Reading is something that plays a big role in my life, there is always a book in my pocket, on my bedside table or in my hand. As an avid reader from the age of about seven or eight I have discovered I am not a genre-ist, if such a thing exists, but enjoy exploring all kinds of stories, in all sorts of places, eras and realities.
In November I read a term I hadn’t heard before “sick-lit” and unwittingly I had even read books belonging to the genre (Before I Die, Lonely Bones, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime). “Sick-lit” is the term used to describe books aimed at young adults and deal with real life issues such as death, illness and depression.
The Daily Mail started the whole debate by publishing an alarmist article about the “disturbing phenomenon”. Describing the sick-lit books as “mawkish” and claiming that by presenting young readers with reality the books doing psychological damage, in the worst case possibly even leading to physical harm. The Daily Mail argues that books like Twilight Saga are safe as they are obviously fantasy. They end the article by quoting child psychologist Emma Citron saying “Let’s hope publishers do have young people’s interests at heart – and they are not selling books by sensationalising children’s suffering.”, basically accusing book publishers of using pain to make money, a low blow considering their own front pages.
The Guardian defends “sick-lit”, arguing that not every young adult wanted to flee into the world of trolls, vampires and wizards but prefers to read about real life issues, no matter how difficult. And if sick-lit leads to tears and emotions it is actually a good thing as it teaches young readers about pain, broken hearts and death, situations they will inevitably encounter in life.
But honestly the term sick-lit may be new but the genre isn’t . My first thought when I read the Daily Mail was how I loved reading “Heidi”, “What Kathy Did”, “Little Women”, “The little House on the Prairie” and “The Secret Garden”, even the whole “Chalet School Series”. Each of those books deals with death, war, illnesses, abandonment, loneliness, not fitting in and love. And what about “The Dairy of Anna Frank” or “Christiane F” and all the other books that deal with horrible and often graphic real life issues?
Which, if you read the Guardian article to the very end, is exactly the point the Guardian makes too. So like the sick-lit author John Green (The Fault in our Stars), I just say the last word truly does lie with