The Phoenix Zine

Books Featuring Characters Dealing With Chronic Illness


Since I’ve written about movies featuring characters dealing with chronic illness, I’ve decided now is the time to move on to books. When I feel stressed and overwhelmed, I like to read. Sometimes I read to forget my life, and other times I read to find empathy, others who have to deal with similar medical situations that I have had to deal with. The following is a list of ten books I have found enlightening, comforting or motivating when it comes to chronic illness.

If you’re interested in buying any of these books, I have created a list on where you can find them easily.

Absolutely Invincible – William Bell – Formerly entitled “The Cripples’ Club,” this book is about four teens who meet in the special education class at school. Amy is blind, Heather is deaf, Hook is in a wheelchair after a motorcycle accident and George has loss of memory. Together they become The Cripples’ Club and provide each other with support to deal with school and life.

Alex: The Life of a Child – Frank Deford – The tv movie made from this book is in my post about movies. Alex Deford was a girl born with cystic fibrosis at a time when the outlook was grim. Having a severe form of the illness, Alex lived only till the age of eight, but touched a tremendous amount of lives along the way. This powerful book was written by Alex’s father Frank, to share Alex’s story with others.

Catcher in the Rye, The – J. D. Salinger – A personal favourite of mine, “Catcher in the Rye” is the story about Holden Caufield, a young man bitter about the phoniness of society and flunking out of his prep school. Holden struggles with the death of his brother, and tries to find a solution to his anguish.

Chysalids, The – John Wyndham – A book from the 50s, “The Chrysalids” deals with a topic relevant in today’s society: genetic mutation. The other day I received an email from the GSDnet discussing the Genetic Information Non-Discrimination Act currently before the Senate in the States. This bill prevents a person’s genetic information from affecting whether they get hired for a job or are eligible for health insurance but has yet to be passed by the US Senate.

In “The Chrysalids,” it appears that the world has suffered from nuclear warfare in the not-so-distant past. One of the results of the warfare is an increase in genetic mutations. Society, believing the genetic mutations are the result of God’s anger, decides that everyone who is not born in God’s own image (two hands, ten fingers, two legs, ten toes, one head, two eyes, two ears…, you get the picture) should not live because they are not human.

However, internal “deviations” as they are called, are not overtly evident, and David escapes death although he can communicate with certain people telepathically. This mutation puts David and his friends at risk until another society comes to rescue them.

Colours of Carol Molev, The – Beth Goodbie – Strictly speaking, Carol Molev does not have a chronic illness. Instead she has a rare ability to visually see how people separate themselves from their emotions. Although this ability frightens her at first, eventually she is able to use it in a way that is beneficial to everyone.

Fat Boy Saves World – Ian Bone – Neat is known as the silent boy. After an episode involving his sister Susan and father, Neat stops talking. Susan believes this will always be the case until one day when he tells her he wants to save the world. Together, with an actor named Todd, Neat and Susan embark on a journey to save the world, in the process saving themselves.

Invincible Summer – Jean Ferris – This story follows a 17-year-old girl named Robin, who finds out she has leukemia after she meets a guy named Rick who also has leukemia. Robin and Rick provide each other with friendship and support at a time when neither feels especially understood by the people around them.

Mine for Keeps – Jean Little – Sally Copeland has cerebral palsy. She returns home from being at a special school for several years and finds it difficult to adjust to living at home. Sally is very aware of her physical limitations but when Suzie (a dog) comes into her life she finds new found strength and confidence in her abilities.

Princes in Exile – Mark Schreiber – Another book also on my movie list. Ryan Rafferty (Zachary Ansley) has a brain tumour and less than a year to live. He is understandably angry and bitter, especially when his parents send him to a summer camp for youth with cancer. Over the course of the summer he works on two goals: writing a journal to be published, and losing his virginity. The book is even better than the movie.

Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants – Ann Brashares – See Stress Management: It’s all Right to Cry

Happy Reading!

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