Please allow me to rant.
A while back I read Me and Earl and the Dying Girl. Many reviews lauded the story, but I gave it one star. You can read my review here. Why so harsh? I read this “cancer book” expecting a story about the cancer patient, her emotions and experiences. I got none of that. In fact, Rachel is a minor character who has simply given up. I could not accept that she, at her age, would not fight her leukemia, a treatment that has a high success rate these days. I was generous to give the book one star.
Why the rant? I am a cancer survivor–acute lymphoblastic leukemia, diagnosed in 1972 when I was three years old. When I read a book about a cancer patient, I expect to learn about the character’s emotions and experiences. I want to see the ups and downs, the denial, the fear, the strength to fight. When an author writes a book to tell the story of a cancer patient, I expect to read about the patient.
I just finished another book that fell short of meeting my expectations: Side Effects, by Amy Goldman Koss. You can read my review here. The book tells the diagnosis and treatment of a 14 y/o girl and her reaction to it. But because the author is not the patient–she’s actually the mother of the cancer patient, the true emotions and experiences of the patient do not come through. The book is more about snarky dialogue between a girl and her family/friends.
Bottom line; if you write a cancer book, either (1) be a patient yourself and tell your story with your own emotions, or (2) be intimately involved with the patient and share the patients emotions–all of them–with your readers. Readers want to feel the emotions of the main character.
A mainstream book that hits the mark is The Fault in Our Stars, by John Green. You can read my review here. I liked this book because we saw the emotions the main characters go through. I wasn’t happy as I read, but that’s because I could feel the same emotions they experienced.
Two lesser known books that I think are worthy of high praise are Touched by Cancer, by Teri Rose and Radiate by Marley Gibson (related post). These stories pull the reader in and share the main character’s emotions and their experiences. If you’re looking for two good (real) cancer stories to read, I suggest both of these.
Please feel free to share your favorite “cancer books” and why you recommend them!