A Critical Analysis of Cancer Tropes and Metaphors in Young Adult Literature
In recent years, the young adult genre has seen an upsurge of stories that circulate around illness. According to Good Reads, there are roughly 82 young adult literature novels about cancer; over half of those novels were published within the last decade. After the release in 2012 of John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars, a tale of star-crossed teen lovers facing terminal cancer, stories about cancer seemed to proliferate even more rapidly. Immediately following TFiOS was Jesse Andrews’s Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, published that same year; Andrews’s novel offers a story not unlike Green’s in its inclusion of cancer as a means to join together two teenagers of the opposite sex. Both works were eventually adapted into major motion pictures. Two years later, FOX aired a medical comedy-drama television series aimed at a teenaged audience titled The Red Band Society; set in a sleek and spacious hospital in California, the show focused on six teen patients, two of whom had cancer, and unsurprisingly involved teen romance made possible by chronic illness.
In each work, cancer becomes the catalyst for romance; in other words, an illness needs to enter into the story for two teens of the opposite sex to come together. This “cancer as romance” argument is not a new one. Julie Passanante Elman, in her book devoted to discussions of illness representations aimed at a teen audience, focuses on Lurlene McDaniel’s YA series about a teenaged girl with cancer. Elman illuminates a problematic formula at play in all books within the series: “after being diagnosed with a potentially fatal chronic illness, a girl falls in love with a boy” (93). Sadly, this formula from the 80s and 90s, one that both romanticizes and trivializes illness, is still at play in current YA media about illness. Green’s leading protagonist, Hazel Grace, meets Gus, her soon-to-be boyfriend, in a cancer support group; Andrews’s narrator, Greg Gaines, is reunited with ex-friend Rachel after he receives news of her cancer diagnosis; and Julie Murphy’s narrator, Alice, in her book Side Effects May Vary, is similarly reconnected with former friend (and future boyfriend) Harvey after she is diagnosed with cancer. These three texts, which will be the main concerns of my study, indubitably follow Elman’s formula because they exist within the conventions of the YA genre.
In this paper, I argue that the purposes of the YA genre are too limiting for discussions of teen cancer, an experience that is highly specific to each patient and one that a general, presumably “healthy” teen audience cannot easily relate to. Within the confines of the genre, discussions of cancer take a backseat to the texts’ focus on teen romances, the goings-on of high school students, and overly involved, overly oblivious parents. Cancer in YA is used rather than actually discussed; Elman critiques the use of illness in YA with a focus on empathy and how it might figure into the act of reading literature about illness and disability. Elman’s position on empathy’s role in the literary exchange between an “able” bodied teen reader and a “disabled” fictional character argues, too, that illness in YA typically serves a distinct didactic function. Cancer has become an oddly fitting metaphor for universal teen hardships, such as coming to terms with the changing adolescent body and understanding one’s own vulnerability and mortality. Using cancer in this way not only ignores the inherent complexities within the illness but affords “healthy” teens a false sense of empathy. When cancer is presented in such overly simplistic and unfairly “relatable” ways, teen readers might find themselves relating to an experience of which they have no genuine understanding. That said, my paper seeks to provide the tools for recognizing the problematic facets of these novels, specifically facets that appear to be direct consequences of strict adherence to YA conventions.
Before delving into some of the more damaging hallmarks of the YA genre in conjunction with illness, I would be remiss not to acknowledge the clear merits of encouraging teenagers and young adults to read about illness and cancer. Crag Hill, in his critical text on YA, applauds the genre for its ability “to promote the acceptance of the other” (11). The genre’s typical setting of a high school provides a useful entry-point for a teen reader to become more engaged and invested in the goings-on of the story and renders the ill character much less “other.” Further, situating a story about illness within a high school (as opposed to limiting the setting to hospitals and constant doctor visits) immediately dismantles the possible, and probably common, assumption that illness, and more specifically cancer, is automatically equated with death and despair and a total lack of normalcy.
