Send Me a Sign by Tiffany Schmidt

16 07 2012


I really dislike cancer books. To me, many of them are too dramatic and incredibly predictable – for instance, in some of the books, it seems incredibly obvious that one of the characters will die due to cancer. While I have liked a few books that deal with topics of cancer, such as Before I Die and Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, most books in this genre I tend to avoid.

However, I very much enjoyed reading Send Me a Sign. Why is this? At a glance, it seems like a typical story about a girl diagnosed with leukemia. But really the story is less about cancer than that it involves cancer. Cancer is never really the main point, and while the treatments and such are discussed, the story is more about how cancer affects people.

Mia is a golden girl. She’s got a great group of friends – dubbed the “Calendar Girls” – and a boy who’s interested in dating her. She gets great grades, has a great family who’s proud of her, and is happy in her life. She has a great friend, Gyver, who she’s known for years. All she cares about is having a perfect     senior year. Until she starts getting bumps on her leg. Until her mother, worried, sends her to the doctor to have her checked. Until the doctor tells her that she has leukemia. Until Mia realizes that her perfect, golden life is slipping away from her.

See, Mia’s less concerned about the cancer than she is concerned about her friends finding out about the cancer. She doesn’t want the Calendar Girls to know. If they find out, surely they’ll end their friendship with her. And then her perfect life will come apart. Mia’s mother, wanting her daughter to have a perfect life, comes up with a plan: Mia will hide her secret from her friends and keep up her perfect façade and they’ll never know. Except, as Mia starts treatment and starts feeling sicker, it gets harder and harder to hide her secret from her friends.

What I really loved about this book, like I mentioned before, was how it wasn’t about cancer and more about how people are affected by cancer. The book shows how people are affected by the cancer, by the issues going on – for instance, Mia’s mother becomes overprotective and Mia’s father becomes engrossed in all of the facts about cancer. The book also shows how Mia herself deals with the issue, as she wrestles with the fact that she might die, and the fact that her life has truly changed. It also shows how she deals with the fact that she’s lying and hiding from her friends.

While, at the same time, showing how people are affected, the author also shows the actual treatment, as Mia goes through chemotherapy.

I really loved how superstitions and charms were woven in through the story. Mia is always searching for signs. A necklace on the ground, a piece of paper she finds – everything means something to her. She frequently reads the horoscopes with her friends and wears a good-luck-charm necklace. And when her world gets turned upside down, she is looking for a sign that everything will be alright, be okay. I really loved the aspect of the story.

And as regarding the plot, I liked how it ended up being more about friends and family than cancer. It was a will-she-or-won’t-she scenario as Mia decided whether or not she would tell her friends. The book twisted and turned a few times and I didn’t find the story to be predictable, and the ending was perfect, leaving open a few loose ends while wrapping the whole of the story together.

If there was anything I disliked about the book, it was mainly based around the characters and the romance. The Calendar Girls were hard to tell apart from one another, but that might have been done purposefully, since they were so close that they had almost all become cutouts of one another in their friendship. The romance – it was easy to figure out the one that Mia would end up with. However, it was a fun journey and the contrast between Ryan, the jock that Mia has wanted (and has been “dating”) and Gyver, her old friend, was interesting.

Tiffany Schmidt has really beautiful writing. Her writing is beautiful, easy to read, and sounds like a teenage girl. She manages to keep in her lovely prose while interjecting a strong voice for Mia. I’m very interested to see where she will go next and I’m very excited to read her next book, Bright Before Sunrise.

This book will have lots of appeal to teen girls, and people who liked stories like Jenny Han’s Summer series and books like Before I Die and other books with fun stories and some serious elements. People who dislike cancer books will probably really enjoy this one as well, as it twists the tropes of the cancer genre.




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