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Readers, prepare your tear ducts. Teen cancer books ahead. Clouds is the true story of one teen with cancer inspiring the world, and it's so similar to John Green's novel The Fault in Our Stars it's almost spooky. I also cannot get over the fact that the cover for The Fault in Our Stars is clouds. Coincidence? Anyway, if you loved John Green ripping your heart out with his book about teens with cancer falling in love and taking big adventures, you're going to love Clouds—both the book and the Disney+ movie being released on Oct. 16!
When 17-year-old Zach Sobiech was diagnosed with cancer and given only a year to live, his mother, Laura, had only one prayer:
“Okay, Lord, you can have him. But if he must die, I want it to be for something big. I want someone’s life to be changed forever.”
And that's exactly what happened.
Comforted by knowing God was taking care of her son, Laura gave Zach a mission to write goodbye letters to his family and friends. But Zach was more than just another teen with cancer. He was a musician, so his letters became songs—one of which, "Clouds," made him an international sensation. Millions of people around the world, including top music executives and local radio stations, were moved by his beautiful song. I have had the song stuck in my head ever since I first heard it.
Clouds (previously published as Fly a Little Higher, but renamed for the Disney+ movie) and The Fault in Our Stars are both the stories of teens with osteosarcoma—a rare bone cancer that cruelly affects children and young adults—living their last days to the fullest.
If you love...
- Poignant writing about life and pain and strength and loss,
- Stories about teens living big lives despite their terminal illnesses,
- The acknowledgment that your story doesn't begin with your diagnosis, but with your birth,
- Fun best friends whose encouragement runs deep,
- Big adventures to Europe,
- Teen romance and first love,
- and crying your eyes out while reading,
You're going to love Clouds by Laura Sobiech. The book is a mother's memoir of her son's life with cancer, with detailed accounts of his doctor appointments, surgeries, and treatments alongside sweet memories of Zach as a boy. She also writes candidly about some of Zach's less admirable traits, like being a bit of a slob, and how now, years since he's been gone, she's still finding his guitar picks strewn around the house.
But she also writes of the emotional parts of his life, sharing many other songs' lyrics—with songs about love and songs about having limited time on earth—and the story of his falling in love with a girl who loved him throughout his journey. She writes about how empathetic he was, always finding the good in anyone and everyone he met. She writes about how through it all, he maintained a positive outlook and knew he had to do something big with his small time left on earth.
Cancer is a monster that comes to affect most of our lives. Reading books about it won't make the pain go away, but at least there's a bit of comfort in knowing we're not alone. Clouds and The Fault in Our Stars are two of those books to bring a tiny bit of comfort.
Ashley Holstrom is a book person, designing them and writing about them for Book Riot. She lives near Chicago with her cat named after Hemingway and her bookshelves organized by color.