I apologise for the quite awful play on words but it was too good not to write! In this post I want to talk about a couple of things; one: Katie McGarry’s fantastic book ‘Pushing the Limits’ as well as the issues surrounding it and the newly popular YA genre named ‘sick-lit’.
I don’t want to scare anyone away from reading ‘Pushing the Limits’ by associating it with the topic of ‘sick-lit’ as it does sound a bit scary – my premise being that ‘PTL’ does not (thankfully) fall under this genre, and in fact takes troubling issues and makes them approachable and acceptable through the powerful relationship between the two main characters Echo and Noah.
I’ll backtrack a little and give you the quick synopsis of PTL incase you haven’t read it yet *no spoilers*:
“No one knows what happened the night Echo Emerson went from popular girl with jock boyfriend to gossiped-about outsider with "freaky" scars on her arms. Even Echo can't remember the whole truth of that horrible night. All she knows is that she wants everything to go back to normal. But when Noah Hutchins, the smoking-hot, girl-using loner in the black leather jacket, explodes into her life with his tough attitude and surprising understanding, Echo's world shifts in ways she could never have imagined. They should have nothing in common. And with the secrets they both keep, being together is pretty much impossible. Yet the crazy attraction between them refuses to go away. And Echo has to ask herself just how far they can push the limits and what she'll risk for the one guy who might teach her how to love again.”
Exploring the issues of ‘troubled’ and ‘traumatised’ teens, ‘Pushing the Limits’ is such a great read because it shows how these things are okay and that you don’t have to be alone with them. Unfortunately there are teenagers out there who have to struggle with dysfunctional families, mental health, loss, foster homes as well as a social status, but ‘PTL’ makes you feel like you’re not traveling alone and that there is someone, lots of people out there who want to stick by you and support you through it, be it family, teachers, authority or friends. Echo and Noah are thrown together by therapy sessions, rather begrudgingly, but it is after they start to get to know each other and see the real characters under all the trouble and defences do they begin to realise how much they need each other. Although their problems are completely different, they mould together to try find the solutions and start to gradually work their way back into feeling good about the world again. It is a relatable story, even for those without anything in common with the characters, which makes it such easy reading.
Whilst ‘Pushing the Limits’ finds a level balance between portraying issues that teens may suffer and the positive outcomes of it (i.e. bringing people together, enjoying life, making friends, falling in love etc.), some books have started to make more of an extreme statement with a negative effect. I was pointed towards an article the other day that honestly left me horrified. The new YA fiction trend is apparently ‘sick-lit’. Publishers are publishing a large amount of books for teenagers, even younger teens, that talk of terminally ill characters, suicide, depression, self-harm and death. Books that will leave their readers ‘devastated’ but “inadvertently glamourise”* these issues. These stories describe the feelings and effects of these issues so much that they quite often become seen as more like an instruction book than a fictional story. One book about self-harming is meant to have sparked some reaction in some readers to actually start self-harming themselves as a ‘comfort’ as the story was “too close to home”. I don’t want to make rash judgements about these books without having read them myself or got reader reactions beforehand, but it just strikes me as something going very wrong here, publishers are making it a 'trend' rather than a delicate issue? If teens as young as 12 and 13 are reading these books? I think as genre trends go within fiction, as much as I have my own opinions on the likes of the Twilight fandom and 50 Shades of Grey trend, I think ‘sick-lit’ is something that shouldn’t be encouraged in the way that it seems to be. It is fantastic that there are ways these issues that can be approached and talked about through fiction that a reader may not feel comfortable sharing or dealing with in real life, but I would say it still needs to be done delicately in what is being promoted. I'm not saying let's cover up the harsh realities of it, but maybe the portrayal of this 'trend' need to be re-issued? Pushing the Limits does this excellently, the biggest message that I picked up from it is that you don’t need to hide away, by letting yourself be supported you can pick up the pieces and start to rebuild your life in the way you want it to. Even if your body isn’t letting you, like Echo’s, when you’re ready it will come.
On a slightly more cheery note (I promise the next post will be full of sunshine and rainbows, figuratively). If you want to read ‘Pushing the Limits’, which you all do straight away(!), you can buy the book or it is currently storming through at number one in the Kindle charts at only 20p! It would be rude not to read it now!
Please also tell me what you think of both ‘Pushing the Limits’ and also the issues on sick-lit. Do you agree with what I think, or do you think it is an exaggeration and not something that should be worried about? All comments welcome.
Have a great week!
*I know that the Daily Mail doesn't have much credibility in terms of hard facts, but it was the article I had that could be linked on here.