My rating: 4 of 5 stars
My 15-year-old daughter Gina asked me to read this book. As a father, when one of my kids asks me to read a book, I do. I didn’t know anything about the book. Gina said I was going to cry. I sometimes cry reading books. The Book Thief, for example, was difficult to finish on a crowded plane, sitting on an aisle seat.
The book is about two kids who fall in love, one, Augustus Waters, has lost his leg to cancer, the other Hazel is dealing with her treatable, but terminal, thyroid cancer. They meet in a support group. I knew I would like this book right at the very beginning because of the snarky depiction of that first support group meeting.
The protagonists are smart, witty, but mostly, as Hemingway would say, true.
The book is primarily about their romance, but John Green does not treat them or their situations Romantically with a capital R. The characters and the author want it to be known that the legend of the heroic little trooper with cancer, who battles until the end, doesn’t always line up with reality. The legend tends to do a disservice to the individual; it helps others deal with a hard situation by dehumanizing it.
Green shows through these two interesting characters how sick people can be pushed to the margins of society due to their circumstances and the world’s discomfort with dealing with the sick.
The characters also show you how to care and be there and support one another, which they do, however, you learn that the world is not a wish granting factory.
Boy, I bet you can’t wait to read this book!
The book is funny and magical and really well-written.
There is a third great character, an author who writes a book … I’m sorry, but it’s about another kid with cancer. I just thought Peter Van Houton was an awesome character. The kids get to communicate with the author of their favorite book and he does not disappoint. (Right now, as I’m writing this, I’m reading an interview with John Green. He said that when he was writing Van Houten he thought of Bill Murray or Philip Seymour Hoffman.)
There is even a boy who loses his sight, which, on the surface, sounds gut-wrenchingly depressing, but then the character says, “Come over here so I can examine your face with my hands and see deeper into your soul than a sighted person ever could.”
Which is not to suggest that Isaac is the wacky sidekick spouting one-liners, but he did say that and it was one of my favorite lines of the book.
The book, obviously, can be irreverent, but it does touch on numerous philosophical issues to ponder.
Yes, there is foreboding throughout, there is sadness. You are probably going to cry, but it’s because you care about the characters who feel real to you.
“I cannot tell you how thankful I am for our little infinity. I wouldn’t trade it for the world. You gave me forever within the numbered days, and I’m grateful.” — Hazel Grace
“You are so busy being you that you have no idea how utterly unprecedented you are.” — Augustus Waters
So thank you to Gina for recommending the book.
I’m just so glad that no one, at any point, turned into a vampire.
Here is the trailer for the movie that opens in June: