5 Young Adult Novels that Capture the Cancer Experience

5 Young Adult Novels that Capture the Cancer Experience


There’s nothing better than a good book – except a good book that readers can identify with. There’s just a sense of satisfaction in finding that a character’s journey parallels your own, and this may especially be a comfort for cancer patients. Here’s five young adult books that capture the cancer experience, either from the perspective of patients or the people around them.

The Fault in Our Stars- John Green

This novel became popular with the release of the 2014 film, engaging romance buffs of all ages. The story features terminally ill Hazel Lancaster, who meets Augustus Waters at a cancer support group. The two teenagers hit it off and their relationship grows. Together, they travel and ponder the great unknowns with Hazel being all the while aware that the budding romance may only hurt Augustus in the end. Touching and raw, The Fault in Our Stars is about finding happiness when life has other plans.

Just One Wish- Janette Rallison

Just One Wish follows the story of Annika Truman, a seventeen- year old who is willing to go to any length to bring joy to her brother, Jeremy. When Jeremy must undergo surgery to remove a cancerous tumour, Annika attempts to lighten his spirits by telling him that her magical ‘genie’ will grant him any wish – but she doesn’t expect him to wish to meet his idol from his favourite television show. It’s a huge ask, but Annika is determined to make her brother happy. A light-hearted read with humour throughout, this novel captures the desire to alleviate a loved one’s discomfort.

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl- Jesse Andrews

This novel features Greg Gaines, a high school senior who likes to create films with his only companion, Earl. When Rachel Kushner, an old friend of Greg’s, is diagnosed with leukemia, his mother forces him to spend time with her. Greg is reluctant, however when the idea is pitched to create a film for Rachel, he and Earl get to work. Full of humour, this book features a realistic depiction of cancer rather than a glamourisation of it.

Zac and Mia- A. J Betts

While recovering from an operation to treat his leukemia, seventeen-year old Zac encounters Mia, who suffers from osteosarcoma. Forming a bond while in hospital, the two develop their friendship even after they leave, and learn to support one another. The story is told by both protagonists, allowing for very different perspectives of the cancer experience. Set in Perth, it offers a glimpse into the lives of two Australian teens trying to overcome their challenges.

Never Eighteen- Megan Bostic

Austin Parker is a terminally ill teen with cancer, told he will probably never see his eighteenth birthday even if he continues treatment. Wanting to say goodbye to those who have some degree of significance in his life, he sets out on a journey with best friend Kaylee. Throughout the story, Austin makes apologies and gives final advice to the people he sees in a bid to help with their own struggles. An uplifting story about living life to the fullest, this is bound to tug at the heartstrings of readers.

Gemma Crotty is a volunteer blog writer for Solaris Cancer Centre from her home in Melbourne. Currently studying a Graduate Diploma in Communication at La Trobe University, she is considering a career in communications or journalism. Gemma has a strong humanities research background from her Bachelor of Liberal Arts in Sydney. She has a keen passion for writing and likes to find new ways to hone her skills and connect to others through her words.