Nonfiction isn’t really my go-to reading material. Give me Hogwarts, give me Narnia. Give me John Green or Sarah Dessen when I’m feeling less fantastical. I like the escape. As my one of my closest friends says, “Realistic is boring. Why would I want to read that?” But while reading reviews and selecting nonfiction for the Young Adult section, I’ve discovered a love for true stories, specifically the true stories of young people coping with things that I could not have imagined. .
Heard of The Fault in Our Stars? Who hasn’t? This Star Won’t Go Out is the story of Esther Earl, the inspiration for Hazel Grace. This collection of stories, journal entries, and letters was assembled by Esther’s parents, Wayne and Lori Earl, after Esther’s death in 2010. She was sixteen years old. Esther was diagnosed with thyroid cancer as a young teen, and spent years in a battle with the disease. That didn’t stop her from living her life, making friends in online communities, and making a difference. She became good friends with John Green and a well-known Nerdfighter. Reading her story was at once inspiring and heartbreaking. I definitely recommend having some tissues handy. Lori and Wayne Earl created a nonprofit organization in Esther’s honor called This Star Won’t Go Out to help families battling cancer. You can read more about it on their website.
Tissues might also be useful for Paige Rawl’s memoir, Positive. Paige was born HIV-positive. In Middle School, she trusted her best friend with the secret of her HIV status, and the result was catastrophic. Within hours, the bullying started. Other kids made up cruel nicknames for her, left nasty notes in her locker, and even framed her for writing a hate-filled letter to her former friend. When she tried to report the problems to administration, the adults told her to stop creating drama and to just deny having HIV. Finally, she left the school and began to heal. Having heard of so many students who completed suicide after being relentlessly bullied, Paige made it one of her missions to speak out against bullying and to try to get stricter anti-bullying laws passed to protect students from the harassment she faced. Paige is also very active in HIV/AIDS awareness, attends Ball State University, and is a youth speaker. Find out more on her website
Finally, toss out the tissues. Shane Burcaw will have none of that crap. In his book, Laughing at My Nightmare, Shane shares his method of dealing with his spinal muscular atrophy: humor. Shane has been in a wheelchair since he was two and depends on others to help him with everyday tasks, but he loves to laugh and won’t let his disease stop him from living a full life. While in college, Shane started a blog on Tumblr to share funny stories about his absurd life. He was amazed by how many people started following him and by the amount of supportive fan-mail he received from people thanking him for sharing his story and his positive attitude. Since then he has started a nonprofit organization (a popular thing to do, apparently) to “spread positivity and raise money for families affected by muscular dystrophy.” You can learn more about that at laughingatmynightmare.com. Shane is (sometimes uncomfortably) honest, witty, and absolutely hilarious. I highly recommend his book and his blog. Seriously, go there now.
Check out one or all of these amazing stories at Dover Public Library!
(Tissues not included)