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Sick Kids in Love: A Look at Chronic Illness in the Life of Teens

Approximately 20 million kids and teens are living with a chronic illness. Roughly 40% of the population is living with a chronic illness. A chronic illness can last anywhere from 3 months to a lifetime and includes things like mental illness, diabetes, cerebral palsy, asthma, epilepsy and rheumatoid arthritis, just to name a few. They can be mildly uncomfortable and inconveniencing to incredibly painful and radically life changing. They can be both seen or unseen, meaning that many kids and teens are suffering and we may not ever know it because they don’t talk to us about it.

Adolescence and Chronic Illness

Sick Kids in Love is the story of two teens living with chronic illness and falling in love. Unlike the popular cancer stories of the early 2000s – I’m looking at you John Green – these kids don’t die. But they are living their lives with chronic illness, one is visible and the other is invisible. Isabel has Rheumatoid Arthritis and Sasha has Gaucher Disease. This sets up some interesting dynamics because although both teens clearly suffer from chronic illness, how they are treated and talked to and about are very different.

As the two fall in love, they are met with the every day challenges of normal adolescence compounded by the reality of living with chronic illness. They don’t just meet and fall in love, they have to learn how to be in a relationship together, something that a lot of YA lit doesn’t actually dive into that fully.

This book is moving, touching, and although the main characters may not die in the end, they will often still manage to make you ugly cry. It’s a huge step forward in disability representation in YA lit and highly recommended.

Publisher’s Book Description:

Isabel has one rule: no dating.
It’s easier–
It’s safer–
It’s better–
–for the other person.
She’s got issues. She’s got secrets. She’s got rheumatoid arthritis.
But then she meets another sick kid.
He’s got a chronic illness Isabel’s never heard of, something she can’t even pronounce. He understands what it means to be sick. He understands her more than her healthy friends. He understands her more than her own father who’s a doctor.
He’s gorgeous, fun, and foul-mouthed. And totally into her.
Isabel has one rule: no dating.
It’s complicated–
It’s dangerous–
It’s never felt better–
–to consider breaking that rule for him. 

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