My Sister's Keeper (novel)

For the film adaptation, see My Sister's Keeper (film).
My Sister's Keeper

First edition
Author Jodi Picoult
Country United States
Language English
Publisher Atria
Publication date
April 6, 2004
Media type Print ( Hardcover & Paperback )
Pages 432 pp
ISBN 0-7434-5452-9
OCLC 54811160
813/.54 22
LC Class PS3566.I372 M9 2003

My Sister's Keeper is a 2004 novel written by Jodi Picoult. It tells the story of 13-year-old Anna, who sues her parents for medical emancipation when she is expected to donate a kidney to her sister Kate, who is dying from leukemia.[1]


The story takes place in the fictional town of Upper Darby, Rhode Island in 2004. Anna Fitzgerald's older sister, Kate, suffers from acute promyelocytic leukemia, a blood and bone marrow cancer. Anna was born as a savior sister specifically so she could save Kate's life. At first it is successful, but the cancer continues to relapse throughout Kate's life.

Anna is usually willing to donate whatever Kate needs, but when she turns 13, she is told that she will have to donate one of her kidneys. The surgery required for both Kate and Anna would be major; it is not guaranteed to work, as the stress of the operation may kill Kate anyway, and the loss of a kidney could have a serious impact on Anna's life. Anna petitions for medical emancipation with the help of lawyer Campbell Alexander, so that she will be able to make her own decisions regarding her medical treatment and the donation of her kidney. This is done on the advice of Julia Romano, the court-appointed guardian ad litem whose job it is to decide what would be best for Anna. Julia was once romantically involved with Campbell when they went to university together, but Campbell broke her heart when he left her. Unbeknownst to Julia, Campbell left her because he discovered he had epilepsy and thought she deserved better.

Meanwhile, Anna's brother Jesse, who has spent most of his life being ignored in favor of ill Kate or donor Anna, spends most of his time setting fire to abandoned buildings with homemade explosives and using illegal drugs. He is a self-confessed juvenile delinquent, which leads to Brian eventually confronting Jesse for his behavior.

During the trial, it is revealed that Kate asked Anna to sue for emancipation because she did not want Anna to have to donate her kidney now that Kate has been ready to die, but Sara can't seem to understand that, and because she believes that she will die anyway. The judge rules in Anna's favor, and grants Campbell a medical power of attorney. However, as Campbell drives her home after the trial, their car is hit by an oncoming truck. Brian, the on-call firefighter who arrives at the scene, retrieves an unconscious and injured Anna from the wreckage of the crushed car and rushes her and Campbell to the hospital. At the hospital, the doctor informs Sara and Brian that Anna is brain-dead and asks them if they have considered organ donation. Campbell steps in and declares that he has the power of attorney and that "there is a girl upstairs who needs that kidney." Kate is prepared for surgery, and Anna's kidney is successfully transplanted. Kate survives the surgery and remains in remission. Jesse has reformed and graduates from the police academy, despite his criminal record.

Development history

Publication history

Picoult, Jodi. My Sister's Keeper. Atria Books: New York, 2004. ISBN 9781416549178. ISBN 141654917X.

Critical reception

In review for The Washington Post, Katherine Arie described some of the characters as unconvincing, such as Brian, who is "too good to be true", Jesse, "a poster child for self-destructive behavior", and Kate, who is "as weak and wispy on the page as she's supposed to be in life", but ultimately called the book "a thrill to read".[2]

In 2009 the American Library Association (ALA) and the office for Intellectual Freedom named My Sister's Keeper the seventh out of ten most frequently challenged books in the US. Schools and libraries attempted to ban the book for the following reasons: Sexism, Homosexuality, Sexual Explicitly, Offensive Language, Religious Viewpoint, Unsuitability to Age Group, Drugs, Suicide, Violence.[3]


New Line Cinema adapted My Sister's Keeper into a feature film, which was directed by Nick Cassavetes and released on June 26, 2009.[4][5] It starred Cameron Diaz as Sara and Alec Baldwin as Campbell. Kate and Anna were played respectively by Sofia Vassilieva and Abigail Breslin.[5]

The film, with an alternate ending and more emphasis on certain subplots while entirely eliminating others, has significant differences from the novel.


The novel's title derives from the biblical tale of brothers Cain and Abel. After slaying his sibling, Cain is asked by God of his brother's whereabouts and replies, "I know not: am I my brother's keeper?"


  1. The Book Report, Inc. Retrieved on 1/10/2011
  2. Katherine Arie (2004-04-04). "Spare Parts". The Washington Post Company. Retrieved 2010-01-14.
  3. "ALA Website List of top 10 most challenged book bans for 2009". American Library Association. Archived from the original on 2013-07-03. Retrieved 2 October 2011.
  4. "Questions and Answers". Jodi March 2, 2007. Retrieved 2008-01-21.
  5. 1 2 Fleming, Michael (2008-02-12). "Breslin, Vassilieva to star in 'Keeper'". Variety. Retrieved 2008-02-13.
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