6 Y.A. Novels That Open Conversations About Teen Chronic Illness

Sometimes when you’re a teenager, you have to plan make-out spots around accessible public bathrooms. At least I did. As a kid with interstitial cystitis, I longed for books that reflected the experience of navigating high school with the added complication of an embarrassing, long-term condition. Where was my sassy heroine with a head full of plans and a bladder full of sores? And what about my friends with I.B.S., endometriosis and chronic fatigue? Don’t they deserve representation, too?

Fortunately, we’re starting to see more stories like these in mainstream publishing. Here are six Y.A. novels that authentically depict what it’s like to be a teenager with a chronic illness.

The Edge of Anything, by Nora Shalaway Carpenter

Sage, a high school volleyball star, is almost guaranteed a spot playing for her dream college after graduation, but a silent, genetic heart condition threatens to ruin everything. Then she meets Len, a junior who’s terrified that her thoughts and actions have the power to influence the destiny of the people she loves. The girls’ interwoven stories show the impact that socioeconomic status, family structures and community expectations have on how someone is able to get emotional support for a disability. This book is a must-read for anyone who is not sure what to say to, or how to help, someone grappling with a diagnosis.

Two Girls Staring at the Ceiling, by Lucy Frank

This stunning novel in verse tackles what it’s like to live with stomach problems. The premise is simple: Two teenage strangers stuck in the same hospital room go through treatment for Crohn’s disease. This story is real, painful and hilarious, and the author draws on her own life to create vibrant characters and impart helpful, often profane, advice. This one will particularly speak to anyone who’s ever been hospitalized.

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