Critical Pages has never taken notice of fiction in the Young Adult category. One reason is that we’re not Young Adults ourselves. Another reason is that when we were Young Adults — and that was a long, long, long time ago — young adult fiction was mostly books like the Rover Boys and Nancy Drew mysteries. And no, we’re not kidding. We were more or less aware that things had changed, especially when we read the Judy Blume novels that our kids left around the house. All of which is a roundabout way of saying that we’re astonished by Hollis Seamon’s young adult novel, Somebody Up There Hates You.
It begins this way:
I shit you not. Hey, I’m totally reliable, sweartogod. I, Richard Casey – aka the Incredible Dying Boy — actually do live, temporarily, in the very hospice unit I’m going to tell you about. Third floor, Hilltop Hospital, in the city of Hudson, the great state of New York.
This wild, touching but hard-edged story is about two teenage kids, Richard and his girlfriend Sylvie, who are in a hospice unit, dying and behaving pretty much the outrageous way teenage kids behave, or certainly might behave, knowing that their time is limited.
The narrator’s voice is one of the many marvels of this short, incandescent novel. Another marvel is the antic spirit that enlivens scene after scene amid the stark reality of hospice. The tone is not sentimental; Richard is dying and when you close the book you know he’s not going to get a reprieve.
The book’s flyleaf tells us that Hollis Seamon spent years visiting a children’s hospital, fascinated and touched by the young people she met there, while she was caring for her young son. Seamon’s web site shows that prior to Somebody Up There Hates You Seamon had published a collection of short stories, Body Work, plus a mystery, Flesh, and the recent Corporeality, a second short story collection — all for adult readers. No matter your age, Somebody Up There Hates You is a tough book to read but worth it all the way.