Updated: Dec 19, 2021
Admittedly, I keep telling the same story over and over again: I watch a movie. It's great. I really enjoy it. Maybe I even watch it again later on. Then, I'm walking through the library book sale's wonky, disorganized aisles when something catches my eyes. Is that...it is! It is the book that the movie is based on. How did I never know that the movie came from a book??
Honestly, with the number of times this has happened recently, I almost want to write to someone and suggest they put something on the movie that tells the viewer that it is based on a book. Maybe it is already there but what I am suggesting is they put it in BIG BULKY LETTERS that no one can miss. After all, what use is a movie to the author if the viewers never work out that the movie was based on their book? Sure, they might make a few bucks from the sale of the looks rights to the movie-making company. But if the viewers knew it was based on a book...well, then they could make a lot more. Especially if the storyline was as good as it is in My Sister's Keeper.
I first watched this movie forever ago. To be totally honest, I think I watched it on a day when I had nothing better to watch and I don't remember it as being amazing but when I saw the book, I could remember that I didn't hate the storyline of the movie. And after all, the book's always better, right?
After just re-watching the movie (and I mean I finished the movie two minutes ago) I can testify that this book is wwwaaayyy better than the movie. My Sister's Keeper (the movie) is an average movie about a girl with cancer (Kate), her parents (Sara and Brian) who try to cure that cancer by having a "designer baby" who is a perfect match to donate blood and organs to Kate, and that baby (Anna) who sues for the rights not to donate blood and organs. The movie is reasonably predictable: Kate dies (SPOILER sorry), the brother (Jesse) is an artist who's terrible in school, and though there are plenty of places that the book matches up with the movie (in fact, it matches in most of the important places) there are two storylines taken from the book, the book's ending is totally changed, and the movie has additions to it that don't add to it but rather make it more boring.
In comparison, the book was great!
It took me a lot longer to read this book than it usually does since, as I started reading My Sister's Keeper, my schedule got crazy and I no longer had the same amount of time to sit back, chill, and read. Still, I read it every chance I did get.
I loved the way that the story was split between a number of different POVs. The book is essentially telling the story of two different things: 1. Anna's trial (to get "medical emancipation") and 2. the story of Kate's cancer. It tells these two stories from the perspectives of a lot of people though and in doing so, includes a number of other stories.
For example, the story is told from the POV of Jesse, Kate and Anna's older brother. He is 18 (though he looks much younger in the movie) and likes to a. drink b. smoke weed and c. drive himself around town and commit arson which his firefighter father then puts out. This story isn't told in the movie but it is a much more interesting take on the "left-behind child" perspective (as opposed to dyslexia and art skills).
The story is also told from the perspective of both Campbell Alexander and Julia (the guardian ad litem appointed to Anna's case). They were once high school sweethearts but something happened and somehow Campbell broke Julia's heart. The author expertly tells this side story so that the audience is kept in suspense about two things: 1. exactly how Campbell broke Julia's heart and 2. what the dog is for. Throughout the entire book, Campbell gives fake answers for what his service dog is for. The suspense was so crazy I couldn't help myself...I had to look it up (shameful look). This suspense is not at all present in the movie where Julia also isn't present.
Aside from this, the ending of the book is so good. I won't spoil it but I will note that it is not only different (incredibly so) from the movie but also very unexpected. You won't see it coming like you might have seen the movie ending coming.
Barring these differences, there are a couple of other noticeable differences in the movie versus the book. First, there are some strange differences that make me want to throw the book at the scriptwriters.
For example, the ages of the characters in the books versus the movie. The ages of the characters in the book are actually really important. The author clearly chose them well so as to have them at particular ages as they came to certain events. Jesse, for example, is 18 so he can drive himself and others and lives with the family but in a separate part of the house. Kate is sixteen (as was 16 at the time she was dating Taylor) which is a reasonable age for teens dating, and if he were older than her, he could drive her places. It also is a good age for where she is at mentally and emotionally in terms of making her own decisions, and not wanting to be seen with scars, a bald head, and tubes in her chest. Anna is 13. She is in the middle of puberty and thus, finds it difficult to make her own decisions. She is pulled back and forth between multiple different things she wants. This drives a huge portion of the plot. 11 is a little bit too young for someone going into a lawyer's office on their own and asking for representation to be medically emancipated. But this is how young the movie makes her (despite the actor being 13 at the time the movie was released).
Another strange element is "Aunt Kelly." In the book, Sara's aunt Suzanne shows up periodically to help with the kids. No other relatives show up and she doesn't live with them but rather makes a lot of money and encourages Sara to go back to work. She is "Aunt Zanne" to the kids and they love when she visits. I couldn't quite understand why there was this random aunt (called "Kelly") thrown in with them in the movie. Not only was she living with them (when really, they could have gotten rid of the character, that's how small a role she played in the book) but she had a new name! How random!
Despite the differences though, the book was amazing. I loved how deep and beautiful it was. It told a number of stories in one and yet the author was able to flesh out each of the different stories and tie them all together, bringing them all to a neat and beautiful close at the end of the book. Her writing was stunning, her imagery flawless. She drew you a picture that instantly sucked you in and didn't let you leave. I would highly encourage you to pick up a copy of this book (and don't let the movie put you off!)