Jacob Stratman, who writes about using YA in the classroom, argues that encouraging students to read books about illness and disability will help them to develop feelings of empathy. Stratman put together his pedagogical book of essays because of the rapidly decreasing levels of empathy found among college students. He writes of a study conducted at the University of Michigan that “suggest[ed] … over a 40-year period, the ability to ‘imagine others’ points of view’ and feel connections ‘for the misfortunes of others’ among college age students has declined steadily” (2). He sees reading about characters with illness and disability as a way for young readers to become “more involved [in] empathic relationships” (2). He poses a key question: “can an ‘abled’ child, who reads a story about a ‘disabled’ child, be invited into a more just and loving relationship with other children with disabilities?” (3). Unfortunately, the methods for fully engaging teen readers and encouraging them to enter into these empathic relationships usually involve, as I will later demonstrate, a sort of pandering to a teen audience composed of “healthy” teens, who are being invited into this relationship with the “other” through recognizable images and hardships. It is the overwhelming presence of these recognizable and relatable elements within YA novels, I argue, that drown out and silence the more foreign elements needed to truly teach teen readers about the experience of having cancer.
Recognizable elements overwhelm Andrews’s novel as the majority of the story takes place in a high school and opens with a complete listing of the school’s complex social hierarchy: “the rich kids,” “the jocks,” “the stoners,” “the theater kids” (7). Similarly, Murphy’s novel is set in a high school and bears many of the hallmarks typically found within a novel about teenagers: dramatic breakups, school assembly pranks, and overly sentimental professions of teen love. Mixed in with these recognizable details are only small descriptions and discussions of cancer. For Murphy, cancer is used as a convenient metaphor for the easily recognizable cliché, “Live life to the fullest.” Her Side Effects May Vary is wholly based on the premise of needing illness, in this case cancer, to understand the “beauties” of life. The novel’s tagline, “The year she was meant to die became the year she started to live,” sounds eerily similar to a line Hazel Grace, Green’s protagonist, rolls her eyes at: “Without Pain, How Could We Know Joy?” (Green 35).
The narrator of The Fault in Our Stars is able to critically examine the problems this sentiment presents. Hazel explains in a parenthetical aside, “This is an old argument in the field of Thinking About Suffering, and its stupidity and lack of sophistication could be plumbed for centuries, but suffice it to say that the existence of broccoli does not in any way affect the taste of chocolate” (35). Green, here, is accomplishing a major goal within YA according to Hill, who explains that it is typical for the narrator of a young adult novel to question, to rebel (Hill 6). While Alice, one of the protagonists in Murphy’s dually-narrated novel, both questions and rebels against her parents, her peers, and her school, she does not question the clichés and metaphors that are used to describe her illness. Side Effects does not provide readers with the tools to question the assumptions many make about the experience of having cancer. Instead, Murphy relies on cancer metaphors to convey universalized messages that speak to the experience of being an adolescent.
In her review of Side Effects May Vary, S. L. Huang, a former cancer patient and contributor to Disability in Kidlit, a blog devoted to correcting the inaccuracies and critiquing the cancer clichés and stereotypes often present in YAL, highlights one of the novel’s major pitfalls: the immediate equation of cancer to death. According to Huang, Alice’s cancer, acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL), typically has an optimistic prognosis: “ALL, in addition to being one of the most common childhood cancers, is also one of the most treatable, with the vast majority of ALL patients entering remission.” The entire novel, however, relies on the assumption that Alice will die. This reliance on Alice’s predicted death poses a major issue. Huang argues that this immediate equation of cancer and death leads to “reinforcing the dehumanizing pity that comes with the assumption that the Grim Reaper has already tapped us on the shoulder at the first utterance of the word ‘cancer.’” To further Huang’s point, Alice’s grim prognosis grossly generalizes cancer and reinforces the assumptions of those who are uninformed about the illness (i.e., who assume that it always leads to death). Readers are not privy to cancer as it is specific to Alice; the novel, in terms of specificity, goes no further than providing readers with the name of Alice’s cancer type. But beyond the name of her cancer, Murphy does little in the way of demonstrating how cancer is an individualized experience, how there is a wide array of cancers, and, more importantly, how each person who has been diagnosed with cancer will receive a variety of prognoses, will experience a variety of symptoms, and will undergo a variety of treatments and surgeries. The cancer/death equation erases these individual details and allows readers to understand Alice’s cancer on distanced and stereotypical terms.
