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Tag: cancer

Interview with Julie Halpern, Author of The F-It List

The F It ListJulie Halpern has a knack of taking you back to high school by pulling out our best and worst memories of that time through her writing.  Her spot on comedic tone and skilful weaving of a story,  perfectly channels the essence of the high school experience. She has  been recognized on YALSA’s Best Fiction for Young Adults lists twice: in 2010 for Into the Wild Nerd Yonder and 2013 for Have a Nice Day.

The F-It List is Halpern’s fifth novel for teens, and it has laugh out loud humor while at the same time delivering an emotional punch to the gut.  The F-It List hit bookshelves this past Tuesday, November 12, and centers on the friendship of Alex and Becca.  When Alex’s father passed away, her best friend Becca made a poor choice and slept with Alex’s then boyfriend.  Needing a break from the drama, Alex spends a summer keeping away from Becca.  When she is ready to forgive at the start of the next school year, Alex discovers that Becca has cancer.  Together they rebuild their friendship while trying to complete Becca’s bucket list, or as they call it the F-It list.  Through this process Alex discovers a lot about grieving, love, friendship, and even herself.  Visit Julie Halpern’s website,, to learn more about her work.

This is your fifth novel for teen readers.  Has your writing style or writing process changed since your first novel was published?  What has stayed the same?

I don’t know how much my style has changed, except that (hopefully) it has improved! Practice makes perfect, and all. I have had a similar writing process for all five books, where I tend to write the first few chapters and then let them sit for a bit before I continue writing the book. I don’t outline, but I do make a list of important events (sometimes the list looks neat, sometimes it’s randomly-placed post-its) that I need to include. I tend to write my books on a schedule, meaning that the events in the book take place over a certain amount of time and I need to figure out how to make the schedule work in order to keep the book organized. Otherwise, I write my books through the eyes of the main character, and the characters dictate the words. Also, in terms of process, I hand-write all of my books into notebooks with a pen, and when I finish the first draft I have to type it all in (which becomes my second draft).  By now I know that I usually require two or three revisions after the second draft before I’m comfortable sending it to my editor. No one sees it before then.

Reading Horoscope: Cancer

CancerCancer is represented by the crab, but there is nothing to be crabby about this month. Kind, sensitive, and devoted to family and friends, Cancers have a full month ahead of planning cookouts, making lemonade for little siblings, and making sure this summer is the best for everyone they care most about. But Cancers need to inject a little self-care every so often to maintain balance and health. What better way than with these comforting and adventurous books.

a wrinke in time gnMadeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time: The Graphic Novel, adapted and illustrated by Hope Larson

“It was a dark and stormy night…” So begins the classic fantasy novel of adventure and danger, family bonds, and, above all, love. Hope Larson creates a new reading experience with her graphic novel adaptation. The art is fresh and expressive and none of the original magic of L’Engle’s tale is lost. The perfect read for a sunny day under a tree or even a dark and stormy night.

The Controversy over “Sick-lit”

I’d never heard the term “sick-lit” until recently, when I came across a UK Daily Mail article delivering the news that there is a rise of “exploitative” modern YA fiction in our midst. Allegedly, sick-lit is the rising sub-genre of realistic fiction that — at its worst — aims to glorify death, suicide, and cutting; at its best it encourages vanity and shallowness.

The Fault in Our StarsWhich books are these? you ask. Well, according to Tanith Carey, author of the aforementioned UK Daily Mail article, one of the worst offenders is John Green’s The Fault in our Stars. Another is Jay Asher’s Thirteen Reasons WhyBy the Time You Read This, I’ll be Dead by Julie Ann Peters also makes the list. Tanith, with encouragement from popular children’s book reviewer Amanda Craig, has determined that these books and others like them that take on such serious topics such as terminal illness and suicide do more harm than good. Their concern is that rather than providing a safe means to explore tough subjects from a safe book-land distance, these books might encourage damaging behaviors or depression merely by planting the seeds into young, impressionable minds. Evidently, by reading about a teen who attempts suicide in reaction to a stressful event, a teen reader has been prompted and prepared on the dos and don’ts of successful suicide. Or, as is the case with our beloved Hazel from The Fault in Our Stars, sick-lit presents characters who romanticize death and dying by being overly concerned with trivial teen-aged topics like love.

‘Cause you know, when you’re dying, apparently you should be out campaigning for a cure for cancer or saving the world, or at the very least not be charming; you definitely should not be thinking about kissing or experiencing life to its fullest or even just watching reality TV, either.

Writing the Good Fight: Teen Characters With Cancer

flickr image by SCA Svenska Cellulosa Aktiebolaget

Writing about cancer can be challenging, making even the most confident author nervous and even uncomfortable. It’s a private subject for some, and in our attempts to be sensitive and supportive, it’s difficult to know what to say and what not to say unless you’ve personally experienced the disease in one of its countless terrible forms.

Enter John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars, a heart-wrenching novel featuring teens with cancer that’s more than that. While the disease plays a major role in the book, it’s not the focus of the story, and while characters Hazel Grace and Gus are afflicted with cancer, it doesn’t define them or their abilities. In any other writer’s hands, a novel about cancer-stricken teens may have delved into tearful sentimentality, but Green gives his story and cover for The Fault in Our Starscharacters, particularly Hazel, the strength, wit, and humor to be both brutally honest and realistic about her slim chances of survival.

When Hazel Grace states that “cancer books suck,” I was intrigued by her declaration. What books could exist in her fictional world that merit such a harsh assessment? More to the point, what books about teens dealing with cancer are available for readers like you and me? John Green isn’t the first young adult author to tackle writing about the disease, but he’s certainly set the bar high in terms of depicting an honest, realistic portrayal of it. What follows are titles that show that cancer books do not suck.