In John Green’s lovely and poignant 2012 novel, The Fault in Our Stars, (soon to be a major motion picture) two teens with cancer meet at a cancer support group. Hazel Grace Lancaster, 16, has been battling a particularly nasty thyroid and lung cancer for several years, but has been kept alive by an experimental drug. Augustus Waters, 17, is a former basketball player who is in remission after losing one of his legs to an osteosarcoma. They are introduced by mutual friend Isaac, who has already lost one eye to cancer and is about to lose his other.
Hazel and Augustus fall in love, and end up going to Amsterdam under the auspices of a Make a Wish Foundation-type organization to meet the reclusive author of a book the two of them love. The only problem is Augustus’ cancer has roared back with a vengeance, and Hazel, who thought she would be the first to die, is confronted with her feelings for Augustus in light of the fact that he will soon leave her.
Green captures all the angst of being a teenager and expertly layers on the sadness, anger and fear that accompany fighting a life-threatening disease. Hazel, Augustus and Isaac are as real as your next-door neighbor’s son or daughter, or your niece or nephew, and the reader is drawn into the heart-rending struggle all three kids experience with cancer and with death.
This is not an easy read, but it is ultimately a life-affirming one, full of all the emotions – love, sorrow, disappointment, anger – attendant to life itself. I highly recommend this book, even for those who typically would not be drawn to a young adult novel. It is well worth the read.