Many times people read books to escape their reality. They appreciate characters that they can relate to, though that isn’t always necessary. But if there is something in your life that is troubling, would you want to read a book that portrayed it with a happy ending or a sad ending? That was the case of a 10 year old girl in Quebec who met author India Desjardins. The girl had leukemia and was “fed up” with all of the cancer books with sad endings, so India wrote A Story About Cancer (With a Happy Ending).
The title of the book prepares you for the story before you even open the pages of this relatively short graphic novel. The images themselves are dull, mainly shades of gray and black with some reds thrown in intermittently. As the book opens, the 15 year old main character is walking down the hall to her oncologist’s office to hear the latest status and recalls the array of emotions that she has gone through over the past few years. There is the institutional smell of hospitals, the way people look at you when you have cancer, knowing that everyone feels sorry for you. She remembers her roommate who died. And she remembers what it was like to finally fall in love.
I won’t say that this book is an easy read, though it can easily be read in one sitting. Desjardins definitely honored the young girl looking for a book about cancer with a happy ending, but didn’t gloss over the fact that cancer is a very hard road. It impacts not only the patient, but everyone around them. Cancer is a very complicated disease. Treatments sometimes work and sometimes don’t. There is always a feeling of dread when going to the oncologist.
Fortunately, as the book winds down, we know that she is walking toward a happy ending. Artistically, Marianne Ferrer did a great job of expressing the girl’s emotions through color while still in very muted tones. As the girl, we never know her name, tells her boyfriend, who is colored in, that she is cured, she literally sheds her skin of cancer and is full of color herself.
Not a book for everyone, but a great way for young adults to understand what someone going through cancer might be feeling.