This was another one of those YA books that I was really glad to have picked up even though it wasn’t really marketed to my age group (25 of course!! 😉 )! Heartbreaking but funny and sarcastic all at the same time! John Green is quite the writer– no wonder he has a cult-like following of teenagers that adore him.
Diagnosed with Stage IV thyroid cancer at 13, 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.
The characters of Hazel Grace and Augustus were (obviously) not your typical teenagers– and not just because of the cancer. They were smart, witty and well read. The word “nerd” comes to mind– not your typical Poindexter-type nerd but more like cool nerd, hip nerd or un-nerdy nerd– is there such a thing?? Honestly the things that came out of these kids’ “mouths” sometimes!! I just wanted to be one of their gang– hanging out in Gus’s basement playing video games, talking about cool books and discussing how awesome Shakespeare was!
“Headline?” he asked. “‘Swing Set Needs Home,'” I said. “‘Desperately Lonely Swing Set Needs Loving Home,'” he said. “Lonely, Vaguely Pedophilic Swing Set Seeks the Butts of Children,'” I said. He laughed. “That’s why.” “What?” “That’s why I like you. Do you realize how rare it is to come across a hot girl who creates an adjectival version of the word pedophile? You are so busy being you that you have no idea how utterly unprecedented you are.”
The food was so good that with each passing course, our conversation devolved further into fragmented celebrations of its deliciousness: “I want this dragon carrot risotto to become a person so I can take it to Las Vegas and marry it.” “Sweat-pea sorbet, you are so unexpectedly magnificent.” I wish I had been hungrier.
How can you not love that!!?? A pure joy to read! Some of the reviews on Goodreads found fault with the fact that these children sounded like 30 year olds but I think that was the appeal for teens– they think they DO sound this smart and hip when they speak. Every conversation is clever, friends are more important than anything else and every love is over the top “this will be it forever and ever!” wonderful. Green seems to understand the teenage mind and treats their interpretations with the importance and respect that teens want to see. He really has not forgotten what it was like, as many adults have. It was also cool that all of the main characters were damaged because of their cancer– Hazel with her oxygen tank as her constant companion, Isaac with his recently cut out eyes and Augustus with his missing leg– but were never portrayed as flawed because of it. Cancer is a bitch but it wasn’t going to stop these kids from loving and living life to the fullest (okay?).
Other than the great characters and the clever language this is also a great, albeit sad, love story. I really felt that I was inside Hazel’s head– trying to balance the fact that she should already be dead, is still one step away from dying and never feeling so alive in her life. The whirl wind romance between her and Augustus is intense and urgent and I adored their adventures in Amsterdam (even though it didn’t turn out as expected). I also just ACHED for Hazel’s parents. They encouraged Hazel to attend the cancer-kid support group (in the LITERAL Heart of Jesus– hee hee– that cracked me up to no end every time it was said!!) and now they were taking a back seat to new friendships and normal selfish teenage behaviour– no wonder her dad teared up every time he looked at her!
If you are a book crier, you will cry but you will also laugh and fall in love with these quirky characters. I am now officially a John Green fan! 4.5 stars for me. I hope this one does well in the Tournament of Books!
“I’m a grenade. I just want to stay away from people and read books and think”
~Hazel Grace Lancaster
“What am I at war with? My cancer. And what is my cancer? My cancer is me. The tumors are made of me. They are made of me as surely as my brain and my heart are made of me. It is a civil war with a predetermined winner.”