Review | Monday 30 July 2012
Any work of fiction where the main character has a terminal disease can be tricky. How to get the voice right and avoid over-sentimentality?
There have been two standout young adult books about teens with cancer in recent years. First came Jenny Downham’s Before I Die with a character who was feisty, funny and a downright pain at times; the voice was spot on and the ending was incredibly moving and just right. And, earlier this year, John Green gifted us with Hazel in The Fault in Our Stars, which is as perfect as a book can be – Hazel is funny, quirky and intelligent and the voice, once again, is spot on
Now we have 17 year-old Cam who, like the previous two characters, is in the final stages of cancer and has pretty much given up, but her mother, of course, will not. How do you watch a child die? You don’t without fighting with every fibre of your being.
So they up stumps to a place where it appears miracles have happened and there they find a summer of health and hope. A summer of love and belonging, where the idyllic setting becalms and Cam learns to pay attention to coincidences (even if some are a little far-fetched) and enjoy the sweetness of the moment. Cam is a wonderful character and although at times she seems a bit too detached you just want her to get the cool guy and live a long and healthy life. That would need a miracle!
Alexa Dretzke is a Children's & YA Book Specialist at Readings Hawthorne.