Cancer, so costly in real life, can be thrown around pretty cheaply in fiction, which is why most cautious readers and moviegoers are wary of it as a plot element. Call it the Love Story syndrome. But the presence of mortal illness has always been a staple of romantic melodrama, the X factor that raises the emotional stakes to levels that are either sublime or ridiculous, with a blurry line in between. In the hands of the right storyteller, a little cancer can’t hurt: Stories about lovers separated by circumstance are evergreen; death is the ultimate circumstance; and cancer sometimes, though not always, leads to untimely death. In the plumbing mechanics of melodrama, the Big C makes a perfectly useful faucet handle: Turn it and the tears come out, or at least they ought to. In life, it’s cancer’s job to try to kill you. In fiction, it’s cancer’s... More >>>
Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort in The Fault in Our Stars.