Today, I'm reviewing Maybe One Day by Melissa Kantor. This was a beautiful, touching book about cancer, love and friendship which broke my heart, but also gave me hope.
Hardcover, 400 pages
Published February 18th 2014 by HarperTeen
Format read: E-ARC via Edelweiss
Synopsis via publisher:
Zoe and her best friend, Olivia, have always had big plans for the future, none of which included Olivia getting sick. Still, Zoe is determined to put on a brave face and be positive for her friend.
Even when she isn't sure what to say.
Even when Olivia misses months of school.
Even when Zoe starts falling for Calvin, Olivia's crush.
The one thing that keeps Zoe moving forward is knowing that Olivia will beat this, and everything will go back to the way it was before. It has to. Because the alternative is too terrifying for her to even imagine.
In this incandescent page-turner, which follows in the tradition of The Fault in Our Stars, Melissa Kantor artfully explores the idea that the worst thing to happen to you might not be something that is actually happening to you. Raw, irreverent, and honest, Zoe's unforgettable voice and story will stay with readers long after the last page is turned.
I have first-hand experience with the life-changing wake-up call that comes when a person is told that they have cancer, and it's not something I especially enjoy reliving, even through the eyes of a fictional narrator.
But I had nothing but love for Tiffany Schmidt's thoughtful and intelligent Send Me a Sign when it came out in 2012, so I thought that I would give Maybe One Day a chance. I had also liked Melissa Kantor's previous works, and figured if anyone could also do cancer justice, it would be her.
I was right. But Maybe One Day also isn't just a book about cancer. While illness does features heavily in the book, this is also very much a book about the evolution of a friendship, as two girls deal with catastrophic illness, their everlasting sisterhood and the recognition of the joys and pain that come with growing up.
Zoe and Olivia have been friends for thirteen years, bonding and becoming as close as sisters, through their mutual love of dance and each other. So when Olivia is diagnosed with cancer, Zoe is determined to be there for each other.
However, despite Zoe's best intentions, she can't control the successes and failures of Olivia's treatments. She can't control Olivia's physical exhaustion. And she hates it. Kantor does a beautiful job of showing the frustration and the sheer helplessness that Zoe feels as she realizes that Olivia is now in a place where Zoe literally can't influence the situation, but Kantor also highlights the quiet triumph and determination that Zoe feels as she begins to realize what she can change to help Olivia.
As I read through the book, Kantor's writing was also a quiet and thoughtful reminder of the power of sisterly love, and how love can change even the most hopeless of situations. Seeing Zoe's determination to be there for Olivia, regardless of whether they were getting along, or whether they were frustrated with one another, was - as Jaime Arkin says in her review - a positive reinforcement of the value of genuine, loving female relationships and strong support systems. Both girls were honest with their friends and families in a refreshing way that made me want to give this book to all of my younger, female friends.
While I loved the realism of Olivia's treatments and how Zoe related to them, Kantor also did an exceptionally beautiful job of showing Zoe's own growth outside of Olivia. We see her find her inner strength, push beyond her insular circle - all to do things that she wouldn't have considered doing previously - e.g. teaching a dance class for disadvantaged youth; making new friends, etc.
There's a subtle, quiet reminder in Zoe's growth that sometimes, seriously terrible situations happen in life that are unavoidable, but it's up to each person to see the positivity in that situation, and to make sure that it can leave a positive legacy.
I highly recommend this book for fans of contemporary fiction, but also for readers who are looking for a genuinely heartwarming story about the power of friendship and sisterly love.
As for me, I'm deeply appreciative of the fact that Melissa Kantor has written about cancer with such thoughtfulness and sensitivity, and I can't wait to share this book with others whom I know can value from the strength of her words.
About the author:
She lives in Brooklyn, NY, with her family. You can visit her online atwww.melissakantor.com.