This is the first of John Green’s books that I’ve had the pleasure to read at it’s release date, but I’m only getting around to reviewing it now, though I read it right away. This was book was amazing, funny, heart-wrenching, and nearly un-putdownable. I loved it. There may have been tears. It was wonderful and moving.
This is not your typical book about teens with cancer. It’s not just dark and twisty shot through with ribbons of depression. The narration is funny and feels real–not something I often expect from a male author writing a female character. Hazel, with all of her quirks and oddities, her aphorisms and passions, really come alive from the get-go. She endeared me to herself from the start with her deep passion for a book that some people might shrug off. Being inside her head was no burden; on the contrary, it was a treat. She’s trying not to live as though her condition runs her life, though in many ways it defines the way she thinks about things. She goes to a Cancer Support Group because that’s what you do, though she feels no real passion for it. That is, until she meets Augustus Waters.
Augustus and Hazel have an instant connection: an attraction and a rapport. What I liked, however, was that it wasn’t instantaneous love, like many books. Their development as a couple doesn’t just pop into existence, but develops slowly at first, tentatively–at least on Hazel’s part. But then, as many teen relationships do, they almost fall into it without realizing it, and this blossoming love leads them all over the world. Augustus is a delightful character who is filled to overflowing with life. It’s almost infectious–and he resurrects Hazel from an existence surrounding her condition and little else.
There’s a good deal of humor strewn throughout the novel, which cuts nicely through the often difficult subject matter. Green explores the the fine line between hope and despair, as Hazel tries to find something good in the middle of terrible situations. She hopes to find the answers to questions that have plagued her for a long time and, though the results are unexpected, she finds something she needs in the meantime: a best friend and a love that she’ll always hold dear.
I can’t say too much about the plot, other than what the synopsis above says, but suffice it to say that this was an experience. I’ve not yet been disappointed by one of Green’s books, and this exceeded my expectations. For a type of book I’d normally steer clear of–a tear-jerker book about teens with cancer–this impacted me greatly. It was moving and poignant, honest and funny, and at times dark and abrupt. The relationship between August and Hazel is saturated with a passion that is refreshing and intense; I was incredibly invested in them from the start. This book was beautiful and emotional, filled with so many random details that I just latched onto and which brought the story and the characters to life. John Green’s writing voice has always resonated to me for some reason, and this was no exception. I felt like this was tailor-made for me, and I hope that you feel the same connection when you read it.
I could sit here and continue to gush–goodness knows I’ve done it enough to my friends. I’ll leave you with this: I don’t get emotional with books. I love books and become invested, but rarely do they move to me to laugh out loud or shed any tears. I’m not a crier with either books or films. However, this did both. I laughed out loud, and I welled a bit, because I was so invested in the characters. This is a book I’ll reread and enjoy just as much the second time around.
The synopsis from Goodreads:
Diagnosed with Stage IV thyroid cancer at 12, Hazel was prepared to die until, at 14, a medical miracle shrunk the tumours in her lungs… for now.
Two years post-miracle, sixteen-year-old Hazel is post-everything else, too; post-high school, post-friends and post-normalcy. And even though she could live for a long time (whatever that means), Hazel lives tethered to an oxygen tank, the tumours tenuously kept at bay with a constant chemical assault.
Enter Augustus Waters. A match made at cancer kid support group, Augustus is gorgeous, in remission, and shockingly to her, interested in Hazel. Being with Augustus is both an unexpected destination and a long-needed journey, pushing Hazel to re-examine how sickness and health, life and death, will define her and the legacy that everyone leaves behind.