Title: Somebody Up There Hates You
Author: Hollis Seamon
Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers
Release Date: September 3rd, 2013
Interest: Debut author / Contemp
Summary (From Goodreads):
Chemo, radiation, a zillion surgeries, watching my mom age twenty years in twenty months: if that’s part of the Big Dude’s plan, then it’s pretty obvious, isn’t it? Somebody Up There Hates You.
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.
I was hesitant to read Somebody Up There Hates You because its main character, Richard, has terminal cancer. I don’t do well with “cancer books.” Hollis Seamon’s debut, however, was worth stepping out of my comfort zone.
This may not be the case for everyone, but Somebody Up There Hate You didn’t make me overly emotional while reading. Sure, a couple scenes made me teary, but I never actually cried. And I teared up over the most unexpected scenes. For instance, there’s a scene that involves a nurse getting Richard a can of Coke, and Richard realizes that the nurse bought it for him. I couldn’t believe it made me teary, but it did. I actually think I laughed more than I teared up.
Speaking of that nurse, who’s name is Edward, I love his character. He and Richard have a strong relationship even though it’s a nurse/patient relationship. It’s obvious that both characters care for each other. I’m sure if I were in Edward’s position I would grow attached to Richard as well. What I like most about Edward is that he really takes on the role of responsible adult, but he also knows when to bend a little and help Richard when he needs it.
Something about Somebody Up There Hates You that I liked but also think needs a little work is the addition of characters throughout the story. Edward is a constant character, so I felt like I knew him pretty well by the end, or as well as I could get to know a secondary character. We meet a few different secondary characters that stick around for a couple chapters, but then they’re gone and we don’t “see” them again. I enjoyed the chapters with Richard’s uncle, but once those are done he doesn’t return. There are reasons why he doesn’t return, but it still felt like there were loose ends to tie up. He served the story to add some excitement to Richard’s life and that was about it. Most of the secondary characters added to the story mostly seem like they were included to make things conveniently work out for Richard and/or add some excitement to his life and to the story. I enjoyed it, but I would have appreciated it more if more was offered.
Another piece that left me feeling conflicted is all the drama towards the end of the book. I won’t go into too much detail because I don’t want to spoil anything, but a lot of it felt over the top. Emotions run high in the hospital, especially in hospice, but the scenes become a little dramatic. I’m sorry that I’m not explaining this well. I was having a hard time figuring out how I was going to put it into words when I was reading it and now that I’m done, I’m still having a hard time. Again, I still enjoyed these parts, but I shook my head a little while reading them.
I don’t know if I’d recommend this to middle school students. Richard is a teenage boy and therefore thinks about sex pretty often. There are even a few sexual scenes that might be questionable for middle school students. I have no issues with my high school students reading this, but if you’re working with middle school students I recommend reading this first. I do want to add, however, that the scenes are not grotesque. One of the scenes towards the end is written quite well, actually. I’m confident that plenty of my guys in class will connect with Richard and enjoy Somebody Up There Hates You.
Hollis Seamon has written an entertaining debut. I think fans of John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars, Ned Vizzini’s It’s Kind of a Funny Story, and Gae Polisner’s The Pull of Gravity will enjoy Somebody Up There Hates You. Richard has a unique way of looking at life and a solid voice. I’m looking forward to reading more of Seamon’s books.