A Story About Cancer (With a Happy Ending) is a short YA story by India Desjardians, illustrated by Marianne Ferrer, and translated from the original French by Solange Duellet. The 96-page book follows an unnamed 15-year-old as she makes her way through the hospital on the way to find out how much time she has left to live. As she walks, she reminisces about the previous five years since her leukemia diagnosis.
The girl thinks about her treatment, the way others treat her because of it, and the guilt she feels toward her sister for taking up so much of their parents’ time. But the things that really resonated with me, were the mundane things, how she’ll never know how a TV show ends and how she’ll miss the taste of cookies and her grandpa’s lasagne. These are the things that made the book feel tragically real and emotionally raw. I read the whole book in one sitting but had to take far longer to decompress afterward than it took to read.
What makes A Story About Cancer (With a Happy Ending) particularly remarkable is how immediately you connect to the main character and the small cast of supporting figures. There’s Annie, the nurse who tries to provide happiness and a kindly ear, Maxine – the best friend of our protagonist who has also been struggling with leukemia treatments of her own, Victor the boyfriend, and the protagonist’s family, mum, dad, and sister. Even though they are only ever on the periphery of the story and are given almost no background at all, they feel intensely present.
While this story is told in the first person from the perspective of the teenage girl at its heart, we catch glimpses into how the diagnosis and treatment have affected everyone else’s lives too. I was particularly affected by a scene between the protagonist and her mother when the mother finally came to understand why her daughter didn’t like being told how strong she was. Another moment that touched me showed the girl coming to understand why her father insisted on cracking jokes all the time. It took me a long time to turn the pages after reading these pages.
I’ll admit that the artwork in this book wasn’t really my style, however, I felt it worked well for the story and there were moments where it really spoke to me. As the girl and her parents wait to hear her prognosis on a sterile, plastic, hospital bench, they seem to shrink away into their own personal darkness on the page in front of you. It is profound, and moving, and all too familiar for anyone who has waited on similar phone calls.
Despite its happy ending, A Story About Cancer (With a Happy Ending) is not the easiest book to read yet I believe it will bring hope to some people going through similar events, and understanding to those who, fortunately for them, have never had these experiences. For those reasons, I would recommend A Story About Cancer (With a Happy Ending) to anyone who knows someone dealing with a life-threatening diagnosis.
GeekMom received this item for review purposes.