Sick-lit it is a genre (if it can even really be called that…) of books aimed at teens whose characters are ill, try to commit suicide or do acts like cutting. Some are complaining about this “new” genre and how it’s aimed at kids/teens and that they shouldn’t be reading such morbid stories.
First, it’s nothing new to have tragic characters in children’s literature. Tiny Tim in Dicken’s A Christmas Carol is a prime example as is Beth from Little Women. What about Mary from Little House on the Prairie or Heidi ‘s Clara? All characters with illnesses or disabilities.
Secondly, while death and dying are morbid, it’s also a fact of life and one teens will be exposed to at some point. Even with all the vaccines of today, childhood illness still runs rampant whether it’s juvenile diabetes, luekemia, lymes disease, etc. and unfortunately it’s likely that kids are going to be exposed to someone who suffers from one of these illnesses. I think these kinds of books might give “healthy” teens a better understanding of what their sick friends are going through. It could help them have more compassion and know better how to deal with the whole situation. For children who are unfortunate enough to be going through something, it could help them know someone else out there understands what they’re going through. As someone who was a sick kid, I think I would have liked to have a book where the main character was going through the same thing I was. I can understand that my folks probably wouldn’t have wanted me to read it if that character didn’t have a happy ending but not everyone’s situation is the same and no one knows what’s going to happen. If someone writes about a teen getting hit by a bus and dying, will the reader want to avoid all buses all the time? If so, it’s time to have the chat with them about fact and fiction and how authors control the outcome.
Not all stories can be happy sunshine, rainbow and butterfly stories. Life’s not like that and I think what we read and watch on TV should reflect that. People will probably argue with me, but I feel like Disney Princesses give girls an unrealistic idea of happily ever after, everything works out relationships which the divorce rate will show us is often not the case. Not that girls shouldn’t wish for a happily ever after, but I think it can give a bit of a warped sense of love and that they can “fix” their man and that they should stay in bad relationships because they love the guy, even if the guy doesn’t love them back they way they should.
I’ve said it before, but I’ll repeat myself: I think parents need to have discussions with with kids about fiction whether it’s in books or on the television and how it’s great to enjoy it, to use their imagination, etc. but to know it’s not necessarily how things work in life. We don’t all get happy endings and things aren’t always easy. Don’t leave your kids naive for too long otherwise it come back and hurt them later in life.
If books like these were banned, what’s next, banning books where the parents go through divorce? Books where the character cries because their dog dies? Books where a teen gets sad because they don’t make the team, don’t get an A, don’t get the guy? Tragedy and adversity makes for interesting stories. It allows characters to learn about themselves, learn life lessons and how to cope. It would be quite a dull read if everything always went right and the characters always got what they wanted, no?
What’s your take on “sick-lit”? Are you for or against it?
Here are some articles on the topic (both for and against) and a list of some books in the genre: