Somebody Up There Hates You

( 3 )


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 thirty 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 ...

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Somebody Up There Hates You: A Novel

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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 thirty 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. 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, for whatever time we’ve got. We will pack in some living before we go. Trust me. So let’s get to it.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Dying’s lousy at any age, but it’s even worse if, like Richie Casey, you’re 17. But even in hospice, a lot can happen in a short time, as Richie finds out. Indeed, an almost amazing amount: Richie’s uncle takes him out for a night of partying; girls start paying attention to him (and not just Sylvie, the 15-year-old across the hall); there are pranks and fistfights; and Richie gets a chance to be a normal teenager—or as normal as possible, given that he’s surrounded by nurses, never knows how he’ll feel next, and the annoying harpist in the lobby just keeps playing. In her YA debut, adult author Seamon balances the grim reality of teenagers with terminal cancer with the fact that, cancer or not, they’re still teens. Initially, Richie comes across as almost manic, but once readers settle deeper into the story, they will see Richie and Sylvie for who they are and understand that being near death doesn’t mean abandoning hope for the life that remains. Ages 14–up. Agent: Gail Hochman, Brandt & Hochman Literary Agents. (Sept.)

“I read Somebody Up There Hates You in one great rush. This novel is funny, harrowing, and wildly profane. It had me crying with laughter on one page and then just plain crying on another.” --Will Schwalbe, author of The End of Your Life Book Club

“This is not just another teen-dying-of-cancer story. Seamon has created a smart-mouthed, funny, occasionally raunchy, very typical teen boy narrating the final days of his life in a way that is unflinching, graphic, at times funny, and at times heartbreaking. Readers will alternate between shaking their heads at his self-centeredness, laughing at his smart mouth, and reaching for tissues as Richard really learns what it means to grow up . . . Emotions are raw and painful but the story is a powerful and life-affirming look at what it means to grow up as your life is ending.” --VOYA

“Even in hospice, a lot can happen in a short time . . . Being near death doesn’t mean abandoning hope for the life that remains.” --Publishers Weekly, starred review

“Each character is vividly drawn, with a sharp, memorable voice that readers will love and remember . . . A fresh, inspiring story.” --Kirkus Reviews, starred review

“Heartfelt . . . The language is raw and even profane at times, but hardly inappropriate given the circumstances . . . This novel is respectful of its serious subject matter, yet is an entertaining and heartening read.” --School Library Journal

“Seamon’s first young-adult novel is a tender, insightful, and unsentimental look at two teens in extremis. It brings light to a very dark place, and in so doing, does its readers a generous service.” --Booklist

“Here are some things Hollis Seamon knows: Life, for one, and the end of life, and how they are always partners. She knows what's sad, and she knows what's funny. And she knows what people need, and how it feels to be someone who worries he might not get to experience life fully before he goes. Knowing all that--and being able to write about it so simply, and beautifully, with such a lack of sentimentality--is already enough for one writer. That she is able to take this knowledge and, with it, inhabit a character--Richard, 17, in a hospice, paradoxically and wonderfully alive--is a kind of miracle.” --Richard Kramer, author of These Things Happen

