Book review: Anthem for Jackson Dawes by Celia Bryce

“Two teenagers fight the biggest battle of all” says the tagline for Anthem for Jackson Dawes.

And it’s not untrue. Fourteen-year-old Megan Bright is admitted to hospital for chemotherapy, where she meets the enigmatic, rebellious, funny Jackson Dawes, a fellow cancer patient. The two quickly fall for each other.

Does this story sound slightly familiar? If John Green‘s The Fault in Our Stars came to mind when you read the above description, then you’re not the only one. The paralells between the two novels are obvious, even though the settings might be different.

Much of Megan’s story is told while she’s in hospital, where just five days stretch out for almost half the book. Time stretches and contracts strangely in Anthem for Jackson Dawes, perhaps a reflection of the way time can slow down or rush past when your whole life changes.

We meet Jackson pretty quickly, and he is enigmatic and rebellious and funny. Unfortunately, the reader doesn’t get to spend too much time with him, and I’m unsure what, besides their shared age, makes Megan fall for him so hard, so fast.

Megan herself is an interesting character. I found her whiny, immature, old beyond her years and sensible all at the same time, among a host of other things. Then I remembered that she is 13 for most of this novel, and that time in a young girl’s life can be confusing, manifesting itself through ups and downs in personality. Add in that Megan has cancer, and it’s not surprising that Megan is all over the place. 

Anthem for Jackson Dawes is an alright book, but having recently read The Fault in Our Stars, I really couldn’t see it as anything but a poor relation to Green’s novel. Megan and Jackson are poor imitations of Hazel and Gus, and the magic in The Fault in Our Stars is missing from Bryce’s novel. In another world, Anthem for Jackson Dawes might have been a wonderful novel (and it is truly heartbreaking), but it’s just unlucky that The Fault in Our Stars is around to shine much brighter.

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