A Winning Cancer Story
The Guardian recently published an article about illness in young adult novels.
You can read it by clicking here. In that Guardian article, Jessica Honnor supports more realism in YA novels, arguing that writing about illness can have positive impact on young patients, as well as healthy readers. She also asks for survivor characters.
So… since she asked for it, I present Alex Wolfe in Alone.
Alone is a contemporary YA story of an orphaned high school senior forced to live with his resentful guardian. And while he waits for his eighteenth birthday, when the guardianship will expire, he’s diagnosed with Leukemia. He struggles to fight cancer while his acidic aunt regards him as a cancer in her house.
My Name is Alex.
Today is my eighteenth birthday.
I have a decision to make.
Alex Wolfe wakes in a hospital to find himself injured and orphaned. He’s alone. Per the will, guardianship is given to the only remaining members of his family: his mother’s brother and overly-religious, strictly-reared aunt. While Uncle Dan welcomes Alex into their family, Aunt Eve resents every moment Alex lives in her house.
Alex deals with the pain of his injuries as he tries to adjust to his new life, having been forced to leave his friends behind. He accepts the help of his cousin, James, to orient him to the streets and businesses in Bakersfield, but cannot possibly hang out with a junior and his bible-study friends. Thankfully, he finds a new friend, Olivia, to help him with student life in his new high school.
Once school starts, Alex settles into a routine. He hangs out with his new friends, texts his old friends, and studies hard in school to maintain grades for college admission. But on Halloween night, Alex is diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. While Olivia, James, and Uncle Dan support Alex, giving him the strength and encouragement he needs to fight the cancer inside him, Aunt Eve silently rejects Alex as if his presence is a cancer in her house.
While enduring the pain and side-effects of chemotherapy, chemotherapy that is working, Alex tries to plan his future. He struggles, balancing the need to be close to his friends and James for inspiration and motivation with the desire to leave the house in which he’s not wanted. He solicits opinions and advice from the people he trusts, the people who care.
Alex comes to realize that he’s caught in a perfect storm from the past. It’s not his fault, but he’s left to cope with his aunt, exposed to the bitter feelings she holds towards his deceased parents, particularly his mother. As his eighteenth birthday approaches, when the guardianship will expire, Alex must decide if he should stay or go.
Ultimately, it’s Aunt Eve’s action that leads Alex to his final decision.
My novel, which is semi-autobiographical, shows the pain that Leukemia patients experience when diagnosed and when treated. It also illustrates how positive encourage and constant reinforcement from doctors, friends, and family help the patient to face the pain of the diagnosis and chemotherapy and defeat cancer. And it reveals the effects on the patient–stress, depression–when a family member or close friend does not provide the needed support. Alone is a positive cancer story with a winning character that I hope YA readers will enjoy.
P.S. I am currently seeking representation for my novel and I hope it will be published soon.