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Review – My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult


My Sister’s Keeper
by Jodi Picoult
432 pages
Published April 6, 2004

First, did you  know that Jodi Picoult pronounces her name pee-coh, not pi-colt? All you smarty pants who were able to look at her name and say, “Oh, Jodi Pee-coh,” well, you guys can talk amongst yourselves while the rest of us talk about how we’ve been pronouncing it wrong for as long as we can remember.

A new member of my book club suggested My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult for a book club pick, and even though I’d already read the book back when it was released (and really enjoyed it!), I didn’t want to read it for book club. However, I acquiesced and so April’s pick was My Sister’s Keeper.

My Sister’s Keeper is about two sisters, Anna and Kate. Kate has leukemia that she’s been battling since she was two years old. Anna is Kate’s younger sister, conceived to be a genetic match for Kate so that when she was born, Kate could get a single cord blood treatment from Anna. But then Kate needed something else, and since Anna wasn’t doing anything with whatever they needed (bone marrow, etc), they used her as a human pincushion. And that was her life for 13 years until Kate needed a kidney and Anna finally went to a lawyer to sue her parents for medical emancipation.

The story is told by various narrators: Anna, Anna’s mom Sara, Anna’s attorney Campbell, Anna’s brother Jesse, Anna’s dad Brian, and Anna’s court-appointed guardian Julia. Just in case you miss the chapter heading that says who’s narrating that chapter, the font is different for each narrator, so hopefully one of those two things will clue you in as to who’s narrating.

I told my book club that I was really disappointed that I re-read this book. Some books aren’t meant to be re-read, and I enjoyed the book when I read it the first time, whereas now it doesn’t even fall into the mind-candy category, just the meh category (or maybe even a worse category!).

See, the problem is that since I’ve been blogging, I’ve really been expanding my reading horizons. So when I went back to Jodi Picoult, I really found it clunky and lacking in any kind of subtlety. Every time I turned a page, I was beaten over the head with how deep this book is.

The dad’s being a firefighter has a double meaning with what is going on in his family life.


The mom’s not going back to work after Anna (the youngest) was born but instead choosing to stay home and raise her family has a deeper meaning in the context of Anna suing for medical emancipation and all the choices the mom has made.


The brother’s acting out and being a pyromaniac symbolizes his feelings of being ignored and wanting to be in control.


Everything was sooo symbolic that it felt forced.

I was particularly frustrated by the ending because I think it was a cop out.

*****SPOILER ALERT****** (spoiler has been formatted with white text, so to see it just highlight the section and you’ll be able to read my thoughts on the ending)

I mean, having Anna die misses the point of what I think the heart of the story is. The heart of the story is that there comes a point when you have to say enough is enough (even if it’s the sick person who has to say that). And it’s the people who make that decision who must live with the repercussions, the guilt, the anger, the sadness. I think the story would have been much more profound if Anna had had to live with the guilt of watching her sister die, knowing she could have kept her sister alive.

Also, I felt manipulated because I think Jodi Picoult purposefully held back an important piece of information so the reader assumes it’s Anna’s choice to not give Kate a kidney, when in reality that’s not exactly true. It wasn’t just that it was a surprise ending, it was that she did everything she could to make you believe one thing and then in the end she’s all, “PSYCH! Haha! I sure fooled you!”

*****END SPOILERS*****

Jodi Picoult is a good story teller, though how well she writes is debatable, in my opinion. I think what I’m learning, having re-read a few books this year, is that some books should be left alone once you’ve read them once. I read My Sister’s Keeper four years ago, really enjoyed it, and I should have left it at that. I enjoyed it at the time for what it was, but I’ve been expanding my reading so much in the past two years that I couldn’t enjoy it for what it was, which is just a good story.

(Also, I have to say I’m totally going to go see the movie when it comes out. Also, for details listed in the spoiler, I’m excited to see how they changed the ending.)

(One last thing: Just so you know, if you’ve read one Jodi Picoult book, you’ve read them all. At least, that’s my opinion after reading a few of her books.)

Rating: 69 out of 100

Buy My Sister’s Keeper at Powell’s | Buy My Sister’s Keeper at Amazon

Jodi Picoult’s website

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eclectic / eccentric

Behold, the thing that reads a lot

The Inside Cover

Just One More Chapter…

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37 Responses to “Review – My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult”

  1. Sheri


    Maybe it’s the fact that you knew the ending(s) that ruined this book for you in the re-read. I just read it for the first time and loved it. I gave it a high rating.

