Study Guide

My Sister's Keeper

By Jodi Picoult

My Sister's Keeper Introduction

We make decisions every single day. Oatmeal or cereal for breakfast? Go to the movies or go bowling? Do I really want to give my sister, who is dying of cancer, my kidney? Do I want another cup of coffee or some iced tea instead?

Wait, let's back up a second… Did someone say bowling?

Okay, after you've bowled a few frames, you can tackle the serious question here. Yes, coffee and tea are serious business, but… what's the deal with that kidney?

This is the dilemma facing Anna Fitzgerald in Jodi Picoult's 2004 smash hit My Sister's Keeper. Why is Anna so selfish with her kidneys? Doesn't she know she has two? Well, it's not that easy. See, Anna was genetically engineered to be a donor for her sister, Kate, and she's getting sick of being stuck with needles every few weeks and not having any choice in the matter. She hires an attorney to sue for medical emancipation—the right to make her own choices regarding her health care—and this starts the ball rolling through Dramaville.

Nothing is easy in Picoult's books. Her stories often feature multiple points of view, legal drama, medical cases, and sometimes, even murder. My Sister's Keeper hits all those marks on Jodi's checklist, except the manslaughter—sorry to disappoint, bloodthirsty Shmoopers—while stirring up tons of controversy with regards to medical ethics.

My Sister's Keeper was adapted into a film in 2009, starring Cameron Diaz, Abigail Breslin, and Sofia Vassilieva. The Fanning twins were originally scheduled to star, but Dakota was too chicken to shave her head for the role. Hair scandals aside, the movie generated its own fair share of controversy for changing Picoult's tragic ending into one that's… differently tragic.

Here's one choice we can help you make today: Go with oatmeal, not cereal. And here's another: Read My Sister's Keeper. Even if you've seen the movie, you'll want to read the book just to see what's different.

What is My Sister's Keeper About and Why Should I Care?

Bad news: In 2014, well over one million people were affected by a new case of cancer. So chances are pretty good (er, bad?) that you or someone you know has dealt with this disease at some point in their lifetime.

If you have been affected, you know that hearing other stories can sometimes help you deal with your own. And if you haven't, well, consider yourself lucky, and take the opportunity to get the viewpoint of someone who has.

Like all good fiction, My Sister's Keeper takes the inherent drama of a family dealing with cancer and cranks it up to eleven. It throws in complicated medical drama (a genetically engineered blood donor sibling), complicated courtroom drama (a lawsuit for medical emancipation of a minor), and complicated family and love drama (a will they or won't they between the prosecuting attorney and the minor's guardian). So. Much. Drama.

It's like Picoult took Grey's Anatomy, Law & Order, and a Lifetime Channel Original Movie (probably starring Delta Burke) and smashed them together into a wild and crazy chimera of a novel. And the really ridiculous part? It actually works. So turn off your Netflix marathon for a while and grab My Sister's Keeper for a marathon of hardcore drama.

My Sister's Keeper Resources

Websites

My Sister's Keeper on the Author's Website
Picoult's website has an in-depth conversation with the author about My Sister's Keeper, what inspired it, and what Jodi thinks her fan's reaction might be.

My Sister's Keeper Reading Sample
Want an excerpt of the novel? The publisher's website has everything else you might need from My Sister's Keeper. Except a kidney.

Movie or TV Productions

My Sister's Tomatoes
Critics were split down the middle, kind of like the Fitzgerald family, about the movie adaptation of this book.

Two Thumbs Up
Roger Ebert is one of the critics who enjoyed the story. We have no idea if he read the book, but it would be a logistical feat to flip the pages with two thumbs up…

Articles and Interviews

A Good Read
Jodi reveals in this interview that she was not happy with the change made to the ending of My Sister's Keeper. Did they really chuck her off the set?

Five Qs with JP
How do Jodi's characters seem so real? Does she have multiple personalities?

Money Money Money Money
Jodi thinks the reason the film adaptation didn't so well is because they changed the ending. What do you think?

Video

Religion and Ethics and Picoult
In this PBS clip, Picoult talks about the ethics behind the Fitzgerald family's choices in My Sister Keeper, and a few other dilemmas from her books.

Let's Talk About Stars
This interviewer is not only lucky enough to get to chat with the film's three leading ladies, but he also reads one of our favorite quotes from the book.

Pennies for Your Thoughts
This video has barely a thing to do with My Sister's Keeper, but Picoult's ghost-hunting story is pretty spookily awesome. Spawesome? Awespooky?

Audio

Picoult, We Can Hear You
In this podcast, Jodi talks about her own My Sister's Keeper-esque choice that she had to make regarding her own son Jake.

Book Club with an Accent
My Sister's Keeper is talked about across the pond, too, in this book club chat on BBC Radio.

Images

Under a Microscope
Picoult puts her characters under a microscope, so here's what Kate's blood would look like under a microscope.

My Sister's Poster
Here's the movie poster. Do the characters look like you imagine them?

Where Are We?
Why can't we find the setting of Upper Darby on the map? Where do you think it would be located if it were real?