A light-hearted read about perspective, Ashika Hira
August 03, 2021
Exit Through the Gift Shop is Maryam Master’s first book. It’s about a 12 and a half-year-old girl called Anahita Rosalind Ghorban-Galaszczuk (but you can call her Ana). Published by Pan Macmillan Australia in 2021, we see life through the eyes of Ana, who has been diagnosed with cancer. However cancer won’t stop the incessant bullying from the Queen of Mean, Alyssa Anderson, and Ana must find a way to push through the daily harassment and live her last days to their fullest.
With only one year left to live, give or take a bit, Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma is limiting the days of Ana’s life, but she still has a lot to do and is not about to let cancer stop her. She has to make the best of what she’s got, even if that means dancing in the school hallways when chemo starts to make her lose her hair or taking a mental dance break when things get too stressful. Ana fully intends to make the most of her limited days but Butt Breath (also known as Alyssa) is making it very difficult for her. But then again Ana hasn’t let the school know that she has cancer, and Butt Breath will probably stop being, well, Queen Mean, when she realises that Ana is dying.
When Ana finally works up the nerve to tell the Principal that she has cancer, she knows there is no turning back now. But with her best friend Al by her side, it is so much easier to face the dead silence in the hallways as she walks past. Then the unthinkable happens, Alyssa Anderson walks up to Ana and, wait for it, apologises! Yes, you heard me, she apologises for how she has been behaving. Now she will make it her mission to be Ana’s new Best Friend! If anything is worse than having Alyssa Anderson as a nemesis, it is having her as a best friend. Ana can literally think of nothing worse. But she can’t help wondering if Alyssa is really being genuine, after all these years of constant name-calling and spitting (I know, gross), Ana finds it hard to believe that she is now her best friend all of a sudden. But then again, people change, don’t they?
Although this Exit Through the Gift Shop is not really my cup of tea, I enjoyed the light-heartedness of this book. You may be thinking ‘a book about cancer, how could it possibly be light-hearted?’ but this really isn’t one of those books that fully revolve around the c-word. It is, at its core, a book about a 12.5-year-old girl, trying to confront a bully and make the best of her last days in this world.
Some unique features of this book are the numerous illustrations done by Astred Hicks, the changing fonts and the clever integration of the definitions of words. All these things help create the feeling of this being written by a 12.5-year-old and I think that these techniques are really clever. The different fonts help the readers better imagine how Ana is saying things, and the definition of words, such as Awks and Salty, not only helps us understand them and the context in which they are used, but we get Ana’s own definitions and what they mean to her. The illustrations add to the story and help us better understand what Ana can’t put into words, like Al’s magnificent wig, and all the kinds of hot dogs they have in America.
Overall, I enjoyed this book as it has a great message: even though you may be experiencing tough times, it’s up to you to decide what you make of the situation. It is all about your perspective and how you choose to view the glass: is it half empty or half full? I would definitely recommend Exit Through the Gift Shop for those who like a good laugh, to see the strength of friendship and family and a strong positive message.
- Ashika Hira is 15 years old and lives in Hastings.