There has been a lot of uproar in the publishing industry as of late about the uprising of “Sick-Lit” in young adult novels. If you aren’t sure what sick-lit is, perhaps you’ve heard of The Fault in Our Stars, the story of a girl dying of cancer who falls in love with another teen with cancer. Together, they try to enjoy what’s left of their lives and live it to its fullest.
The book and movie both sky-rocketed through the media, making author John Greene an instant sensation. That title, along with several other titles that talk of self-harm, suicide, cancer, and many other destructive and sad situations have led a lot of people to question what road the publishing industry is going down, and why are they glorifying these topics?
But does sick-lit have to be a twisted, heart-wrenching story of sadness and loss? I don’t think so. I recently read Me and Earl and the Dying Girl which is about a girl with cancer, much like Greene’s book. The difference was, while the main characters Greg and Earl were dealing with the fact that their friend Rachel was sick and probably not going to get better, the book was actually hilarious and led to a very short and touching chapter in which Rachel did die. I admit, I cried while reading it. However, the laughter surpassed the tears. Greg and Earl’s antics of trying to create a movie for Rachel, even though they didn’t want to, was a huge failure. Ultimately, the entire book didn’t go how one would expect, except for the part where Rachel did pass away.
I tried to do the same in my young adult novel Espirited Beginning. While it was clear that there was a serious situation surrounding the mysterious and suspicious death of Cheyenne Chambers, I didn’t want to bog the entire story down with the heaviness of her death. Once Heress is able to talk to dead people and encounters Cheyenne, the morbid humor adds a light side to the weight of the story. I also include some humor in the quirky antics of her deceased grandfather who is serving as her mentor in her psychic abilities.
Here is a brief excerpt from the first time Heress encounters Cheyenne’s spirit:
“I’m sorry I never knew you,” I whispered.
The casket lid crashed closed and I barely got my fingers out of the way in time.
I turned to apologize, and when I turned back, I was staring into Cheyenne’s face. She stood right in front of me, her apparition half in and half out of the casket. She seemed paler and sicklier than her body was, and her scowl was menacing.
I gasped and clutched my hand to my chest, miraculously stifling a scream as I took a few steps backward.
I watched in horror, as she spewed bile-like liquid all over the floor. I jumped back, not realizing I was the only audience for this ghoulish scene. She charged forward, hissing and spewing, projectile-vomiting yellow gunk all over everything.
I tripped over a chair that sat near the stuffed animal table and fell on my butt. My feet got tangled in a couple of flower stands, and they crashed down on top of me, spilling half of their contents on me and the red carpet.
Startled gasps and conversation filled the room, and I felt utterly mortified at what I had done. If anyone else had seen what I’d seen, though, they wouldn’t have thought I was such a klutz.
Balen was at my side now. He pulled me to my feet and righted the flower stands, trying his best to get most of the cut flowers, dirt, plants and sphagnum moss back into the planters.
All eyes stared our way in quiet horror.
“Sorry,” I apologized. “I’m so sorry.” Balen dragged me toward the exit.
“She has an inner ear problem,” he added sheepishly.
I was too shocked to say anything else.
As you can see, even funerals can be morbidly funny. I think it’s important, even in so called sick-lit, to have a nice balance between the lines of humor and sadness. That’s what happens in our real lives when loved ones pass away. We laugh, we cry, we cling to family and friends, but most of all, we live on.
Samantha Buttrick has been writing for as long as she can remember, and has been reading with the tarot for twelve years. She is the author of Espirited Beginning, the first book in the Confessions of a Teenage Medium series, published by Pagan Writers Press. The second book, Espirit’s Rising, is with her publisher now. Her dark anthology Willowood Springs will be released in late 2015.
If you’d like to connect with her, you can find her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Goodreads, Pinterest, and on her own website. If you want to check out Espirited Beginning, you can find it on Amazon and Smashwords.