Do you recognize any of the popular titles above?
I personally haven’t read all of them, but I have it on good authority that they are excellent books.
Well watch out, because this genre is now being labeled ‘sick-lit’.
This post is a reaction to this article which you many want to check out.
Sick-lit is being defined as novels that deal with complex issues relating to death and disease, so cancer, depression, eating disorders and many other important issues relevant to modern society that have formed some great contemporary books. Yet I can’t help but feel the term ‘sick-lit’ is trying to sound derogatory somehow, giving the genre a negative slant. I mean, it’s not exactly a tasteful sounding label is it?
Like every book that becomes uber popular, moral panic will ensue. Cue the release of John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars capturing the hearts of teenagers everywhere and you’re bound to find a crowd of concerned onlookers close behind. John Green’s book follows the story of two teenage cancer patients, it is by no means an original idea but of course we can’t let a trend go by without analyzing the catastrophic implications it may have on the youth of today. Ohh no, because we are SO impressionable. (In case you couldn’t tell by now, yes this is a rant. :P) Who else remembers (and is trying desperately to forget) the uproar about female characters in near abusive relationships brought to light by Twilight and the rising popularity of paranormal romance? Despite the fact that these kinds of stories have been around for decades in various incarnations. And what would The Hunger Games be without all those concerned parents?
I’m sure everyone knows of the moral panics that ensued from the introduction of TV and video games?
Yeah there’s a pattern here.
But of course, the reason young adult books are always under such scrutiny is the belief that teenagers are reading them at an impressionable age when they are trying to make sense of the world and are looking to the media, literature and any other sources to shape who they should be.
One author Amanda Craig is quoted in the following article that sparked my sudden need to write this blog post:
Amanda Craig was on the CBC’s radio show The Current last month, arguing that the glamorization of victimhood that these books offer can lead isolated teens into self-destructive behaviour. Craig had told the Daily Mail she had already seen the result of this, when a 12-year-old girl she knew read a YA novel called Red Tears, about a girl who self-harms.’
– Via Huffington Post
This suggestion seriously makes my blood boil. Now I don’t know anything about the author being quoted and whether she has any understanding or knowledge on the subject, but in my opinion the idea that books depicting important issues relevant to teens being dangerous is utterly ridiculous, and until I have clear evidence otherwise, unfounded. A story about anorexia or self harming is not going to suddenly make a teenager do it themselves. If you read a book about someone putting their foot through a glass table, jumping off a cliff or painting themselves orange you don’t put the book down and and copy them do you?
No, because humans are not mindless drones, and I bet pretty much every case where a ‘sick-lit’ book has been accused of influencing teenagers or causing them psychological problems if you dug a little deeper, would reveal a much more logical explanation. Again I am not qualified in the subject but I imagine those people are quite likely to have existing issues or a predisposition and the book acts as a trigger that brings those issues to light. You could also debate the chicken or the egg, because of course, those that are dealing with psychological issues already are more likely to gravitate towards books that will help them understand themselves and what they are going through a little better.
Perhaps you’re wondering why this matters to me so much anyway….well because as a (just about) teenager myself, I think this is exactly the kind of book young adults should be reading. There are so many important messages these novels have to share. They tackle hard hitting subjects and emotions that teens don’t necessarily have access to or can talk to their parents about. They help widen your perspective and understanding of others. They are not just about death, but the beauty of life too, how to appreciate the little things and see the good in bad situations. We live in a world that can be unfair, frustrating and cruel and you become more aware of that the older you get. ‘Sick-lit’ draws attention to the fact that if you look hard enough, you may just find something amazing, even in the darkest of places. In the wise words of Joss Whedon – ‘Very occasionally, if you pay really close attention, life doesn’t suck’.
Everyone reads for different reasons, entertainment, education, escapism etc., but personally as a younger teen I know what I was really searching for between the lines on the page was the truth, and that is something this genre has in spades.
So what do you think lovely readers? Do you like the phrase ‘sick-lit’? Do you feel that these books are a threat to young adults or are you annoyed as I am? I would love to get your opinions on this one, and feel free to disagree with me. 😛
The Lovely Bones Cover: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/12232938-the-lovely-bones
Thirteen Reasons Why Cover: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/1217100.Thirteen_Reasons_Why
The Fault in Our Stars Cover: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/11870085-the-fault-in-our-stars
Before I Die Cover: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/8582039-before-i-die