I mentioned yesterday that growing up I read a fair amount of realistic YA books growing up, especially ones that dealt with pain and tragedy. Lurlene McDaniel is one of the Queen’s of writing about teens facing terminal and life altering illnesses. Cancer was one of the main illnesses that her characters faced. She had a series where there was a special summer camp set up for cancer survivors to go to, to meet with other teens, and form life lasting friendships. She also wrote a few other series’ where the protagonist had a terminal disease (or knew someone close to them that did), and how they continued to triumph and live their lives, despite everything.
One such series, the one that will always stand out to me, is The Angels Trilogy. Leah is a 16-year-old girl who is hospitalized to receive chemotherapy, while her mother is thousands of miles away on her honeymoon, with husband number 5. Hurt that she’s spending the holidays alone, she forms a bond with her roommate, Rebekah and her large family.
Growing up, my mother worked heavily with the Amish and Mennonite community that surrounds our city and every week, my grandpa would take me to the market to get locally grown fruits and veggies, along with meats and cheeses too. My mother would take me along on visits to different farms, and also to visit her friends who were Amish, and it gave me a chance to look at how differently they lived and did their day to day work. Granted, things have changed a lot in 20 years, but it was still one of the most rewarding experiences I had growing up.
Part of the reason why I loved this series so much, was because of my close ties to the Amish and Mennonite communities. This book took an opportunity to show the readers that not everything is black and white when it comes to diseases, religion, values and family. If I remember correctly, this is the first book series where I actually cried, multiple times, for various reasons. McDaniel has a gift for being able to make this happen. Her books helped me cope with the loss of many family members and friends to cancer over the years, and I truly believe that these books have also helped to shape who I’ve become.