Murphy’s overgeneralization of Alice’s cancer stands in stark contrast to Green’s representation of Hazel’s. In TFiOS, Hazel discusses her cancer candidly, moving well beyond simply naming the type of cancer and into the specifics of Hazel’s cancer: Hazel names the type of surgery she underwent shortly after her diagnosis—“radical neck dissection” (24); explains, in great detail, her near-death experience, the desperation of her lungs “gasping, pulling [her] out of the bed” (25), her “hands and feet balloon[ing],” her “skin crack[ing],” her “lips perpetually blue” (24); and introduces us to “Phillip,” a BiPap machine Hazel uses to assist her breathing at night. Even the pain Hazel feels one night is given new, unique metaphors to make that pain uniquely hers. She writes that there was a “supernovae exploding inside [her] brain, an endless chain of intracranial firecrackers that made [her] think that [she] was once and for all going” (105). Each detail presents teen readers with something foreign and, more importantly, something that cannot be applied to all cancer stories. Cancer becomes specific to Hazel.
Foreign elements within Murphy’s novel are few and far between. Ironically, the most candid descriptions we get of Alice’s cancer-stricken body occur in the chapters from the point of view of Alice’s family friend, and future boyfriend, Harvey. Harvey describes Alice’s “hipbones protrud[ing] through [a] blanket” (11). Prior to having sex, Harvey describes Alice’s naked body: “Her waist dipped dramatically,” “Tiny red dots splattered across her thighs and shoulders, broken blood vessels” (273). These images are candid, reveal details specific to Alice’s cancer, and certainly move beyond the recognizable short-cut image of the bald head (one of the only candid descriptions we get of Rachel in Me and Earl). However, giving Harvey, instead of Alice, the opportunity to share these intimate details about her cancer-stricken body redirects the purpose of writing about her cancer. Readers are not exposed to the way Alice herself regards her own changed body or her illness; instead, readers see how her love interest regards it, and more specifically, how he regards it prior to sleeping with her. The focus, then, becomes the romance.
When Alice does discuss her cancer, she tends to default to clichés and metaphors, specifically the “monster” and “battle” metaphors as discussed by Susan Sontag. Alice describes her cancer as “the hulking monster in the closet” (65) and details her specific cancer, leukemia, as “blood inside of [her] body … revolting against [her]” (76). Each monster/battle metaphor highlighted by Sontag places cancer as the autonomous being and the patient as the passive vessel where the “conqueror” dwells. The battle metaphor, commonly used by doctors, family, and friends to give a patient encouragement, positions the patient as a soldier and the cancer as the enemy. This encouragement tactic could conceivably give the patient courage and strength in terms of being described as a soldier, someone who is trained to fight. However, this control is simply an illusion.
The battle metaphor, as Sontag highlights, has two downfalls. First, when cancer is described as “invasive” and when tumors are said to “colonize,” the cancer is given its own persona. Sontag cites a poem that calls cancer a “hidden assassin / Waiting to strike at you” (qtd. in Sontag 49). These metaphors give cancer a purpose; they speak about cancer cells as if they had strategic methods of attack, methods a patient could never anticipate or battle. Secondly, Sontag explains that even methods of treatment such as chemotherapy and radiation are described in martial metaphors: “patients are ‘bombarded’ with toxic rays. And chemotherapy is chemical warfare, using poisons” (65). And while these treatment methods are used for the patient, they are used by the doctor. This metaphor renders patients completely passive, almost as if they were simply the battleground where the cancer cells and the doctors wage combat.
Alice’s use of these common metaphors, in conjunction with the more detailed and candid descriptions of her body coming from someone other than herself, suggests a severe lack of agency over her own illness. This lack is further demonstrated by Alice’s interactions with her doctor, who is described as giving information to her parents as opposed to speaking with Alice directly; she writes, “All the news Dr. Meredith had given us had been delivered to my parents. I’d always been in the room, but not really, not to them” (15). In a later scene, Alice’s doctor tells her that chemo is doing her body more harm than good. Alice’s description of their conversation suggests that much of what the doctor said was confusing to her: “Dr. Meredith said lots of different things about my blood counts and my immune system, but what I took away from the conversation was: chemo equals bad, for now” (181). Difficulty understanding medical lingo is certainly not uncommon; however, Alice does not make a concerted effort to understand her illness and reclaim some control over what is happening to her body. Alice becomes the passive patient, the battlefield, where cancer, figured as a monster, and Dr. Meredith, armed with weaponry Alice knows little about, will battle.
