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Book Review: Regine’s Book, a teen girl’s last words by Regine Stokke

“Waiting for death is dehumanizing.  To feel your body just getting worse and worse. To have to wait for answers. For the only answer that matters: Will you live or will you die? Most teenagers spend their time worrying about how they’ve done on a test, but others – like me – wait to find out if they’ll survive long enough to have another birthday. The world is unfair. For those of you who go on to live a long and happy life, I want you to try and give something back to the world. Think of all those other people whose lives are spent in suffering. Give. It is unbelievably important.” (p. 111)

In Autumn of 2008 Regine Stokke became incredibly ill and was eventually diagnosed with cancer, more specifically a form of Leukemia.  She started a blog to share her story and it garnered a huge following with its heartbreaking and sincere look at life with cancer.  Her goal was to share what it is like to live with an illness, but as too often happens with cancer, it became a record of her last days.

“The fear of not existing never goes away.” (p. 205)

Although at times Regine sat in a hospital vomiting from the cancer treatments, trembling in fear of yet another biopsy, and losing far too many of her new friends that shared this bizarre new life with her, she also developed a great appreciation of art, music and life.  Scenes from the hospital are followed by triumphant moments like seeing Slash and Friends at the Quart Musical festival in June of 2009:
“Arrived home from Quart on Friday.  As I said, it was totally incredible! so great that I got to go! I was also in pretty good shape too. I managed to do most of the things I wanted. Went to concerts, went shopping, ate outdoors, etc. I don’t think I’ve been this active since last summer.” (p. 202-203)
And in the midst of the good moments, there are absolute moments of gut wrenching despair: But waiting is a horrible experience with something like this: It’s a time filled with uncertainty and terror. No one knows what will happen. I have one foot in the grave, and while I’m hoping to get out, doubt holds me back. (p. 205).

But like most blogs, Regine’s was interactive and she had some amazing guest posts and comments, which are also sometimes included.  In addition to the various blog entries, there are some diary entries from Regine’s mom and a basic overview of Leukemia.  Throughout the text there are a variety of photos, poems, pictures of art work that inspired Regine and some responses from online readers of her blog. Regine’s Book is a haunting and inspiring and moving look at Regine’s life, at the life of a young girl trying to be a teen when faced with the every day possibility that this day may be your last good day.  And it is an intimate look at some of her very worst days. You will cry.  Highly recommended for all collections.
As a side note, at a staff training event I did a little over a year ago, a staff member commented that teens no longer read.  That is patently false and as I explained, many teens are just reading differently – and blogs are one of the ways in which teens are using tech to read.  Blogs are immensely personal and immediate and real, which has tremendous appeal for teens trying to avoid the fakeness they perceive in the world around them.  Reading Regine’s Book is like reading a blog, but you get it all at once and don’t have to wait each day for new updates.  And even though you know the end, it is a beautiful journey and such a privilege to be invited to take it with Regine.  Regine is the real deal and teens will relate to what she thinks and feels.  Every reader who comes in asking for a book to make them cry or looking for real stories (why does A Child Called It continue to be so popular?) will treasure this book.

“The best flowers get plucked first.”
Regine’s Book: a teen girl’s last words by Regine Stokke
Published by Zest Books 2012. ISBN: 978-1-936976-20-1