SUTHY has landed me here in this hospice, where we—that’s me and Sylvie—are the only people under 30 in the whole place, sweartogod. But I’m not dead yet. I still need to keep things interesting. Sylvie, too. I mean, we’re kids, hospice-hostages or not. We freak out visitors; I get my uncle to sneak me out for one insane Halloween night. Stuff like that. And Sylvie wants to make things even more interesting. That girl’s got big plans.
Only Sylvie’s father is so nuclear-blasted by what’s happened to his little girl, he glows orange, I swear. That’s one scary man, and he’s not real fond of me. So we got a major family feud going on, right here in hospice. DO NOT CROSS line running down the middle of the hall, me on one side, her on the other. It’s crazy.
In the middle of all of this, really, there’s just me and Sylvie, a guy and a girl. And we want to live, in our way, by our own rules, in whatever time we’ve got. We will pack in some living before we go, trust me.
It’s hard not to compare Somebody Up There Hates You to John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars. Both feature teenagers who suffer from cancer, though Sylvie and Richard get to spend their last weeks in a hospice and don’t have the luxury of attending support group. It’s certainly a lot more cynical than The Fault in Our Stars and the teenagers aren’t wise beyond their years, which may have been its saving grace; their voices are authentic, which makes up for some of the issues that I had with this book.
The plot of Somebody Up There Hates You could easily be described in one sentence: Richie and Sylvie have terminal cancer and don’t want to die as virgins. There were some great moments – like the poker game at the end that showed how much Richie had developed as a character, and the pictures that Uncle Phil drew – but those were ultimately overshadowed by the emphasis on teenage hormones.
Richie, the protagonist, doesn’t spend a lot of time wallowing in self-pity; instead, he has made peace with the fact that he is, in fact, going to die. As a way to pass the time in hospice, Richie causes a lot of trouble: he plays a few pranks, sneaks out of hospice, and hooks up with a few people. He makes a lot of mistakes and can be immature at times, but he also spends a lot of time worrying about his mother and how she’s dealing with his situation. He undergoes a fair bit of character development over the course of the book, and becomes a more mature, likeable character.
Richie’s relationship with Sylvie was rather disappointing. They were already “together” by the beginning of the book, but there was no real explanation as to how that happened. Sure, they’re the only teens in the hospice, but there has to be another reason why they’d get together… right? Their relationship seemed to be based purely on sex – or the anticipation of it – and although Richie claimed to love her, it didn’t come across that way.
My favourite relationship in Somebody Up There Hates You is definitely the relationship between Richie and Edward, his nurse. Edward helps to ground Richie, reminding him that he isn’t the only one with problems and that he definitely isn’t the only one that’s suffering. Edward takes on the roles of responsible adult and friend, keeping Richie in line when necessary and occasionally bending the rules for him. Edward genuinely cares for Richie, and it shines through in all of his actions.
Overall, Somebody Up There Hates You is an interesting, light read. Its oversexualized plot filled with humourous moments left little room for heart-wrenching and moving scenes, causing it to lack the emotional punch that one would expect from a “cancer book.”