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No Laughing Matter: YA “Cancer Books” with a Sense of Humor

December 7, 2012

With “The Fault in Our Stars” topping so many best-of-the-year book lists, it seemed appropriate to devote a blog post to it and some other similar novels that have also come out recently. Though there have been many books written for teens featuring kids dying of cancer, many of them just end up being melodramatic and sappy. Of course cancer is no laughing matter, but sometimes, when terrible things happen, it’s comforting and empowering to crack a joke. A few newer titles confront the harsh realities of dying young with honesty, grace, and humor unseen in the past.

“The Fault in Our Stars” by John Green

This best-selling novel was published to much acclaim and adoration earlier in the year, and the love affair seems to continue as “The Fault in Our Stars” has popped up on many best-of-the-year book lists.  It’s smart, charming, and funny, just as you have come to expect from John Green, but it also doesn’t gloss over the harsh realities of cancer treatment and mortality. If you haven’t already read this tragic story about the star-crossed lovers Hazel and Augustus, perhaps you should pick it up over the holidays?

“Me and Earl and the Dying Girl” by Jesse Andrews

While “The Fault in Our Stars” has some funny moments, it certainly isn’t a comedy. If you like your laughs to come at a frequent pace, “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl” is the way to go. It follows the story of Greg, a teen who has successfully managed to get in good with every clique in his high school without befriending a single person. There is one friend, Earl, with whom Greg spends his time creating bad remakes of classic films. When Greg reluctantly enters a friendship with Rachel, a classmate dying of leukemia, he winds up creating a terrible film in her honor.

“The Probability of Miracles” by Wendy Wunder

After years of unsuccessful cancer treatments, the cynical and sarcastic Cam puts little stock in miracles. But a miracle is what she needs, so her mother packs up the family and moves them to Promise, Maine… a town where miracles supposedly occur regularly. Stuck in a little, nowhere town, Cam decides to make the most of her final days and concocts a list of things to do before she dies. As Cam marches onward toward death, bolstered by her sense of humor, she discovers what living is all about.

Still want more? Try some of these other books:

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