan’s fear and anger and despair all the way through the story.

Bryce showed the reader Megan’s process of opening up to Jackson really well and realistically. Part of me wanted more from the romance, but another part was glad that it was so tame due to the ages of the characters. The innocence of the love story made it more powerful to me, and I’m sure other readers will feel the same. I also prefer romances that happen slowly, because that’s more true to life than love at first sight.

I was most struck by the changes in Megan at the end of the book, when she starts pulling away from her friends and family. You really get the sense that she’s an old soul trapped in this little body that’s supposed to be thinking about boys and makeup, not death and loss.

Bryce also paced the changing of Megan’s emotions really well. The switches from anger to fear to love back to anger and then hope happened during a very realistic timeline. Bryce spent just the right amount of time on each stage of Megan’s journey. I think if she’d spent any more time on Megan pulling away from everybody, the book might have gotten too depressing or I would’ve gotten annoyed with Megan instead of moved by her like I was.

Anthem for Jackson Dawes is a very special book, dark and hopeful at once. People of all ages will appreciate this story and the positive message it brings.

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