Children's Literature - Sandra Eichelberger
It's hard to imagine being a teenager living in hospice with less than a month to live. Seamon's book covers territory similar to John Green's excellent The Fault in Our Stars but the two books tackle this sensitive subject from a slightly different vantage point. Green's teens are in a support group for terminally ill adolescents while the youth in Seamon's book are in hospice awaiting the ultimate end. Both books show humor and pathos dealing with an excruciatingly sad prognosis. SUTHY (Somebody Up There Hates You) is the acronym that seventeen-year-old Rich gives to his situation. There's no rational reason for a teenager to be facing death before his life has really begun. The one bright spot is fifteen-year-old Sylvie, the one other patient who's not geriatric. The two reach out to each other despite the girl's father's vehement disapproval. Reading this book is devastating and tragic. Humor comes in the guise of Richard's take on living with a death sentence. He unflinchingly faces the stark reality of his upcoming demise. Secondary characters like Rich's uncle, the harpist, and others imbue the story with a little levity and additional doses of humanity. Clearly, the author knows whereof she writes; her understanding of teens trapped in a body that's failing them is obvious. Her personal experience with a sick child has given the author a depth of understanding that most of us can't begin to imagine. The story is thoughtful, touching, riveting and beautifully written; a stellar book. The language and sexual situations make this a book targeted toward high school students. Seamon's book belongs on high school and public library shelves. Students and adults alike will be touched by the unflinching take on dying. Be prepared to have tissues available—not because it is maudlin, but because the truth is so hard to read. Reviewer: Sandra Eichelberger
VOYA - Alissa Lauzon
Seventeen-year-old Richard Casey is spending the last few days of his life in hospice. Rather than having a pity party, Richard is determined to be a normal teenager. He plays pranks, sneaks out of hospice with his uncle, gets drunk and a little high, hooks up with multiple girls, and gets into fights. His blossoming romance with Sylvie, the girl down the hall, has charmed hospice staff into bending the rules and turning a blind eye. Richard is not just out to cause mischief and mayhem in his final days; he is at peace with his pending death, but deeply concerned about the impact that it will have on his mother. This is not just another teen-dying-of-cancer story. Seamon has created a smart-mouthed, funny, occasionally raunchy, very typical teen boy narrating the final days of his life in a way that is unflinching, graphic, at times funny, and at times heartbreaking. Readers will alternate between shaking their heads at his self-centeredness, laughing at his smart mouth, and reaching for tissues as Richard really learns what it means to grow up. Richard is quite blunt in his descriptions of his first experiences with oral sex. The consequences of his giving Sylvie her greatest desire (to not die a virgin) are graphically described, and nearly results in Sylvie's death. Sylvie's father reacts to this by violently beating Richard nearly to death. Emotions are raw and painful but the story is a powerful and life-affirming look at what it means to grow up as your life is ending. Reviewer: Alissa Lauzon
School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up—Being 17 years old is hard enough, but being 17 with cancer can be downright depressing. It's a good thing Richard Casey has found a partner in crime in the mischievous Sylvie Calderone, the 15-year-old girl down the hall in their hospice ward. Staging a Halloween prank together helps take their minds off the harsh reality of their situation: both teenagers have been given less than a month to live. When Richie's mother falls ill with the flu, he finally gets the space he so desperately wants to act like every other teenage boy. Sprung from the hospital by his wacky Uncle Phil, the pair engage in a memorable night of All Hallows' Eve debauchery in the neighboring town of Hudson in upstate New York. Richie runs afoul of Sylvie's drunken father, however, with whom he's had earlier altercations. Things escalate when, back in the hospice unit, Sylvie announces to Richie her plans to lose her virginity with him. The hospital staff, charmed by the pair's romance, turn a blind eye as the two grow closer. The same cannot be said for Sylvie's father, who becomes increasingly unstable as his daughter deteriorates. This heartfelt novel turns out to be much more hopeful than macabre, despite the teens' terminal diagnoses. The language is raw and even profane at times, but hardly inappropriate given the circumstances. Richie can be a little corny, and his uncle is definitely over-the-top, but the book is mostly strengthened by its memorable supporting characters. This novel is respectful of its serious subject matter, yet is an entertaining and heartening read.—Ryan P. Donovan, New York Public Library
Kirkus Reviews
When you're surrounded by death, anything can look like a good opportunity. Death is all around 17-year-old Richie Casey. Diagnosed with cancer, he's spending his final days in hospice care in upstate New York. He's weak. He can't eat. He's also a wiseass with a biting sense of humor, and he's persuasive enough to convince even the toughest nurse to let him do what he wants. Seamon's debut for teens follows Richie over 10 days leading up to his 18th birthday. His ne'er-do-well uncle breaks him out for a wild, cathartic, drunken, lust-filled night on the town in a wheelchair to celebrate Cabbage Night (the night before Halloween). He pursues his girlfriend down the hall, Sylvie, who is also dying from cancer. Each character is vividly drawn, with a sharp, memorable voice that readers will love and remember. While there is plenty of death to go around, the novel's tone shifts from dark to light when opportunity presents itself to narrator Richie. Both the characters and readers empathize with his urge to break out and experience life despite his constraints and the consequences that might befall him. His ups and downs are what power the plot, and readers come to learn that Ritchie isn't full of joie de vivre. Instead, he's full of fight, and that's what makes him so admirable and memorable. A fresh, inspiring story about death and determination. (Fiction. 14 & up)
Sound Commentary
“A moving title that is deepened significantly by the stellar reader.”
Sound Commentary [starred review]
“Galvin’s narration captures the novel’s conversational, storytelling style and creates a compelling, unsentimental listening experience.”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781616202606
  • Publisher: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill
  • Publication date: 9/3/2013
  • Pages: 256
  • Sales rank: 208,683
  • Age range: 14 - 17 Years
  • Product dimensions: 5.60 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Hollis Seamon is a recipient of a fiction fellowship from the New York Foundation for the Arts. She is a professor of English at the College of Saint Rose in Albany, New York, and also teaches in the MFA creative writing program at Fairfield University in Fairfield, Connecticut. This is her first novel for young adults.

