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.
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.
If you have titles to share, please add them in the comments.
Filed under: Cancer, Chris Crutcher, Jesse Andrews, John Green, Judy Blume, Morgan Matson, Teen Fiction, YA Lit
About Karen Jensen, MLS
Karen Jensen has been a Teen Services Librarian for almost 30 years. She created TLT in 2011 and is the co-editor of The Whole Library Handbook: Teen Services with Heather Booth (ALA Editions, 2014).
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