Lily’s mother is dying. The last few years have been hard on her as she’s suffered from multiple sclerosis, an autoimmune disease that has been wreaking havoc on her brain and spinal cord. After traditional treatments failed, Lily and her mother turned to bee sting therapy to help with the pain. But when the BST begins to fail, too, Lily is asked to make an impossible choice. Her mother has been classified as terminal, which under Oregon’s Death With Dignity Act allows her to end her own life via physician assisted suicide. How can sixteen-year-old Lily chose to let her mother end her life? But with her mother suffering so much, how can she not?
I’m a little fascinated by the debate over the morality of suicide, physician-assisted or not, so I was definitely excited to get my hands on a copy of this one. It begins after Lily has been presented with her choice, so there’s no weird reaction scene. Lily clearly struggles with the idea, and she also struggles with, well, the blurb on the back says the normal worries of high school sophomores, but it basically boils down to: a Boy and two Former Friends. Odd thing though—it never seemed to me like Lily was really suffering all that much, other than the whole “my mother wants to die” bit. She handles herself perfectly around The Former Friend, and even makes up with The Other Former Friend (pretty convenient timing on that one, really). And as for The Boy. I don’t even know why he is considered a worry at all—he does everything exactly right the entire book. There has never been a more perfect guy. While he might have been added to give Lily an extra worry, it came off to me as superfluous and almost formulaic, and I’d have preferred he be left out altogether, instead of just occasionally distracting from the real, meaningful problem at hand—whether Lily should let her mother kill herself.
Lily’s conflict is, as it should be, her mother’s proposition. While I might not agree with Lily all the time, I can still relate to her choices. (Except The Boy. Her choices in that whole subplot didn’t make much sense to me.)
Overall, Mercy Lily kind of disappointed me, but I had awfully high expectations to begin with. It’s got such a strong premise, and while it’s not bad—the writing isn’t bad, the characters aren’t bad, the research is downright good—there is nothing to properly impress readers. Mercy Lily is not all that profound, and within the first twenty pages I already had a good idea of how it was going to go down. I’d recommend it to someone interested in the subject matter or looking for a quick read, but those looking for general realistic fiction can do better elsewhere.
Kat Alexander is a Figment Reviewer who (clearly) loves to read and comment. She’s active on a number of sites including NaNo, Fiction Press, and FanFiction under aneko24.