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Read an Excerpt


a novel

By Hollis Seamon


Copyright © 2013 Hollis Seamon
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-61620-260-6


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.

Let me tell you just one thing about this particular hospice. Picture this: right in front of the elevator that spits people into our little hospice home, there is a harpist. No joke. Right there in our lobby, every damn day, this old lady with white hair and weird long skirts sits by a honking huge harp and strums her heart out. Or plucks, whatever. The harp makes all these sappy sweet notes that stick in your throat.

How weird is that? I mean, isn't that, like, a bit premature? Hey, we're not dead yet. But it's pretty amusing at times, in its own strange way, this whole harp thing. I can sit there in my wheelchair, on a good day, and watch people get off that elevator. They're here to visit their dying somebody and they walk right into our little lobby and that music hits them and they sort of stumble and wobble, go pale. They have got to be thinking, just for a second, that they've skipped right over the whole death and funeral mess and gone straight to heaven. Most of them back up at least three steps, and some of them actually press the elevator button or claw at its closed doors, trying to escape. It's easy to read their minds: they're not the ones dying, right? So why are they here? How did they end up in harp-land? It freaks them right out, and I just have to laugh. The nurses tell me that harp music is soothing and spiritual and good for the patients. Okay, I say, fine. Maybe for the 95 percent of the patients who are ancient, like sixty and above, it's good. But what about for me? Or Sylvie? Me and Sylvie, I say, we're kids. We're teenagers and we're dying, too, and what about our rights?

Okay, that's kind of harsh, I admit. Because the nurses really are sort of cool and they get all teary when I say that, because no one, and I mean no one, wants to think about kids dying. But we are, so I say, Deal with it. Everybody dies, dudes and dudettes. That's the name of the game.

But that's not what I want to talk about, really. Dying is pretty boring, if you get right down to it. It's the living here that's actually interesting, a whole lot more than I ever would have imagined when I first got tossed in here, kicking and cursing.

Anyway, there is some mad stuff that goes on. Like what me and Sylvie did, night before Halloween, right in front of that elevator. It was classic.

Okay, so maybe I better explain. My grandma—who isn't as old as you'd think, because the women in my family have babies real young, by mistake mostly—once told me that in New Jersey, when she was a kid, there was this amazing night-before-Halloween thing that they called Cabbage Night. On this night, parents actually sent their kids out into the night to go crazy. Grandma says that there was only one Cabbage Night rule in her house: be home by midnight. Even on a school night! I mean, you can do a whole lot of very bad and very funny stuff between sunset—let's say around six—and midnight, right? Here's Grandma's list of stuff they'd do: run through people's yards and leap over their fences, screaming like banshees; throw eggs at everything and everybody in sight; put dog poop in paper bags, light the bags on fire and throw them on someone's front porch, then watch the homeowner, usually the dad if there's one around, stamp out the fires and spray himself knee-deep in shit; hit kids with sacks of flour until everybody is white as ghosts; steal anything that strikes your fancy and isn't nailed down; tip over gravestones; tie nerdy kids to gravestones and leave them there until about 11:58; break empty beer bottles—after you drink the beer somebody's cool uncle bought you—on curbs and threaten to cut other kids' throats; set out nails point-up on the streets, hoping to pierce car tires; and—well, whatever kids could think of. I mean, it's just so unbelievable to me that the parents let this stuff go on, year after year. Grandma says that when she was a kid, she came home at midnight every year bruised, covered in yolk, flour and beer, half-drunk and all the way exhausted. And here's the best thing: no one cared. In fact, her parents hadn't even bothered to wait up for her. Grandma says her folks figured, what the hey, better the kids get this shit out of their systems once a year than dribble out bits of badness every other day on the calendar. So they just said, "Go ahead on and get it over with. Just don't kill anybody, okay?"