Green’s Hazel demonstrates a clear knowledge about her illness. When Hazel and Gus, her boyfriend, travel to Amsterdam, Hazel, with the help of her mother, needs to make sure that all her medical equipment is in order. In a seemingly inconsequential moment, Hazel describes her mother helping her with her oxygen tank: “She came to the bed, placed a tank in the cart, and connected it to the tube. . . . She set it for 2.5 liters a minute—six hours before I’d need a change” (158; my emphasis). Here, Hazel demonstrates an intimate knowledge of her body and what it medically needs. Green adds Hazel’s medical knowledge to demonstrate that she has control over her illness; she is not a passive vessel. Hazel’s agency and authority over her illness is further demonstrated by the unique metaphors she uses to describe her illness, the “supernovae exploding inside [her] brain” (105). Hazel does not borrow someone else’s language to describe what is happening within her own body; she creates a language of her own and maintains authority over her illness.
Alice’s demonstrated lack of authority, in the form of defaulting to clichés and lacking medical knowledge, is an unfortunate consequence of Murphy’s strict adherence to YA conventions. Murphy’s rendering of Alice as a passive vessel where cancer dwells greatly strengthens the major premise of Side Effects: the idealistic notion of “living without consequence.” Thus, the most striking consequence of falsely equating cancer and death (and it is truly false, as Alice does enter into remission a year after her diagnosis) is the myriad of universalized metaphors the equation carries, specifically for teen readers. Similar in age to the characters in Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, the characters in Side Effects are also nearing the end of their high school careers. Both novels empathize with teen readers in the same way: they explore the coming-of-age theme of pondering the future post-high school, of coming to terms with their future careers and identities, of grappling with what it means to be an adult. In Side Effects, Alice sees her cancer as an opportunity to stop worrying about her future as she assumes it no longer exists. With her reliance on battle metaphors and lack of knowledge about her illness, Alice can more easily “surrender” herself to cancer.
Alice frequently refers to her cancer as a “distraction”from the other goings-on in her life. At the beginning of the novel, Alice sees her mother engaging in an extra-marital affair; she explains that in that moment, she “wished for a problem—a distraction”(Murphy 8). She continues, “About a month later, I got the big distraction I’d hoped for. I was diagnosed with acute lymphocytic leukemia”(8). Figured as a “distraction,”cancer becomes not only an experience that affords relief from the heavy expectations of the future—applying to college, finding a job—but an excuse to “live without consequence.”Alice meditates on what having cancer might entail: “Cancer would take away plenty. My hair, my body, my life. What I’d never realized, though, was that there was one privilege to dying: the right to live without consequence”(77). To non-cancer patients, and specifically to teenagers who have never experienced a serious illness, this idealistic notion of “living without consequence”sounds awfully similar to other clichés we all know and try to live by: “Live life to the fullest”; “Live every day like it’s your last”; “Life is short, [insert whatever activity you fear doing prior to hearing this quote!]”
Figuring cancer as the catalyst for these feelings of freedom and no regret oversimplifies and universalizes the illness. Teen readers can quite easily latch on to Alice’s revelation that cancer will afford her the right to “live without consequence.” And while the point of a YA novel that centers around cancer might be to teach teen readers about the experience of having cancer, utilizing this “live life to the fullest” cliché merely reflects back to ideas with which teens are already familiar. In other words, there is nothing about the notion of “Living life without consequence,” the novel’s entire premise, that is specific to cancer. Murphy’s novel, therefore, is not really about cancer but rather about a teenager’s fear of the future and her realization that her body, something that once felt solid and invincible, is in reality vulnerable and changing. Murphy uses cancer as a vehicle to carry these universal teen obstacles and fears.
For Andrews, in his novel Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, cancer exists as a completely separate entity, one that is thoroughly unconnected to the cancer-free world that is recognizable to “healthy” teens and the world in which Greg, Andrews’s narrator, resides. To begin a chapter solely devoted to discussions of his relationship with his best friend Earl, Greg makes it a point to explicitly signal to readers that we are taking a brief detour from “Cancerland,” his trivial name for Rachel’s story. Greg writes, “I guess I’ll just give you the backstory of [my friendship with Earl]. . . . Then we can make our triumphant return to Cancerland” (77). Here, cancer and the character who has it are completely separated from the world of “normalcy,” or the world of “healthy” teens. This comment may be an attempt at letting teens know cancer is not something to which they can immediately relate; however, allowing cancer to occupy its own space, a space that exists outside of Greg’s “healthy” narrative, one where he bonds and makes quirky films with his best friend Earl, creates an even deeper divide between “healthy” and “non-healthy” teens and implies that unhealthy teens can no longer create or have a voice of their own.
