by Louise Caiola
$13.95 paperback/$4.99 ebook
Stricken with a terminal disease, 16-year-old Chessie Madrid fights for her life while keeping her illness a secret between herself and her grandmother, with whom she lives. Chessie pretends to be well around her friends and is a bit bemused that every fortune cookie she opens always seem to mock her with the proverb she will live a long and happy life. In a moment of despair, Chessie makes a wish list hoping for a brother or sister, for her best friend’s brother Johnny to fall in love with her, and for her father to suffer for abandoning her as a child. When an unknown half-sister shows up, Chessie’s delighted, but when her father seeks a way into her life, she’s angry and bitter. And when Johnny turns an interested eye her way, she’s happy for the attention but fearful it’s for the wrong reason. As Chessie’s disease progresses and her wishes are fulfilled, her life takes a different direction and she begins to wonder if her wish list was such a good idea after all.
This heartwarming coming-of-age story will bring tears and smiles as the reader becomes vested in Chessie and her fight to live while keeping her chin up and her secret close. Chessie is intriguing, a young woman with a strong spirit who accepts her life may be cut short but intends to live it to its fullest without infringing on others.
Chessie’s lingering grief over her mother’s death and her struggle with her feelings over her father as he tries to make amends for his absence over the years, as well as the way she deals with her illness, are powerfully portrayed and well-told. The plot is exceptional and so well-written this reviewer was reluctant to put the book aside. Although couched as a book for young adults, older readers will be just as absorbed by Chessie’s story.