I swear, this is all relevant to me and Sylvie's own little Cabbage Night performance because, as I believe I mentioned, we're kids, hospice hostages or not.

Luckily, that was one of the days that Sylvie was feeling strong enough to get up. Or she made herself strong enough, because I'd been bugging her for three days, telling her how funny this whole thing was going to be. Anyway, we waited until 5:30 p.m., October 30. The harp lady knocks off, unless someone requests her services, at 5:00 p.m. And 5:30 is when most of the long-faced loved ones show up to visit. And the nurses are real busy with supper trays and whatnot. So here's what we did.

We donned our preplanned, not-so-gay attire in our separate rooms, and then we wheeled ourselves quietly into the little lobby and we took up the harpy's usual space. We sat in our wheelchairs with, like, insane death mask makeup on our faces—pale green with big black circles around our eyes and streaks of red dripping from our lips. (One of Sylvie's little brothers brought her a vampire makeup kit and had the sense to keep his trap shut about it. Good kid.) And we had my collector's item Black Sabbath T-shirts on, and Sylvie—it surprised me that she had the energy, but the girl was really into it, I guess—she had made a big red devil fork thing out of an IV pole. She'd actually painted the whole thing with nail polish, a real project, and she was holding on to that. And I'd put one of my uncle's rave tapes—all screaming cool distortion—into the CD player on my lap, and we blasted that sucker every time some poor fool stepped off the elevator. And I held up my sign—GOING DOWN—THIS MEANS YOU!!!!!—written in fake flames. Whenever somebody gasped and backed up, me and Sylvie, we cackled and screeched like insane demons.

Okay, so it was just a childish joke. Funny as all hell, though. But Sylvie—that girl is much tougher than you'd think, given she's about five feet nothing and bald—she took it maybe a smidge too far. See, she'd planned something she didn't tell me about, something totally in the Cabbage Night tradition that she'd come up with on her own and kept quiet about. And she pulled it off without blinking an eye.

Here's what Sylvie did: she reached behind her back and pulled out a cigarette lighter and three boxes of Kleenex. She was quick as anything. She clicked the lighter and lit those babies up—one, two, three—and threw them down on the floor. No shit! Real flames, shooting all over the place. For about one millisecond. Then all hell really did break loose. Nurses and doctors and custodians and volunteers and counselors and food service dudes and probably the priests and rabbis, too—there are always about six guys in black wandering our little hallway—they all came running and shouting, and about nine thousand feet stomped out those three little fires.

And me and Sylvie, we howled. We laughed our asses off, nearly fell out of our chairs. We just could not stop, even when everyone started yelling at us and telling us to go back to our rooms and not come out again. Because that was even funnier—them sending us to our rooms like little kids. Some punishment. I mean, what were they going to do, kill us? Sentence us to death?

But, really, the best part for me was when one of the visitors, Mrs. Elkins's son—I know him, I played gin rummy with him in the visitors' lounge once—grabbed me by the arm and screamed in my face: "What's the matter with you, Richie? Where's your respect? What the hell is the matter with you?"

And I got to say one of my favorite lines, the one I pull out umpteen times a day, whenever some new priest or therapist or rabbi or nurse or intern or floor-washer or visitor or whoever asks me what's wrong with me. They can't ever seem to quite get it. Obviously, I'm way too young to be here, so what's the story? Here's how these conversations always play out: They go, "Why are you here? What's wrong with you, son?" And I go —straight face, big innocent eyes—"I have SUTHY Syndrome." And when they go all blank and say, essentially, "Huh?" I get to say it again. "SUTHY Syndrome. It's an acronym." Some of them don't even know what that means, but I always wait a beat and then spell it out: "I've got Somebody Up There Hates You Syndrome."

