As we approach the one-year anniversary of the release of The Fault In Our Stars by John Green, it remains hugely popular, hovering near the top of the New York Times Best Sellers list for children’s chapter books and appearing on more than one of the year’s “best books” lists, including those (such as TIME Magazine‘s fiction list and Dan Kois’s at Slate) that aren’t focused on YA books. But once you’ve finished the book, what’s next? Here are some great books that will appeal to TFiOS fans of all kinds.
Fiction Dealing with Disability and Illness
Young adult books that touch on disability and illness are far from rare, but these are among the best.
- The Running Dream by Wendelin Van Draanen
Opening just as Jessica has lost her right leg in an accident, this Schneider Family Book Award winner deals with the aftermath of a major life event, including the depression that can come with a serious injury. Jessica finds her worldview expanded by her new reality but at the same time also deals with the normal pressures that any high school student confronts, including problem classes and budding relationships.
- Among Others by Jo Walton
While not marketed as a YA book, this 2011 Nebula Award and 2012 Hugo Award winning novel has great crossover appeal. It is written as journal entries by Morwenna “Mori” Phelps, a scifi/fantasy-loving teenager at a boarding school in England who is coming to terms with the fallout of an event that left her twin sister dead and Mori permanently injured. Incorporating elements of fantasy such as a mother who practices magic and fairies while at the same time tackling Mori’s physical and psychological pain in a very believable and affecting way, Among Others is a great intro to both fantasy and science fiction for readers who have not tried these genres.
- Wonder by R.J. Palacio
Auggie Pullman is a fifth grader with a facial deformity who is entering middle school after a lifetime of homeschooling. Told from multiple perspectives, including those of Auggie and his friends as well as his older sister, Via, and her friends, this book captures how middle school and high school students react to Auggie and also examines the impact that this sort of disability can have on an entire family. While generally considered middle grade, it will appeal equally to young adult readers who can relate to Via’s experiences in high school including her first relationship.
- The Probability of Miracles by Wendy Wunder
On its face, this book is the most similar to TFiOS. It centers around Cam, a teen with cancer who learns that she is terminally ill as the book opens. After years of fighting the disease, her mother and half-sister won’t accept this and whisk her off to Promise, Maine, a city purported to have miraculous properties. Cam, ever the cynic, wants none of it, but over the course of the road trip to Maine and a fateful summer there, she comes to reconsider some of her long-held beliefs. It is a book about family, loss, and first love as well as cancer.
While not specifically written for young adults, these authors all faced an illness that extended into their teen years and, as such, these books provide very personal insights into growing up with health problems.
- Just Don’t Fall by Josh Sundquist
Diagnosed with cancer at age nine, Josh Sundquist, a Paralympian and founder of Less Than Four, an online community for amputees, spent years undergoing treatment and adapting to a prosthetic when his leg was amputated due to the disease. In this book he details his treatment, his mother’s cancer, the impact his disability had on his life, and his training regime for the 2006 Paralympics.
- Poster Child by Emily Rapp
Born with a birth defect that required that her leg be amputated at a young age, Emily writes about its impact on her entire life and her trouble finding artificial legs that can keep up with her activity level. This book offers a very personal look at what it is like to be a kid with a disability and how it affects friendships and relationships.
- Autobiography of a Face by Lucy Grealy
After getting cancer as a child, Lucy Grealy most closely approximates what Hazel refers to as a “Professional Sick Person.” She is in and out of a variety of hospitals well into her 20s, first having the cancerous portion of her jaw removed, followed by over two years of chemotherapy and finally a series of unsuccessful reconstructive surgeries. She writes movingly of the way that this existence shaped her life and the way that her facial deformity changed her interactions with those around her, touching on bullying, self-esteem issues, and relationships.
Young Adult Relationships
If your favorite part of TFiOS was the relationship between Hazel and August, you might want to consider these books that focus on similarly intense — and heartbreaking — relationships.
- Looking for Alaska by John Green
Fans of TFiOS will likely be interested in reading John Green’s other books if they haven’t already, and Looking for Alaska is a great place to start. This Michael L. Printz Award-winning novel was Green’s first book. It is told from the point of view of Miles Halter, who is just starting at boarding school. Miles forms a number of intense friendships, none more so than his relationship with Alaska, a volatile and alluring girl in his class. This book deals with issues of friendship, relationships, and grief and provides a great introduction to Green’s works.
- Every Day by David Levithan
In this entirely original book, we meet A, who is bounced from body to body, person to person each day, never knowing where or who will come next. On one of these days, A meets Rhiannon and falls in love. At its heart a story of star-crossed lovers, Every Day explores the fallout of never knowing who you will be on any given day. If you love the book, don’t miss the prequel, Six Earlier Days, which was released recently as an ebook.
- Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
This one is a bit of a cheat since it isn’t out until next February, but it is a great story of teens trying to build a relationship despite all sorts of obstacles. Set in 1986, it follows Eleanor and Park, two quirky high schoolers who find each other and fall in love in spite of their insecurities and Eleanor’s horrible home life. It is very different from TFiOS, but I think you’ll love it.
Have you read any of these books? Let me know what you think of these recommendations or whether I missed any amazing TFiOS readalikes!
— Carli Spina, currently reading Paper Valentine by Brenna Yovanoff