Kristin Maloney recently enjoyed A Story About Cancer (With A Happy Ending) by India Desjardins, a YA graphic novel that will "both torment and inspire hope among all who read it." The following is Kristin's review:
This is the story of a teenage girl who was diagnosed with leukemia at age ten, and after five years of treatment is walking back down the familiar and unwelcoming corridors of a hospital to find out her prognosis. While she and her family wait on a bench outside the doctor’s office, the reader is given glimpses of the years preceding this moment including time spent in the hospital, a favourite nurse, a friendly face in the cancer ward, meeting a boy that becomes a boyfriend, but above all else, the constant pressure she has been under of disappointing her family if she doesn’t stay strong.
The protagonist takes issue with words of encouragement that adults, including her parents, use as a form of pep talk that typically have the opposite effect of what’s intended. The author has created a character for this story who is scared and angry but also joyful and wise beyond her years. Although the story ends happily as the title foretells, the journey of this young girl is filled with unease about her condition and fear about her uncertain future. In addition, the illustrations throughout the book bring this story to life and highlight the emotional roller coaster that this sweet girl has been on for so long. Sometimes she floats across the pages with limbs that are splotched in green and grey patches, to emphasize the progression of her disease, but this is mixed in with other more colourful pages, that include waves of lavender, which depict her yearning for love and life outside the cold hospital walls.
In the end, India Desjardins captures the experience of childhood cancer with empathetic prose while conveying respect for how terribly serious this disease is. While this graphic novel is a dreary, gripping, heart-wrenching story told through profound artwork - it will both torment and inspire hope among all who read it.
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