Hazel has terminal cancer. A new miracle drug is prolonging her life but she knows that it’s not going to be forever. No one lives forever, but she has a bit less than the average person. She doesn’t appreciate going to the support group at her hospital but her parents want her to at least try to socialise. She’s friends with Isaac, a boy who has already lost one eye from cancer and may lose the other. Then one day, Augustus turns up to support Isaac. He’s lost a leg to cancer but is in remission. Oh, and he’s hot.
Both Hazel and Augustus hide behind their large vocabularies, and if it wasn’t for their illness, they would come across as just a couple of pretentious teenagers. It must be an incredibly hard age to deal with a terminal illness but children seem to accept their impending death a lot easier than adults. And it’s much more about the people that will be left behind than the suffering of Hazel. There are some really small yet moving moments from her parents. She is so concerned that she’s a “grenade” about to ruin the lives of everyone close to her.
I really felt for Isaac. When he says he would rather be deaf than blind, this was something I agreed with. So much of what I enjoy in life is about sight and the thought of knowing that is to be taken away is terrifying. His anger came across as such a genuine response and also highlighted that death isn’t the only side-effect of cancer.
There’s also this whole plot where Hazel and Augustus write to the author of Hazel’s favourite book to try and find out what happened after the ending. The book ends mid-sentence, presumably where the narrator dies, and Hazel just can’t leave it at that. The writer is a bit of a cliché of a pretentious, literary author and there were sections I could hardly bear to read. I wonder if John Green has had a lot of people asking him about what happens to characters and he felt like he wanted to have a little self-indulgent rant about it. In the end, the reasoning behind the author’s actions do make sense, but didn’t make up for how unbelievable a character he was.
The heart-wrenching final chapters were what made the book for me. The description of grief was so well done and you will certainly need hankies at the ready. By the end, a lot of the things that irritated me made more sense, especially when we finally see the vulnerability of certain characters. There’s also a lot of truthful observations about how people deal with death. I’ve certainly seen the Facebook phenomena at work.
This was my introduction to John Green, not having read any of his other work. I can imagine that he is a unique voice in the young adult market but for someone who reads a bit of everything, his writing doesn’t come across as anything special. I’ve seen so much gushing over him, I was slightly disappointed even though overall I thought it was a good book. He’s yet another, American centric writer who doesn’t know the difference between English and British and gets his time zones backwards. If your characters are going to have a whole exchange about time zones, at least do the 30 seconds research to find out the Europe is ahead of America, not behind. I know, millions of fans don’t care, but this reader does.
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