I Want to Live Book Poster Image

I Want to Live

Emotional story shows what kids with cancer face.

What parents need to know

Positive messages

One attempt at rebellious behavior.


One life-threatening scene toward the end of the book builds suspense, but is resolved positively. A young teen faces leukemia and the possibility of death.

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Drinking, drugs, & smoking
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Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that I Want to Live is about a teen girl with cancer who's last hope is a bone marrow transplant. It focuses on disease and death, so you may want to read it together so that you can answer any questions as they arise.

What's the story?

Dawn Rochelle's cancer has been in remission for almost a year. Her hair has grown back and she's struggling to find normalcy as she approaches high school. Things seem positive, but when she returns from camp, she's feeling tired and listless, and wondering why she's not excited about her brother's upcoming wedding. When the doctor informs her and her family that the cancer is no longer in remission, Dawn faces the biggest decision of her life. A bone marrow transplant is her only real chance at survival. Her brother Rob, the most likely donor, is getting married, and the timing will surely upset his wedding plans. Dawn fears she's not capable of making the right decision, but finally determines that she wants to live, whatever it takes. She faces her traumatic hospital experiences are traumatic with courage.

Is it any good?


This is a poignant tale of emotional upheaval, a straightforward story that may inspire compassion and understanding. Dawn is swept into the complications cancer has wrought on her life and confronts issues of peer acceptance and the tendency of even her close family members to treat her differently because of the disease. Her interlude of rebellious acting-out is short-lived, and could have been better drawn. Instead, it's shown as easily resolved and somewhat superficial. By the end of the book, readers should have a clear, if condensed, picture of what kids with cancer face.

While the writing is undeniably pulpy, it attempts to transmit positive, life-affirming values. I WANT TO LIVE may be helpful to those with friends or family members battling a similar situation, but it also be of interest to teens and preteens who simply like a tearjerker.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about Dawn's struggles, both physical and emotional. How would you support her, if you were her friend or sibling?

Book details

Author:Lurlene McDaniel
Genre:Coming of Age
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Delacorte Press
Publication date:January 1, 1987
Number of pages:126
Publisher's recommended age(s):12 - 14

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Educator Written bysb34chick November 21, 2009

An inspirational story highly recommended for tweener girls.

As a child I began reading this series and basically desired reading every book ever written by Lurlene McDaniel. Each of these stories are sad and center around a teen with a life threatening illness. BUT - each story, though sad, is highly focused on the inspiration to live, survive, and made the most out of every situation. McDaniel uses this book, as part of the Dawn Rochell series, to share educational, true-to-life experiences of a young girl with lukemia. An inspirational story highly recommended for tweener girls.
What other families should know
Educational value
Great messages
Great role models
Parent Written byNoelani24 October 27, 2013

Great book

I started reading this book( which is based of a series)when I was in middle/ high school. I fell in love with the authors stories of how all these characters struggle with real live struggles. I love this book( and the rest of the this series). I happy that this doesn't have any cursing so its pretty safe for a younger group of audience.
What other families should know
Educational value
Great messages
Great role models
Parent of a 10 and 14 year old Written bymy3angels March 3, 2010
I fell in love with this book. Alot of people have to go through ordeals with sick children every day, take a drive to Vanderbilt Childrens's Hospital one day, and reality will most definatly hit you. There is so many good points in this book that I think all young readers should read. I believe it will help children, as well as adults, learn to deal with sickness. The characters were so well though out. Rob, (Dawns brother) was such a sweetheart from the start. He loved his sister so much he would do anything for her. They were a very close family. And Darcy, well, that kind of relationship happens alot when your family needs you most. If Darcy truly loved Rob, she would have been the first to say, "Lets Reschedule the wedding", Family comes first." But she was only thinking of herself. I would highly recommend this book for the more mature 12 year olds and starting age 13 for sure. This would also be a good mother-daughter reading book, and discuss the happenings.
What other families should know
Great messages