Questioning Teen Sick-Lit


From suicide ... to cutting .. to cancer ...the young adult literature flying off bookstore shelves features terminally-ill and depressed teens with titles such as "By the Time You Read This I'll Be Dead" ..."Never Eighteen" ..."Before I Die" ... "Vampire stories are so Yesterday". Welcome to the world of Sick-Lit, a genre that has critics questioning and others grateful that plots concerning illness, depression and sexuality are finally reflecting their young worlds.

Questioning Teen Sick-Lit - Panel

We started this segment with a clip from the story of Hannah Baker, the thirteen year-old protagonist of a New York Times Best-selling novel for teens, Thirteen Reasons Why. It's the story of a girl who overdoses. Before she dies, Hannah sends a recording of herself to her classmates explaining the thirteen reasons why she took her own life. She blames each of them for driving her to death. Suicide, mental illness and cancer are today's topics of choice for young readers.

The genre has been called "sick-lit" by some academics. Its popularity concerns some critics and parents, who feel the realistic scenarios could encourage teens to hurt themselves or wallow in harmful emotions. But the books do seem to touch the hundreds of thousands of teenage readers keeping the genre on the best-seller lists.

That's one of the reasons Melissa Bordon-King can't seem to keep books such as Thirteen Reasons Why on the shelf. She is the general manager of a children's book store in Toronto called Mabel's Fables.

Not everyone sees the same value in this genre of book. Amanda Craig is a children's book reviewer for The Times of London and a writer of literary adult fiction. She refuses to review books about teen death and dying. Amanda Craig was in our London studio.

Robby Auld is a teen book critic. He writes a blog called Modern Romance. He is 17 years-old. Robby joined us from Beverly, Massachusetts.

And Melissa Bordon-King is the general manager of Mabel's Fables book shop in in Toronto and she was in our studio.

The book that came up in this conversation is called Fault in Our Stars by John Green.

This segment was produced by The Current's Jessica deMello, Sujata Berry and Hassan Santur.

Have thoughts you want to share? Call us toll-free at 1 877 287 7366. Tweet us @thecurrentcbc. Find us on Facebook. Or e-mail us through our website.

Last Word - Asma al-Assad

We were speaking earlier today about Bashir al-Assad's speech in Damascus this week that some outsiders thought sounded delusional.

Denial may be endemic in the al-Assad household. Syrian first lady Asma al-Assad hasn't spoke out publicly about the suffering of her people. But she did speak with CNN in 2009 about suffering in Gaza. If you remove the specific references to Palestinians in the interview -- and we have carefully cut them out -- her compassion for the victims of violence sounds less sincere. Today's last word goes to Asma al-Assad.

Other segments from today's show:

President al-Assad: Delusional or Sane?

Scientists use robots to study Norovirus

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