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This is an inherently tragic tale of teenagers with cancer – for many characters terminal cancer. They are trying to be teenagers and live what life they have left, while fighting the most upsetting disease ever known to mankind.

I don’t know about other places, but here in America, I don’t think it’s possible for any one, single person to live 15-20 years in this great country and not know at least one person who has lost someone to cancer. It’s a frustrating, unfair, and devastating sickness, and those adjectives are even more amplified when the person afflicted is a child.

With those morbid thoughts in mind, I have to say this book was fantastic. It’s a young adult novel, so a relatively quick read for any bookworm. Come prepared with a box of tissues though, you will cry. But you will also laugh. While facing near certain death, the characters of Green’s novel are still able to maintain their sense of humor, albeit occasionally rather dark, but humor nonetheless. The story is well told, the characters well-developed, believable.

However, the best thing about this novel is its stark naked honesty. There’s no flowery, sugar-coated nonsense surrounding the inevitable fate of its characters.  The dying interacting with the dying and trying to live regardless. The dying interacting with the healthy, and the range of emotions both parties go through – sadness, guilt, anger, love. There is sheer and utter disappointment, discovery of love and warmth, understanding of the end of life in the way no child should have to know.

You will not walk away from this novel unchanged. It’s a must read.

While I’m sure the plot hits home with many people, one of my absolute favorite parts of this book was the author’s note, and the sub-theme of the novel that it points us toward. Green is a novelist, he writes fiction. There is magic and necessity in fiction. It is art and it enriches our culture. However, contemporary fiction often begets a search for truth between its pages. Green approaches this rationalization of art with the following perfect summation of fiction’s role in human existence:

“Neither novels nor their readers benefit from attempts to divine whether any facts hide inside a story. Such efforts attack the very idea that made-up stories can matter, which is sort of the foundational assumption of our species.”

I told you it is a must read.

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