Google+ YA Romantics: Trending Thursday: Is 2015 the Peak Year of the YA Illness Book?

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Trending Thursday: Is 2015 the Peak Year of the YA Illness Book?


Welcome to Trending Thursday a periodic post in which I pick a bookish trend and then you're welcome to dive in and discuss, disagree, whatever...

As I mentioned in last week's post on YA books about suicide, I've recently noticed that there are a LOT of very serious books out there in the year to come. 

Many of these books deal with illnesses of various types -- just by looking at four publishers' spring lists, I found over a dozen books.

Of course, this trend doesn't come out of nowhere. These kind of YA books have been around. 

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The 1990s featured Lurlene McDaniel's YA books about sick or dying teens. And more recently, there was Before I Die by Jenny Downham (2007), I'm Not Her by Janet Gurtler (2011), The Probability of Miracles by Wendy Wunder (2011), All These Lives by Sarah Wylie (2012), Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews (2012), Zac and Mia by A. J. Betts (2014), Side Effects May Vary by Julie Murphy (2014, among others.

I don't want to pin every YA trend on John Green (and I'd argue that his books are popular not because of their subject matter, but because his unique take on the world appeals to a lot of people. Including me!) However, I think would be hard to claim that the popularity of The Fault in Our Stars didn't have anything to do with the subsequent proliferation of these kind of books. 

But an interesting thing I also noticed is that a few of these books aren't just about the illness -- some of them take characters facing illness and incorporate them into a story that's a thriller or a fantasy. That's interesting to me, as many people are out there, living with illness and doing other things too. This is a trend I'd like to see more of.
Here's a rundown of the books I found so far. I've yet to read these and am just going on the published descriptions, so if I've mischaracterized any, feel free to correct me, and if I missed any books, please let me know in comments.

Suicide
For a list of YA books about suicide coming out in 2015,  check out last week's post.

Mental Illness/Disorders
Challenger Deep Made You Up Every Last Word
Every Last Word Trouble is a Friend of Mine
Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman (mental illness)
Made You Up by Francesca Zappia (schizophrenia)
Every Last Word by Tamara Ireland Stone (purely obsessional OCD)
Fig by Sarah Elizabeth Schantz (schizophrenia)
Trouble is a Friend of Mine by Stephanie Tromly (mental illness)

Eating Disorders
Paperweight Elena Vanishing
Paperweight by Meg Haston
Elena Vanishing by Elena and Clare Dunkle


Chronic/Serious/Terminal Illness
Magonia Invincible Last Leaves Falling Hold Me Like a Breath

One Thing Stolen Because You'll Never Meet Me Positively Beautiful
Magonia by Maria Dahvana Headley (lung disease)
Invincible by Amy Reed (cancer)
The Last Leaves Falling by Sarah Benwell (ALS)
Hold Me Like a Breath by Tiffany Schmidt (autoimmune disorder)
One Thing Stolen by Beth Kephart (neurological disorder)
Because You'll Never Meet Me by Leah Thomas (electricity allergy)
Positively Beautiful by Wendy Mills (genetic mutation that causes cancer)

Also (no cover) Extraordinary Means by Robin Schneider (tuberculosis)


Organ Donation
Things We Know By Heart Alive Pieces of Me The Forgetting
Things We Know by Heart by Jessi Kirby
Alive by Chandler Baker
Pieces of Me by Amber Kizer
The Forgetting by Nicole Maggi

Also: Hold Me Like a Breath (pictured above) deals with organ transplants.

Tell me in comments: which of these books do you plan to read?  Do you think this trend may be reaching a peak in 2015? 

42 comments:

  1. I don't mind illness or issue books at all. In fact I love them - when done right. And that's really hard to find.

    I hadn't heard of nay of the books on your list. Would you recommend any of them?

    Karen @For What It's Worth

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    1. Not yet. Stay tuned -- I will be reading some of them!

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  2. lots of good ones. I plan to read Made you up, hold me like a breath, know you by heart, and paperweight. All on my TBR. I do like these books but I can overdo it easily too. Gets in my head and drives me insane. I think they are great books to have available though.

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    1. I have Hold You Like a Breath, and I've heard great things about Made You Up and I'm going to read that too!