You know, it's really a pretty good diagnosis, don't you think? For me, for Sylvie, for anybody our age who ends up here and places like it, usually after what our obits will soon call a "courageous battle with fill-in-the-blank."

How else you going to account for us? SUTHY is the only answer that makes any damn sense.

* * *

Anyway, that was the last time I saw Sylvie come out of her room for a couple days. I think it took a lot out of her, all that preparation and excitement. I mean, I can't pretend to know the girl all that well since we just met when we both ended up here. I got here first, and she showed up a day or so later, and we met in the hall and both asked, exactly the same minute, sweartogod, what all of us long-term hospital brats ask one another: "What you in for, man?" And she said—because, like I said, she's tougher than me, really, and never beats around bushes—"I'm here because the shitheads think I'm dying. But I'm not." And I said, because I get, like, tongue-tied sometimes around girls, especially cool ones like Sylvie, I said, "Yeah, me too." But I didn't know which part I was "me too-ing"—the dying or the not. It's sometimes not so clear-cut as you'd think, despite the term terminal. I mean, who can really say?

Anyway, at least Sylvie got to get in trouble on Cabbage Night, like any un-SUTHY-stricken kid. When her family arrived on the scene, her father bawled her out for, like, an hour; I heard him. Then he lashed into the little bro who'd supplied the makeup, and the kid ran out of Sylvie's room like a scared rabbit. That man has one mad-ass temper. Sylvie's mother yelled at her, too, and then sat in the hall and cried.

But let me say this right now: it was so worth it. Those flames, for just a second, they were real. Hot and bright and totally real, and for a few minutes afterward you could smell smoke instead of stale hospital air. Real smoke. And, hey, Sylvie got to wear makeup, and that was a real plus. I know she liked the makeup. She's a girl, you know, even if she looks like some Halloween joke now all the time. At least I can still see her, the real girl under the death mask.

Excerpted from SOMEBODY UP THERE HATES YOU by Hollis Seamon. Copyright © 2013 Hollis Seamon. Excerpted by permission of ALGONQUIN BOOKS OF CHAPEL HILL.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 3 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Posted September 2, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    Richard Casey has terminal cancer. He¿s living in hospice, but o

    Richard Casey has terminal cancer. He’s living in hospice, but one thing sets him apart from the other patients there. He’s only seventeen. Somebody Up There Hates You could have turned into the typical heart-breaking tale of a dying boy, but it didn’t. Richard was the comic relief as a main character. He is determined to live every day to the fullest even as his health deteriorates.

    Somebody Up There Hates You takes you through Richard losing his virginity, getting drunk for the first time, and growing up in a place where no kid should have to grow up. Richard focuses on falling in love, making memories with his family, and being a normal teenager.

    I really enjoyed reading Somebody Up There Hates You. It was heart-warming and yes, sad, but not so sad that I needed to lay in my bed and cry all day. This novel was a great story of overcoming your problems and staying positive even in the worst of situations. Seamon created a very original story out of a topic that has been written about time and time again. I think that shows real talent as a writer.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 31, 2014

    Long live the king.

    We meet Richard in hospice where he can joke with visitors about the science geniuses toiling away behind the scenes, coming up with the cure-all for what ails him and the other residents on his floor. But he knows the truth, that you check into hospice when you're terminal date is 30 days. Will he make it to his 18th birthday? He and the only other child resident of the ward, Sylvie, certainly hope to liven up the time they have left, living and loving with a fierce dedication to the days, hours, minutes remaining.

    The book is full of little adventures, big-hearted nurses, and parents holding on, estranged relatives reclaiming family ties in the face of grief, and the lulling sounds of the trains and the Hudson River in the background like a calming lullaby. I loved Richard's self-knowledge in the face of his disease, the wasting of his body in direct contrast to his expanding heart and consciousness of what his loss will mean to others. I really enjoyed the book and will seek out others by Hollis.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 8, 2014

    Favorite book

    I love sharing funny parts wuth my guy friends and we all laugh. Y'all will love thus book.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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