    I, too, have read a considerable amount of books in the past two years. You’re right that you start to gain a discerning eye and tend to not find some of the simpler fiction as enjoyable as you once did before all the book reviewing. However, I read this for the first time in June and, despite reading classics and pulitzer prize winners, my mind was not jaded. I loved this book.

    My daughter read it and she loved it.

    I’m usually right there with you on your reviews, but this one I have to whole-heartedly disagree. It’s a great book and I recommend it.

    And, I recommend you!



  2. Nicole

    I read The pact by her a long while back and I enjoyed the book but strangely I never read anything else by her. I can see how they all seem to be set up on formula and I have just never gotten back to them.


  3. Kathy

    I’ve enjoyed every Jodi Picoult book I’ve read, but I haven’t read any since I started blogging and expanding my reading horizons. I’m not sure how I’d react to it now.


  4. Diane

    This was my favorite Picoult book of them all. I hear they changed the ending on the movie, which would seem disappointing for me??


  5. Amy Reads Good Books

    I’m with you Trish. . . I felt the whole thing was just a little too heavy-handed. However, I did manage to finish the book. And, I totally want to see the movie. 🙂


  6. jess

    Hey Trish,
    I went and saw the movie last night. Like every movie (that is based on a book), it was good but the book was better. Those kids sure know how to act though and the ending is different, but we knew that going in. (Hard to keep a secret with the internet these days.)


  7. Melissa

    Trish, I read this book for the first time a few years ago and felt the same as you did. I think Jodi Picoult (yes, I’ve been pronouncing it wrong all my life) is a wonderful story-teller, but I often feel like I’m watching a lifetime movie when I read her books. It’s so melodramatic it often makes me roll my eyes. I’m sure she’s making the big bucks though- so kudos to her 🙂 Still respect her as a great storyteller. I consider her books ‘beach reads’ which is my own made up genre of books.


  8. Jenny

    I so agree – her books are all practically indistinguishable. And Her Sister’s Keeper is especially emotionally manipulative, and I was irritated with Jodi Picoult for taking what I consider to be the easy way out of a difficult story.

    Though on the subject of her name, I am pleased to report that I have been saying it right. This is down to me being from South Louisiana, where everybody pronounces everyone’s name as Frenchily as possible. 😛


  9. Beth F

    THANK YOU! I had my suspicions about this book and others of hers. I’ve never read them. You confirmed for me what I’ve guessed. I can just turn my back on this one now and think no more.


  10. Raych

    Sister’s Keeper was my first J.Pic, and while on the one hand I was all, This is a bold subject, on the other hand I was all ZOMGMANIPULATIONBADWRITING!!! I heard the movie described as WEEP, DAMN YOU!! WEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEP which was sort of how I felt about the book.

    And then yes, I read two more by her and threw in the towel.

    Also, contrariwise to Jenny, I’m from Canada where we sulkily un-frenchify everything, even real french words. Take THAT, automatic high school french requirement! So yes, I knew how to say it, but I always pronounce it ‘pikkolt’ as a sort of impotent fist-shake at the gov’t.


  11. MichelleB

    I have to say, I’ve been pronouncing it right, but only because I read somewhere how to pronounce it. I have the same opinions as you however – good story teller, bad writing (kind of like – dare I say it – Stephenie Meyer). And if you’ve read one of her stories, you’ve read them all.


  12. Sadako

    Good review. I was thinking of reading it some time b/c once in a while a fun page turner story is fun, even if the book isn’t so well written.


  13. Alyce

    All of my non-book blogging friends have had the same opinion as you – pretty much word for word. That the writing is manipulative, that she takes the easy way out, and that once you’ve read one you’ve read them all. So I haven’t read any of her books, and don’t know if I ever will.

    I can really relate to what you said about expanding your reading. I’ve read so many books that I never would have read prior to this past year of blogging, and I’m loving how it’s stretching and changing my perceptions of reading and writing.


  14. Lynn Spencer

    I’ve only read the book once, and I have to admit that I had some of the same problems you did – as well as going nuts over some of the legal procedures used in the book. This is the only Picoult I’ve read so far, but the ending just seemed like a copout to me, and the clunky styling made me feel manipulated as a reader. I have a couple of her other books, so I’m sure I’ll give her another try someday even though this one didn’t work for me.


  15. zibilee

    Now that this movie is coming out, I am suddenly seeing everyone clutching a copy of this book! I still haven’t read it, but hope to get to it soon. But I just had to say that lately I have been having the same thing happen to me with previously read books. At the time I read them, they seemed like perfectly good reads, some I even remember as great. But after re-reading a few of those so-called great books, I am finding that they are not as great as I remember. Maybe this happens because we are evolving as readers, either that or we are just becoming more critical. I have been wondering about this for a few weeks, so I am really glad you brought it up!


