The Topic of Cancer

A young-adult novel that triumphs with humor and pathos

Erik Tanner for TIME

"The fault in our Stars" by John Green

Early in John Green's new novel, The Fault in Our Stars, 16-year-old Hazel offers her succinct opinion of novels about people with cancer: "Cancer books suck." This may or may not be true (I haven't read a lot of cancer books), but either way it's an extraordinary thing for Hazel to say, given that she is the narrator of a cancer book--one that, moreover, does not suck. In fact, it is damn near genius.

Hazel has cancer herself: "thyroid originally but with an impressive and long-settled satellite colony in my lungs." The lung cancer keeps her permanently short of breath and...

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