Welcome to the comments and discussion of the Young Adult Cancer Book Club! We are reading The Cast by Amy Blumenfeld! Catch up on Chapters 1-2, Chapters 3-4, Chapters 5-6, Chapters 7-8, Chapters 9-10, and Chapters 11-12! Read participant reactions and follow along with us each week as we read through the book. Caution, spoilers below!
Week 7: Chapters 13, 14, and 15
By KM H.:
This one is from Jordana’s POV. I can sympathize with Jordana a bit. All her planning for this weekend has basically gone to hell, and she’s just trying to do one thing according to plan with her friends. Lex gets confrontational with Nolan after too much wine, and Jordana tries to smooth things over, awkwardly, even telling Lex to back off. Everyone immediately gets on her case about defending shit-listed Nolan. She’s trying to remain sympathetic to him since he spilled his guts to her about his work problems but still remain supportive of Becca. Which, of course, is a difficult thing to do.
Jordana tells Becca about how deeply she was affected by Becca’s cancer. She tells her that, seeing her go through all that, had very real ramifications in her life—like taking her kids to the pediatrician all the time and how, when she was younger, she had to check everything multiple times before leaving the house.
And, of course, Jordana and Becca notice that Seth and Lex are making heart eyes at each other. This, naturally, causes some concern. Then Seth’s girlfriend crashes the party, gets mad a Seth (rightfully), and leaves (I would too, girl).
The bit about Jordana’s vicarious trauma at the hands of Becca’s cancer stands out to me the most in this chapter. I don’t often see a lot about how siblings and others handle the cancer of a loved one, especially someone young, so it was nice to have that acknowledged.
This chapter is from Seth’s POV, and we get to see him coming to terms with his budding feelings for Lex, which is of course is awkward ‘cause, well … Seth, sweetie, Lex is married and you should find someone else to pine after.
So, basically, Seth and Lex make a fire (‘cause they’re both feeling the sparks of looove, I imagine), do a lot of flirting while reminiscing about childhood experiences, and then things kind of get real when Lex starts talking about how Seth has failed at a bunch of stuff. Messed up, done the wrong thing, but things have turned out okay for him. It’s basically her way of consenting to the relationship via subtext, even though she knows it’s going to make a big mess of things in her life. After an unfortunate event involving a lot smacking Lex in the head and Seth coming to the rescue with tweezers, Lex drops the subtext and confesses that she needs Seth—and she doesn’t mean his splinter-extracting skills.
Then we get some info about how Lex is not happy in her marriage, it’s all a mess, she ain’t gettin’ any, that sort of thing. Lex feels inspired to jump off the cliff and hope fate catches her because Becca has taught her that life is short so she should live a little.
Okay. So. I’m a little bit leery of when people use me as an inspiration to do … well, anything. I’m not particularly upset by the whole cheating storyline in the book or anything, but I just sort of put myself into Becca’s shoes. Would I be okay with a friend using my near-death experience with cancer as an inspiration for doing something questionable, like starting an affair?
Um, no. No, I would not. I don’t want to be the object lesson that a friend twists into an excuse for doing something like this. Like, sure—go ahead. Have your affair. But own your own bad life choices and leave me out of it, thank you very much. 🙂
We’re back to Becca’s POV in this chapter, and the chapter opens with Becca spotting Lex and Seth coming into the house in each other’s arms. She’s realized that the flirting she saw in chapter 14 wasn’t just idle chatter, but something real, and immediately she’s worried about the group and how their relationship will change things.
Still-on-the-shit-list-Nolan is with Becca and sees all this as well. He immediately confronts Seth about his new relationship, reminding Seth of the obvious—that Lex is married. Seth fires back that Nolan isn’t one to talk and things get a little physical.
Becca tries to calm still-yet-more-on-the-shit-list Nolan down, even though she agrees with Seth and his assessment that Nolan is a grade-A asshole.
But the thing is, she’s got this massive diagnosis, and she honestly doesn’t want a divorce. She wants her marriage to work, and she’s definitely feeling some needless guilt for having gotten cancer. Again.
She confesses that she’s scheduled the mastectomy and reconstruction, thinking that she can cancel the reconstruction if she chooses to do so later. And, of course, eternally-on-the-shit-list-Nolan bungles the whole thing, telling her that he knew she was “too smart to give up the chance to look like a woman.”
Naturally, that comment goes over like a ton of bricks and they argue. Holly interrupts, thank goodness, and the chapter concludes with Becca reminiscing about the birth of her child via surrogate.
To say that Nolan is a problematic character is an understatement, but at the same time, he’s very representative of some of the arguments and issues I’ve heard breast cancer friends go through. He’s very biological-essentialist, like much of our society, and it’s gross. Breasts do not equal womanhood. You do not need boobs in order to be a woman. And from the way he talks, he values these fluffy sacks of fat and mammary tissue more than he does his wife and his marriage.
This is also why I have issues with breast cancer awareness campaigns that try to use cutesy marketing all about saving boobs. Like, seriously. BOOBS ARE OVERRATED. Why can’t we value the lives of the people we’re saving, not these non-essential bits of anatomy? Nolan and campaigns like these embody the way that our culture values the sexual parts of our bodies, but not the person that lives inside that body.
In our next blog post, look for the comments and discussion on chapters 16, 17, and 18!
We will talk about a few chapters each Monday until the book is done. If Monday happens to be a holiday, then the post will publish on Tuesday. Once we finish the book, we’ll use one more Monday to talk about general feelings from the book and anything else you’d like to discuss. We’ll also have a video chat book club discussion at the end! Join in, in the comments every week! Also, there will probably be spoilers so read along with us! Excited about the young adult cancer book club? Have any suggestions for future reads? Let us know!