  16. Teresa

    Oh, I am so with you on this book. I though it was okay, but not fabulous, as I was reading it, but the ending pissed me off. I was ANGRY about it because here you’ve got this huge ethical dilemma, and no matter what’s going to happen, someone is going to get hurt. Actually everyone is going to get hurt, the question is just how. But a choice has to be made. And THEN, that huge cop-out of an ending. I felt like Picoult didn’t want to make the choice, so she just wrote her way out of it. I would rather it have just stopped before any final choice was made so the reader was left wondering, but instead there’s the “ha, ha, look how I tricked you ending.” It was a cheat, as far as I’m concerned.

    And to make matters worse, it seemed that everyone I knew at the time was profoundly moved by it and made me feel super-churlish for being annoyed. The situation itself was sad, but it would the ending made the whole thing feel false.

    I did like 19 Minutes a little better. It didn’t make me mad, anyway. Her writing is the kind of thing I like to listen to in the car. It doesn’t demand my full concentration, but it’s entertaining enough to make driving a little more pleasant.


  17. Michelle

    Raych, so funny about the pronunciation. I knew how to pronounce her last name too (I’m Canadian too), but I bowed to peer pressure and called her Pee-colt out of insecurity and fear of recrimination 🙂

    I agree with you 100%, Trish. We read it for bookclub and I was the ONLY one who didn’t like it, mind you most of the girls raised similar points to yours, while loving it nonetheless. I wasn’t sure why it didn’t sit right with me, but now I think “wham” pretty much sums it up. The first one I read of hers was “Tenth Circle” and I was quite impressed….so….being me….I went out and bought every one she had ever written (and DH has bought me every one she has written since). They are all in my TBR pile – and not near the top, either!

    Anyways, thanks for another great review.


  18. Elizabeth

    You are the first person I’ve ever “met” online or IRL who feels the same way about Jodi Picoult (yes, I knew how to pronounce it!) as I! I have always found her books formulaic, like she’s writing for a “How to be a Professional Author” class. No wonder so many people who love her also love Danielle Steele.
    I, too have really been expanding my reading tastes since I began blogging, but I still read for fun, not self improvement. I just seem to notice more about the quality of the writing as well as the grammar, etc.


  19. Elizabeth

    Forgot to tell you I’m giving away April & Oliver if you haven’t read it yet. Ends Friday 7/10


  20. Trisha

    I am soooo glad that I wasn’t the only one who thought the ending was a cop out, a makes-no-sense attempt to not have to deal with the truly difficult issues the initial plot raises.


  21. Monica

    I definitely think it was the fact that you knew the ending and the characters already that you weren’t as “into” the book as the first time round. It’s not a book I’ll reread, but it’s certainly something I’ll recommend!


  22. Biblibio

    For all the flaws of the book, it really is interesting how readers actually enjoy it the first time. No matter how “cultured” or wide their reading habits are. The formulaic style becomes obvious once another Picoult book is read. The ending is so weak it ends not as a twist but as a lame ending. And the plot devices throughout are common, cliched and dull. But somehow, while reading it, you (and many others) felt that it was a good, enjoyable read. Picoult may not be a brilliant writer, but she’s a fairly talented storyteller, as proven by this. The magic is there for the first read. After that, it’s a magnifying glass, accentuating the flaws. Very interesting review – it gives a lot to think about.


  23. lenore

    I haven´t read any Piccolt besides 19 Minutes. I liked 19 Minutes just fine but it didn´t blow me away to the point that I went out and looked for her other books. I think my stepmother read My Sister´s Keeper and didn´t like it because of the ending.

    Maybe I´ll see the movie because that little Abagail Breslin can act up a storm.


  24. Jeanne

    I agree with you on every point you make! And with Elizabeth and Biblibio about the formulaic method Picoult uses. I’ve read a number of her books (each only once), and I think I’ve finally put my finger on what bothers me about the formula. She takes some controversial issue and instead of plotting a story in which the characters come down on one side of the issue or the other, she tries to make them stride that middle line all the way to the end. It’s got to be some sort of attempt on her part to “open a dialogue” rather than weigh in on the issue. I think it’s a cop-out–an attempt to please all of the people all of the time–and, like you, I’m tired of it.
    But I did read Nineteen Minutes (and reviewed it recently over at Necromancy Never Pays) and like it better than My Sister’s Keeper. A student had recommended it, and I felt like I had to read it. A lot of my students love her books, and I hate to dampen any book enthusiasm they can work up.