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  3. I haven't read many books dealing with these kind of issues. I'm not saying that I don't like them, they just don't rank highly in my want to read list. Maybe it's the fact that I was forced to read The Fault In Our Stars for school and I honestly wasn't a fan (it just wasn't my kind of book). I did like If I Stay (which doesn't exactly fit into this category though). Anyway, maybe I'll give one of these a try?

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    1. These books certainly aren't all the same even though they share some themes, and you're right -- If I Stay does have overlap with these kind of books: the hospital setting, the critical injury, etc. And it's definitely true for me that I will love some books that feature illnesses and injuries but not all...

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  4. Yes I do think that this year is more comtempory books ie John Green. I adored Things we know by heart , and reading Extraordinary means right now..so far good. I will probably read soon : make it made you up, magnolia, hold me like a breath, paperweight too :)

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    1. I definitely feel there have been more contemps in the last few years (yay!) but the sheer number of these was pretty surprising to me.

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  5. Good post. I definitely think this is a trend. I do plan on reading Paperweight and Things we know by heart

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    1. It's funny -- I felt a little uncomfortable, as if I were suggesting illness was a trend. But raising awareness about different medical conditions and our empathy toward those facing health issues can be a good thing...

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  6. I actually really like reading about illnesses, especially if I've never heard of the illness.

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    1. That's an excellent point! I learn a lot from reading books like these.

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  7. Whoa, so many books! I try to stay away from books like this because they sometimes backfire on me (I go into the book knowing it will be sad and it keeps me from connecting to the charcaters sometimes), but there are a few that I'm really excited for. Made You Up, Hold Me Like a Breath and Things We Know By Heart.

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  8. I find that even when not the most popular there are always books with darker contemp themes that pop up. I will be reading most of these

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    1. I know you read a lot of issue books, Brandi -- this is a great reading year for you!

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  9. I think we can safely "blame" John Green for the current surge. That book has dominated for 3 years!

    I didn't know Jessi Kirby had a new one coming out. Adding to my list!

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  10. GLAD I'M NOT THE ONLY ONE WHO NOTICED ;P I'm not THRILLED with this trend but I'm not very sad either. I LOVE books that make me cry, and especially books about depression hit me hard. I'm a bittttt worried that they may start to blur into each other, but at least a fourth of these are on my top reads of 2015 >_>

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  11. This is very interesting! I hadn't even thought of that until I saw them on here :/. Weird!

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  12. I seriously have no idea about trends and peaks. I thought I did, but bah. Probably NOT. I am clueless. xD I actually like this trend. I don't mind ANY trends even if the market gets a bit saturated. I only don't like it when the plots seem rehashed and the writing loses quality. (Like the dystopian trend seemed to do.) I'm quite excited about books that deal with mental illness, because I think it's a topic that gets shushed a lot and that's not right.

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    1. I don't either. And I agree with you on the saturation. At some point when something gets popular, there are books that seem to get churned out too quickly. Or the plots start to get recycled too much.

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  13. I feel that these kinds of books have been around but I do think the super success of TFIOS has started a trend in books dealing with serious illness. He also wrote Looking for Alaska, but the book did not spark a trend like TFIOS did.

    I read Skinny by Ibi Kaslik a couple years ago and I feel like I read another book dealing with eating disorders around the same time. There's been other books like Thirteen Reasons Why, dealing with suicide, and Cut by Patricia McCormick, that deals with self-harm, and books like Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson that went into PTSD (LHA also wrote The Impossible Knife of Memory, another book dealing with mental illness), so like you said they've been sprinkled throughout the YA genre the last decade. But I do agree this year has spurred on a plethora of authors piggybacking on the success of TFIOS. Great discussion topic!

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    1. I forgot to say that I hope it is not reaching it's peak because I think mental illness is a topic not addressed enough considering something like 1 in 5 teens in the U.S. have a mental illness.

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    2. That's a very good point. And like I said in my post, I like the idea of books that aren't just about the illness. There are a lot of people living with illnesses (mental and other) and I like the idea of characters who deal with illness but have other aspects to their lives.