Further, this divide between a healthy male teen and an unhealthy female teen disturbingly follows the stereotypical gendered tale of the adventurous, outspoken male and the passive, silenced female. When the narrative does segue back into “Cancerland,” Greg very rarely gives Rachel the chance to speak, even claiming at one point that “She orchestrated [their] conversations so that [Greg] did the talking and she did the listening” (90). Rachel becomes a thoroughly muted character who seemingly exists only to challenge Greg’s morality and help him succeed in the world after high school. Rachel’s dialogue is essentially limited to two topics: one, her cancer, but only to express how weak and ill she feels during the course of her treatments, and two, Greg’s filmmaking and Greg’s future (heading off to college). The novel frequently hesitates to give Rachel and her experience with cancer full attention; this hesitation is most clearly demonstrated in a scene where Rachel texts Greg the day before starting chemo. She writes, “going in for chemo tomw. do u want 2 say goodbye 2 my hair? :)” (141). Greg receives this text while high as he accidentally consumed brownies laced with marijuana. When Greg and Earl arrive at Rachel’s house, the two are unable to communicate with Rachel in a coherent way. As a result, the conversation about Rachel’s chemo does not go any further than, “So, I’m getting a round of chemo tomorrow,” to which Greg replies, “Yeah, that sucks” (146). Rachel’s cancer narrative is silenced by Greg’s action-packed “healthy” narrative.
Also resulting from their accidental marijuana consumption is the big reveal of Greg’s “secret”: that he and Earl create films, films Greg is not entirely proud of, for he finds them silly and juvenile. It is here that Rachel becomes something of Greg’s personal cheerleader, an encouraging presence who urges Greg to take pride in his films and consider applying to film school in the near future. In a scene where Greg visits Rachel in the hospital, the two strike up a conversation about college; Greg writes, “I made the mistake of mentioning college around Rachel during one of my hospital visits, and then she got really interested in it and we had to talk about it for an awkwardly long time” (186). Rachel is mainly interested in Greg’s college prospects, and once Greg returns a college-related question—“what are you gonna study?”—Rachel “just sort of stared at [Greg]” and “turned her head away” (190). Greg feels ashamed for asking the question and writes, “I was asking a dying girl about her plans she’s making for the future” (190). Rachel’s future is immediately erased here, and she is again rendered the passive female encouraging her male counterpart to go forth and succeed in the world. Greg is reluctant to apply at first but ultimately decides to when he realizes that potentially terminally ill Rachel will not have the same opportunity.
Cancer, then, operates quite similarly to the way cancer operates in Side Effects: Rachel’s experience with cancer forces Greg to understand the transience of life, and her experience also pushes Greg toward a major decision common among many young adults: the decision to attend college, another hallmark of the YA genre. In nearly every YA novel, the teen protagonist is forced to “[tackle] difficult, and oftentimes adult, issues that arise during an adolescent’s journey toward identity” (qtd. in Hill 6). Cancer does not function as its own storyline and it does not appear within the narrative to lessen its “otherness”; instead, it provides the distinct narrative function of what Mitchell and Snyder term a “corporeal metaphor,” an image or figure that “offers narrative the one thing it cannot possess—an anchor in materiality” (234). Rachel’s cancer-stricken body, then, becomes the “moral of the story”; it becomes a symbol for clichés and abstract concepts that can apply to all lives. In other words, Rachel, with the help of her thinly sketched character, is completely striped of her individuality and marked with a pigeon-holing label (“the dying girl”), one that becomes easily recognizable and applicable to universal emotions. Rachel serves to remind both Greg and us, the readers, that life is short and we should go after our dreams while we can.
In addition to Andrews’s use of cancer to teach Greg and his readers about the brevity of life, Andrews frequently, and ironically, dismisses cancer clichés and the common conventions of “cancer books” in general. Me and Earl opens with a fictitious Author’s Note from Greg explaining the premise of the novel: “it’s about a girl who had cancer” (2). Greg reveals his cynical take on “cancer books” as he warns, “This book contains precisely zero Important Life Lessons” (3). Given the aforementioned life lessons that clearly are present within Andrews’s novel, despite Greg’s frequent protestations, these anti-cliché statements do not work toward rebelling against cancer clichés; instead, their presence suggests that Greg is simply rebelling for rebellion’s sake. Hill argues that a primary function of YA is to “implicitly or explicitly challenge the dominant assumptions contemporary culture conveys to adolescents” (8). Young adult literature, here, becomes a training ground of sorts: it provides pre-teens and teenagers with the tools to take a more critical look at their surrounding worlds, to question “norms,” to rebel against them. Readers are typically guided by a rebellious, questioning narrator who, according to Hill, is “usually perceptive, sensitive, intelligent, mature, and independent” (6). Greg’s critique of lesson-giving cancer books allows him to be a teen figure who interrogates “social constructions,” meeting the YA function of “foregrounding the relationship between the society and the individual rather than focusing on Self and self-discovery as children’s literature does” (qtd. in Hill 7).
