According to some news sources, in particular The Daily Mail, a new (made-up) genre of YA fiction is rising in popularity. “Sick-lit” is defined as books that exploit serious issues such as depression and illness, which in turn can be traumatizing for its readers. Some titles supposedly included on this list are The Fault in our Stars by John Green, whose protagonist has cancer, and Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher, which tells the story of a teenage girl who recently committed suicide. Both books have received tremendous praise from both readers and critics.
So the fact that there are people who believe sick-lit is a legitimate genre is itself sick.
It’s true that some doctors claim that exposure to novels dealing with topics such as depression, suicidal thoughts, and eating disorders have led to these behaviors in young teens. This is extremely tragic, and I believe people for whom these books may be triggers should have the ability to pass up on them if necessary.
But consider the alternative of not exposing teenagers to these topics: by not having a healthy, supportive way to be introduced to serious issues in the first place, teens are being sheltered from the realities of the world. Fiction, as well as art as a whole, gives us a way to examine our own lives from a unique lens. It draws attention to topics that might have otherwise been ignored by starting conversations and introducing new perspectives. And I find it hard to believe that those who have actually read these books really think its authors are writing them out of morbid enjoyment; it’s clear from the first page that authors such as John Green are handling their difficult subject matter with complete respect.
After all, it’s not as if cancer or depression will magically go away if we stop talking about them.
Though I personally am not a huge fan of YA lit, I realize that this genre has recently grown exponentially in popularity among both teens and adults, and I applaud authors who are using this genre to shed light on the issues real teens are facing. Discussing depression, terminal illness, and other serious topics through literary fiction does not romanticize the subject; instead, it proves that these issues are real, and serious, and worth knowing how to handle if the time should ever come.
Here are the titles of a few more literary young adult books considered “Sick-lit” by certain dumb adults:
Never Eighteen by Megan Bostic
Before I Die by Jenny Downham
By The Time You Read This, I'll Be Dead by Daelyn Rice
Red Tears by Joanna Kenrick
So Much to Live For by Lurlene McDaniel
Zoe Letting Go by Nora Price