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  14. Is it bad that I really love books about diseases? As long as they do them right, and take them seriously, I really really enjoy them. I like it when someone tries to make me cry! I do think it's probably John Green's fault. TFIOS was so popular, authors will want to recreate that. I'l looking forward to a lot of these!

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    1. No -- not weird! Hope you've found a few new ones to try!

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  15. I don't know which of these that I will try out, but some of them do look good.

    I did, however, want to say that I was a teen in the 90s, when Lurlene McDaniel's books about "sick and dying children/teens/YA's" were popular, and I loved them. I read alot of them during my high school years. I especially loved her *One Last Wish* series (https://www.goodreads.com/series/59926-one-last-wish), and read most of those. I also enjoyed her *Six Months to Live* trilogy (which was later expanded into a 5-book series: https://www.goodreads.com/series/59927-dawn-rochelle). I kinda want to read her other books as well, but wonder if I would still love them as much now as I did back then.

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    1. I've never tried one of her books, but I loved reading issue books when I was a teenager too.

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  16. Ooh yes I noticed this recently too! I find it very interesting to think about--though I'm not really complaining. I do love my contemporaries and all things that hit the sensitive topics--as long as they're dealt with justly.

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  17. I don't know if it's really a trend. These books have been around for so long. And so many books are being published these days, period, that it's not surprising that we see more in this vein, too.

    I remember one of the first YA books I read (when I was around 10 or 11) was Deenie by Judy Blume. It's about a girl who has scoliosis and has to wear a back brace. It would totally fit into this crop of books... but it was first published in 1973 (no, I'm not that old)! I also remember the whole Lurlene McDaniel craze in the '90s. I never actually read any of her books back then; I just wasn't interested. But I know they were really popular, and the author seemed to be pretty prolific. (I read one of her books a couple of years ago, just to see what all the fuss was about. I was not impressed. The heavy topics were glossed over and handled pretty badly, and the characters were just awful.)

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    1. I agree that these types of characters have been around a long time - back to poor Beth March in Little Women. But I don't think I've ever seen this many illness books come out in one six month period.

      I loved Deenie too -- I read and re-read Judy Blume books when I was a tween and that was one of my favorites.

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  18. Things We Know by Heart!! That book ripped my chest a new one, seriously. It was more about the healing process of a girl and a guy who received the heart of her boyfriend who died in a crash. Still hurts like hell, though. Now, Magona is interesting because it had a chronic illness that was heart-shattering, while becoming a fantastic fantasy later on (which was REALLY INTERESTING AND MAGICAL) and I wish more books become like that so as not to make this subgenre become stagnant.

    Faye at The Social Potato

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    1. Exactly -- I'm excited about the books that seem to transcend the "issue book" stuff and try something different.

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  19. I only know a few of these, but I like that there are so many!

    I've always been really queasy about eating disorders (I have no idea why), but I really wanna check out those two.

    Thanks for highlighting these Jen!

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  20. The thing that makes me sad to see Made You Up on this list is because I'm afraid people will write it off as "an issue book" or "an illness book." To me it reads a lot like We Were Liars, but where WWL people will talk about the tragedy and plot event, they might be less willing to read MYU and see its layers :(.

    "But an interesting thing I also noticed is that a few of these books aren't just about the illness -- some of them take characters facing illness and incorporate them into a story that's a thriller or a fantasy. That's interesting to me, as many people are out there, living with illness and doing other things too. This is a trend I'd like to see more of." -- Agreed. I was less a fan though of how Magonia did it because I wanted a lot more of the fantasy, but since you don't like fantasy much, maybe you will like how it incorporates the illness and fantasy aspects?

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    1. Well, I guess I'd respond by saying that a lot of people will read that book (as indicated by comments above) either because they DO like issue books or because they've heard that Made You Up is great.

      I guess I'd also say that it's partly a factor of marketing. To me, the Made You Up blurb does acknowledge that the character is schizophrenic, but also suggests that the book is not an issue book, but something different.

      Finally, yes, I'm curious to see how I like Magonia. I'm just sort of unpredictable about fantasies. I never know how I'll feel until I read.

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  21. I was making this comment about books with a suicide plot line the other day. I have seen some that were excellent and others that were less so. :-/

    Kate @ Ex Libris

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