Greg’s interrogations are ostensibly meant to demonstrate his critical stance against cancer clichés and stereotypes; however, his deviance only further reduces Rachel’s experience with cancer as her cancer can also be seen as a “deviation” from norms; Greg relates to Rachel because they are both “different.” Prior to her diagnosis, Rachel was unremarkable to Greg: he refers to her as unattractive and annoying. It is her newfound deviance, in the form of her cancer, that reacquaints the two. Rachel’s experience with cancer, then, is simply lumped in with this idea of teen “difference.”
Bridging the gaps between various types of differences—cultural, sexual, or physical—is another key goal for YAL. Hill quotes Stover and Tway, “when reading and vicariously experiencing life from a different cultural perspective, young adults from the mainstream U.S. culture can and will develop the beginnings of increased tolerance for and appreciation of the ways of life of people from other countries” (10). This key function of young adult literature (to cultivate a sense of empathy between teens from varying cultural backgrounds) is not dissimilar to the purpose of discussing illness and disability within YAL. The inclusion of illness within YA novels is typically situated like a different culture or ethnicity or as something the general population, the “mainstream,” does not understand. In lieu of ethnic diversity, illness proves to be enough of a marked difference to invite “mainstream” teen readers (assumed to be able-bodied and white) into an empathic relationship with the “other.”
A perfect balance for YA cancer-storytelling simply does not exist. By its very nature, the genre is meant to be didactic and relatable, and YA novels are almost always written by adults who more than likely wish to provide teen readers with a model of adult introspection masked by a teen voice. So authored, these YA novels quite frequently purloin the right of teens with cancer to share their own stories. The wide-reaching fame of novels like Side Effects May Vary and Me and Earl and the Dying Girl largely disseminate stereotypical and flattening images of teens with cancer and lull teen readers into a false sense of empathy and understanding. I highlight the clichéd, oversimplified elements of the novels by Green, Murphy, and Andrews in the hope that their readers not only put a critical eye to their usage of easily recognizable YA tropes and conventions, but that they turn to memoirs, blogs, and vlogs written and created by actual teens with first-hand experiences of cancer to gain a fuller, more accurate sense of the illness. Turning to first-hand stories and engaging with critical reviews written by teens with cancer will allow teen readers to begin to dismantle the static images of illness set out by young adult literature.
Andrews, Jesse. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl. Abrams, 2012.
Elman, Julie P. Chronic Youth: Disability, Sexuality, and U.S. Media Culture of Rehabilitation, New York UP, 2014.
Green, John. The Fault in Our Stars. Penguin, 2012.
Hill, Crag. “Introduction: Young Adult Literature and Scholarship Come of Age.” The Critical Merits of Young Adult Literature, edited by Crag Hill, Routledge, 2014, pp. 1-24.
Huang, S. L. “Review: Side Effects May Vary by Julie Murphy.” Disability in Kidlit, 4 Dec. 2015, disabilityinkidlit.com/2015/12/04/review-side-effects-may-vary-by-julie-murphy/.
Lewis, Mark A. and E. Sybil Durand. “Sexuality as Risk and Resistance in YAL.” The Critical Merits of Young Adult Literature, edited by Crag Hill, Routledge, 2014, pp. 38-54.
Mitchell, David and Sharon Snyder. “Narrative Prosthesis.” The Disability Studies Reader, edited by Lennard J. Davis, Routledge, 2013, pp. 222-35.
Murphy, Julie. Side Effects May Vary. Balzer + Bray, 2014.
Sontag, Susan. Illness as Metaphor. Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1978.
Stratman, Jacob. “Introduction: Exploring Disability through Young Adult Literature.” Lessons in Disability: Essays on Teaching with Young Adult Literature, edited by Jacob Stratman, McFarland and Company, 2016, pp. 1-7.
“YA Fiction About Cancer.” Good Reads, 25 Jan. 2012, www.goodreads.com/list/show/16271.YA_Fiction_About_Cancer.