“You know, just because she’s sick, hon, it doesn’t mean you have to put your life on hold. Just because something bad’s happened to Izzy doesn’t mean you can’t have good things happen to you.”
Gosh, how I love Sharing Sam by Katherine Applegate. Love. It.
I decided to reread it because I was in a bit of a reading slump–at least where fiction was concerned. I’m so glad I did. The book is so engaging from the beginning until the end. I so love the humor of the first chapter, the way Applegate sets up so well the comedic awesomeness of Sam/Alison and the awkward awfulness of Izzy’s cancer revelation. The balance of the chapter just perfectly introduces the impending conflict as well as the tone. Not only that but it’s clear right away why Alison has that split loyalty.
The duality (or *~levels~*) of the title just hit me during this reread. Alison is not just sharing Sam in the sense that she’s, you know, pretending not to be interested in him so her BFF can date him. She’s sharing the experience of Sam, the heady feel of first love and the joy and bliss of feeling that cared for. Even though Sam is his own fully realized character with his own motivations and desires, he does act as a symbol and a stand-in. Sam could be any awesome experience that someone with a terminally ill loved one feels guilty about having. The difference, of course, is that Sam is a person with his own feelings, which makes everything deliciously messy.
I think Applegate is also adept at handling survivor’s guilt here. When I was younger, I didn’t really know/understand that term, but as an adult, I can appreciate how Applegate deals with it. Contrary to what she says, Alison does feel guilty/bad that she’s going to live while Izzy dies. And Alison does feel like maybe she shouldn’t get to be happy while Izzy is miserable, so finds a way to make herself experience a great loss while Izzy is sick. I love that there are characters who call Alison on it, too. That her mother says, “Hey, it’s okay for you to be happy,” and that Sam’s own situation parallels Alison’s in so many ways.
I also love that the book makes the reader question how selfless Alison’s act is. And that the book asks the reader to question whether or not she could handle such an arrangement
But I especially love that this Love Stories book is as much–if not more so–about the love between best friends, about Alison’s love for Izzy even as it has that Sam element throughout.
YA Reading Challenge: 25/75
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