  25. Alyce

    I just had to come back and comment again. My mother-in-law was visiting last night and she literally spent hours gushing about how wonderful My Sister’s Keeper was. This didn’t surprise me at all because I know the type of books she likes – she loves anything that makes her cry (a la Nicholas Sparks).

    Anyway, like I said, I haven’t read the book and after listening to my mother-in-law tell me every single thing that happens in the story I have absolutely no desire to read it or see the movie.

    I am going to be the good daughter-in-law and shop for Picoult (I still say Pih-kolt in my head – I’m rebellious that way) books for her at the library book sale today. Now that she’s read this one she wants them all.


  26. Laura Baker


    I have to agree with you about how a book can change on a re-read and of course, we change and our taste changes. My taste changes even with mood. I just recently put a book down because I realized that even though it was a well-told story, it was depressing me to no end.


  27. Sue

    I was hesitant to read this review because it seems like everyone I know was gushing about this particular book and I was afraid this would be one of those reviews. As it turns out, I’m glad I ended up reading it because I agree with pretty much everything you said. I read this book last year and the ending made me want to throw the book across the room. Not only do I think the ending’s a cop out, but I thought Kate’s medical condition at the end seemed a bit…unrealistic.

    Oddly, however, I still kinda want to see the movie.


  28. Kiki

    I read this one a few years ago for book group–a bunch of Catholic women,. Caused quite a stir and I got yelled at! i find her writing so formulaic, after two or three books, just dull.

    I knew how her name was pronounced because we have a family at out church and school with the same last name from Louisiana–the French pronunciation. But most people insist on pronouncing it the other way, so…what can you do?


  29. Jeane

    I felt the same way you did about the ending. (I really like how you made the spoilers white text, what a great idea, I’m going to use that next time I want to talk spoilers in a review). Picoult’s writing just doesn’t work for me anymore- and I’m glad to know how to pronounce her name right, by the way!


  30. Jenners

    So I’ve totally been pronouncing her name wrong … thanks for the info.

    I remember really like this book, but I don’t feel the need to reread it … and like you said, some books are better left unread. I think you did a good job with your review, and now I too wonder if I would like the book as much now that I’m reading a bit more broadly than before blogging.


  31. Tara

    I think you are right, Picoult’s books don’t hold up well to a second reading. When you know the outcome, the rest of the book’s ‘faults’ become more obvious, I think. Interesting point you made about the ending, I hadn’t thought of it like that and you make a valid point. I also think Picoult’s quality has diminished somewhat; I enjoy her older books more. Having said that, I’ve heard her speak twice and she seems like an amazingly down to earth person, great mom, and a fun person to have for a friend.


  32. Kari

    Ugh, I actually threw this book across the room when I finished it. The ending made me so mad. I agree with you in that it was such a cop out.

    Generally, I enjoy Picoult books. Sure, she is not too subtle with the deeper meaning of her characters and plots (definite WHAM potential in every story), but I let it slide. Her books are very well researched and I finish them without feeling like I just spent time on a fluff piece. Read many of them and you’ll start to be unable to distinguish one from the other, because she follows such a format (agreed, Kiki). And generally, because she writes on such grey area, the endings are unpredictable.

    But this one. UGH. I hear the moving ending is different.


  33. melanie

    I totally agree with you on her books – I haven’t read this one (or the last few) because I felt like the formula was getting stale. Plug in the hot button issue and end with an annoying twist…but the movie looks good. This is one instance where I will gladly watch the movie and not read the book first (or at all). 🙂


  34. Carrie

    I pretty much agree with everything you said… but I’m still going to give Handle With Care a try!


  35. Tif

    I really enjoyed the book when I read it, but I have only read it the once. I can see how it would not be as intriguing or thought-provoking the second time around. You know the ending and that would just be looming over me the entire time! I do agree with you on the ending though. Anyways, if you are interested in my review . . .


  36. Sheila DeChantal

    This was my first “Pee-Coh” book (LOL – I too have been pronouncing it wrong all this time thinking I was all that….)
    I really enjoyed the book and have reads several others by her, I think my favorite being Nineteen Minutes. You are correct in saying that she has a certain theme that she sticks with and while some books I have really enjoyed, her latest, Handle With Care – felt to me very “My Sisters Keeperish”.
    Have you seen the movie yet? They did a wonderful job of capturing the emotions of the family as they went through this… it was very emotional, and in other parts I felt they did not pull in what the book was trying to say. I enjoyed it and did not mind that the ending changed – although I think I prefer the book ending.


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