With the people of the world heading indoors to isolate and quarantine themselves, now is a great time to do some reading. While I love most books that I read, some have really stuck with me, especially as someone living with chronic pain due to juvenile arthritis.
When I was a teenager, my favorite genre was young adult fiction. Specifically, I enjoyed chronically ill young adult fiction. Yes, I loved “Harry Potter” and “The Hunger Games.” But I found solidarity with some unlikely characters. When the novel “The Fault in Our Stars“ by John Green came out, I devoured it. I think I read it six times that year.
Relating to characters
I think some people thought it was ridiculous that I had such a strong attachment to the main character, Hazel, who has cancer. How could someone with juvenile arthritis ever relate to someone with cancer? But the way Hazel dealt with her depression stuck with me because I was very depressed at the time due to my medical struggles. Reading about a girl who constantly reread the same book, had a very dark sense of humor, and only had her parents as friends was comforting to me.
Though I’ve reread that book recently and didn’t feel quite as attached to Hazel anymore, I did come across another character I fell in love with when I read the novel “Five Feet Apart“ by Rachael Lippincott. No, I haven’t gone through the experiences that the characters with cystic fibrosis have. Not even close. But I couldn’t help but relate to Stella, who “vlogged” about her life with CF. Reading a book about a fellow chronic illness blogger was an amazingly therapeutic experience.
After finishing that book and reflecting, I realized I had no reason not to relate to these characters. Yes, they have gone through much more complicated things than me, but some things are universally true for people with chronic illnesses. I totally understood Stella’s desire to take back the things that CF took away from her. I sometimes saw myself in Hazel’s brutal honesty, sick humor, and the way she coped with depression. These were things that Bella Swan and Katniss Everdeen couldn’t give me.
The chronic illness journey
Parents, don’t be surprised if your teen with JA enjoys these types of books, too. (There are more books in this genre than the two I’ve mentioned.) It’s not silly or dramatic if they relate. I follow many people on social media with all degrees of illness, and while the impact on our lives is drastically different, we all have similar feelings, desires, and hopes. The emotions you experience dealing with chronic pain and disease are universal.
Of course, you won’t always relate to every single thing another person is going through. That’s especially true with many of these books. But being able to experience similar feelings and knowing you’re not alone is priceless for teens. It might even help them feel a little less lonely during this time of social distancing.
Note: Juvenile Arthritis News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Juvenile Arthritis News, or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to juvenile arthritis.
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