The Fault In Our Stars by John Green
Despite a medical miracle drug, Hazel has always been terminal, her cancer simply a side effect of dying. Forced to attend a Cancer Kid Support Group because she is depressed (also a side effect of dying), Hazel meets Augustus Waters, philosopher and fellow cancer survivor who shows Hazel what it means to really live and die.
Despite being beautifully written, this book is a hard sell. Not exactly a light read, I have found it difficult to recommend this one to teens and have watched on a number of occasions, a teen pick up the book from the shelf, read the dust jacket, and consequently put the book back on the shelf. The relative success of movies lie 50/50 and My Sister's Keeper apparently have not increased the love for books where cancer is the major crux of the story.
Truth is, this book is excellent. It is an existential crisis wrapped up in a love story, which is not to be confused with a romance story. There is so much more to this book than that. The character's Hazel and Augustus come off as a little smarter and pretentious than one thinks they should, but the sarcasm and humor make them likeable and relateable. Also, I would like to think that when kids have to handle such difficult situations like cancer and dying, they mature in a way that is the epitome of beautiful strength and terrible weakness.
Although this is not technically a book about disabilities, I still thought it was necessary that they
obey certain peremitters that I have previously set up in regards to those kind of books. The most important being that although there are kids with cancer, I did not want it to be a book about cancer. It was not. As Hazel drags around her oxygen tank, one doesn't forget she is sick, but for Hazel oblivion is to be ignored and her fierce need for closure is what drives her. What will her parents be like when she is gone? What will Augustus do if he falls for her and then she leaves?
I also loved how deep and real the parents were in the novel. Typically, in young adult and middle grade novels the parents are either dead or simply not around. I know in my own writing, I was advised to make the parents as non-existent as possible for it is hard to have an adventure with the parents around. The reality is that parents are part of these kid's lives and I love that Green did them justice.
The cover is a little bland, but it is a must read.