Monday, September 10, 2012

Shelf Talkers: The "C" Word in Teen Fiction

My Judy Blume fan.  Because Judy Blume "gets it".
Several years ago my grandmother went to the ER and they opened her up and said they were sorry, but there was nothing they could do for her.  She had cancer and, because she didn't know it was there, it was so advanced that in just a couple of months it took her from us.  It was quick and unexpected, but often cancer is not.  Sometimes it hangs over you for years

I met and began dating The Mr. when I was 18 years old.  On my 20th birthday we got engaged.  I met the man who would be my father-in-law exactly once.  He was at home in the midst of what would turn out to be an all to brief period of remission from lymphoma.  By the time we got engaged he had already passed away.

Many years later, my friend  (my mentor, my adopted mom) would call and tell me that she too had cancer.  Unlike the others in my life, she would survive (thank God and modern medicine).  She was fighting cancer at the same time that I laid on bed rest fighting HG and trying to make sure my baby made it into this world.  We would call each other and talk about what it was like to have fallen down the rabbit hole that our lives had become.  I am the librarian I am today, and the persona I am today, in large part because of what she taught me.  I am thankful every day that we both made it out of that rabbit hole.


These past few weeks I have spent wondering if cancer was once again going to touch my life.  The truth is, it touches all of our lives at one point or another.  Current statistics indicate that 1 out of 2 men and 1 out of 3 women will have cancer of some form.  Cancer touches us all.  I remember years ago watching the movie St. Elmo's Fire and there was a scene around the dinner table where the mom whispered that another person had "cancer" (said in a tiny, tiny whisper).  And here we are just 20 years later and the word is so common, we no longer whisper it.  It is no longer the "C" word.  So today I thought I would share with you some of the best books out there about teens dealing with cancer in their lives.

As I was writing this post, my childhood favorite, Judy Blume, announced that she, too, was fighting cancer.  Thankfully, she is recovering well. All my good wishes go out to her.  Her books have touched millions of lives, including mine.  The other day I had a teen come in and ask where the Judy Blume books were.  She reads them, she says, because "Judy Blume gets it."

Before I share some of the amazing works of teen fiction out there dealing with cancer, I want to encourage you to read this amazing piece of work by Katie1234 in Teen Ink called The Cancer Monolgue.

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
Hazel and Augustus are two teens struggling with cancer in a brilliant, touching story written in the master class by John Green.  Hazel and Augusts try to resist falling in love because they know what fate awaits them both, but sometimes the heart has its own ideas.  With snark, wit, wisdom and humor, Green tells their story and pulls at your heart strings in all the right ways.  This book has now spent months on the bestseller list so if you are one of the two people who hasn't yet read it, you really should.

A Time for Dancing by Davida Wills Hurwin
Samantha and Julia have been best friends forever, bound together by their love of dance.  In the summer before their senior year they are poised for great things and ready to face the world head on.  But what they aren't ready for is cancer.  Julia is diagnosed with incurable cancer.  A Time for Dancing is an older title, published in 1997, but it is a raw presentation of the anger and fear that comes from a cancer diagnosis.



Me, and Earl, and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews
Me, and Earl, and the Dying Girl is a book that has done a very rare thing: made me laugh out loud. Literally.  And yes, it is indeed a book about cancer via "the dying girl".  Greg and Earl end up spending time with Rachel, who has leukemia.  They are not really friends. but Greg's mom wants him to help Rachel.  Greg is used to flying below the social radar at school, but suddenly finds himself the center of more attention then he ever wanted.  The guffaws come courtesy of some baked goods laced with marijuana and their unexpected eaters.


Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson
Second Chance Summer is one of my favorite summer books of all time.  Matson perfectly captures the essence of summer in this story of Taylor Edwards whose father has been diagnosed with cancer.  In addition to all the touchstones, including summer love and rekindled friendships, SCS is a beautiful story of a relationship between daughter and father.  As you know, these types of relationships are rare in teen fiction, but Matson presents a rich and deep look at what it is like to spend what may be your last moments with someone you love and adore.  You will sob.

Deadline by Chris Crutcher
What would you do if you knew you only have a year to live?  How would you spend that last year?  That is the question that Ben Wolf faces.  Told in a way that only Chris Crutcher can tell it, Ben spends his final year trying to find a way to make his mark on the world.

If you have titles to share, please add them in the comments.

6 comments:

  1. I'm Not Her by um. Me. :)

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    1. Thank you. Also, I kid you not - my 4th grade teacher was named Mrs. Gurtler

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  2. Before I Die, by Downham. Probability of Miracles, by Wunder. All These Lives, by Wylie

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  3. Anonymous9/11/2012

    You can include The Last Summer of the Death Warriors by Francisco Stork

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  4. Things I Know About Love by Kate le Vann

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  5. Jordan Sonnenblick's Drums, Girls & Dangerous Pie and its companion After Ever After would both be excellent additions to this list.

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