My Delicate Destruction by Jillian Ashe

My Delicate Destruction by Jillian AsheDividing the narrative between risk-taking and devotion to family, Ashe paints an accessible portrait of a teenager unconsciously choosing danger as a rejection of the loss of control cancer brings.

Katerina Anderson splits her time between racing cars and trying to give her twin brother, Kris, a pleasant last years as a rare form of cancer eats him away. Then she is diagnosed with a more acute infestation of the same cancer. An experimental drug offers a cure, but with one catch: purging the cancer will take longer than it will take the cancer to kill her – unless she is also placed in a cutting-edge suspended animation pod for several years.

The novella opens with a prologue of Kris clambering from the wreckage of the suspended animation facility, to discover that – instead of a few years – he and his sister have been frozen for a century. While this does leave the reader with the questions “why were they frozen?” and “why weren’t they woken when expected?”, it does also confirm that they were frozen and weren’t awakened on time; as such, when the first chapters cut back to Kat living her life in 2016, the section from her only having a short time to live to finally deciding to accept the treatment lacks a sense of uncertainty.

Were this book mostly concerned with events in the future, this lack of both threat and uncertainty might – by contrast – increase the sense of both in the future; however, the majority of the story covers events leading up to Kat entering suspended animation. Therefore – although Kat does face other problems – the book fails to offer the tension that the opening suggests.

Even the reason for the twins sleeping longer than planned is explained before Kat’s narrative reaches the future, removing a large source of tension from what little of her time there is told.

Where the novella does shine is in the portrayal of a teenager facing her brother having cancer. Half-daredevil and half-carer, Kat shows both her love for her brother and the fear of death that his cancer brings without being aware that her risk taking is a symptom. Kat is a similarly classic yet interesting protagonist when dealing with issues unrelated to cancer.

While the supporting cast are neither stereotypes nor two-dimensional, they are overshadowed by the reader’s knowledge that the story will pick up after they are dead.

When the time-line does finally catch up to the future, it is only for a chapter; a chapter that raises a series of questions unrelated to the preceding narrative. As such, readers might be left with the feeling the story ends just as it is becoming interesting.

Overall, I found this book interesting as a picture of a teenager but not the science-fiction tale the blurb suggested . I recommend it to readers looking for a character-piece or insight into whether they like the author’s style before purchasing the next volume.

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