Title: A Story About Cancer (With a Happy Ending)
Author: India Desjardins
Illustrator: Marianne Ferrer
Translator: Solange Ouellet
Genre: Graphic Novel, YA Realistic Fiction
Source: Free ARC from Frances Lincoln Children’s Books
Note: As stated under the Source (above), I received this book for free from Frances Lincoln Children’s Books via NetGalley. I pride myself on writing fair and honest reviews.
“I think about everything I’ll miss if they tell me I’m going to die . . . my mom, my dad, my sister, cookies, TV shows I’ll never get to see the end of, walking outside when it’s really nice, the smell of fall, the starry sky on a full moon, my grandparents, my grandpa’s lasagna, kissing Victor, Victor’s eyes, Victor’s voice, Victor’s smell, Victor’s hands . . . Victor.
A teenage girl heads towards the hospital waiting room where the doctors are going to tell her how much time she’s got to live. As she walks, she thinks about her journey up to this point . . . the terrible decor in the hospital, wearing a headscarf, the horrible treatments, but also being with her friends, family, and her new boyfriend Victor. This is a story about cancer with a happy ending. It’s about life, love, and especially, hope.”
Wow. It is amazing how much can be effectively communicated through a limited number of perfectly concise words paired with poignant illustrations. Cancer is such a heavy topic and the author handles it in such a captivating and honest way. And the illustrations are just phenomenal.
The young girl (we’re never given a name) has been battling leukemia for 5 years and is about to find out if she’s going to live or die. Either way, the battle is over, only the outcome remains to be known. The book opens with her and her parents entering the hospital, and her thinking over the years she’s spent there. How the hospital smells, how the color schemes are always bleh, and how her best friend and long-time hospital roommate Maxine lost her battle the previous year. She talks about how it has affected her family, her childhood, the things that people say to her that drive her crazy, and how they look at her like she’s dying. It’s all very realistic and genuine without being particularly emotive.
The illustrations…I just can’t say enough about how suited they are to the subject matter, how the images were so in sync with the words they were connected to, and in fact, sometimes communicated even more effectively than what was written. At the very end, when she reveals the outcome to her boyfriend Victor, is an illustration that took my breath away. It really said everything that needed to be said in that moment.
Long story short: Not a fun read to be sure (though I’d expect the word “cancer” being in the title hinted at that), but definitely an exceptional one.