Series or Stand Alone: Stand Alone
Summary: 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.
I’ve been avoiding this review for awhile. Let’s just establish this: I loved this book, so the problem wasn’t any hesitance to throw a negative opinion out there amongst the abundance of love for this one. It was merely me trying to find a way to express my feelings for this book without rambling on about unicorns and rainbows.
I am a fan of John Green’s works, but I don’t think that every one of his books is faultless. I found that I loved Looking For Alaska, but Paper Towns fell short of my expectations. I adored his story in Let It Snow. Before reading this one, I wondered which side of the line this one would fall on--would I agree with the glowing reviews or would I be disappointed after the hype? I’m happy to say that I enjoyed The Fault in Our Stars so much, it’s going on my Best of 2012 List.
Hazel isn’t making long term plans. She may have gone into remission, but she knows that she is not long for this world. The last thing she’s looking for is a boyfriend, someone that would be left behind when she inevitably makes her exit. That is, until she meets Augustus Waters, an example of teenage boy perfection that understands what it is like to have cancer and won’t give up on his pursuit of Hazel. Together, the two learn how to live their lives to the fullest--regardless of the length of time they have left.
To start, this is not a “cancer book”--the story is more about living life, regardless of how little you have left. But there was no cheese! Having read a book about a teenager with cancer and not having a great experience with it, I was thrilled that this book was so good. It managed to explore how two teenagers might try to figure out living with a disease without being overly sentimental or condescending.
Next up: the characters. Augustus Waters was a perfect male specimen. Obviously not perfect in the sense that he was angelic and untouchably good, but perfect in a very real way. He was witty, confident, and refused to let his illness get in the way or his life. However, his best quality was his unflinching honesty.
Example: (Normally I’d be less spoiler-y, but this quote is absolutely everywhere)
“I’m in love with you, and I’m not in the business of denying myself the simple pleasure of saying true things. I’m in love with you, and I know that love is just a shout into the void, and that oblivion is inevitable, and that we’re all doomed and that there will come a day when all out labor has been returned to dust, and I know the sun will swallow the only earth we’ll ever have, and I am in love with you.” (p. 153)
See? Unflinching, perfectly phrased honesty. Augustus Waters, I think I might love you.
Hazel, the narrator of the story, was a great character as well. She had an incredibly dry sense of humor and dealt with her illness with great reason. She doesn’t believe that teenagers living with cancer should be held up as angelic martyrs and complains that a lot of “cancer books” contain protagonists that demonstrate such behaviors. I loved that she was passionate about books, specifically An Imperial Affliction by Peter van Houten, and that part of the journey Hazel and Augustus take revolves around this story.
Hazel and Augustus had unbelievable and slightly innocent chemistry. Their interactions were incredible. Both are quick with words and very witty, so whether the conversation was about creating a random fake scenario or trading thoughts on their favorite books or movies, it was easily readable.
This book is devastating. At one point, I had to stop reading and get rid of some of the tears. They were obscuring my vision and I legitimately could not read the words on the page. I was so attached to Hazel, Augustus, and their friends and family members from the first chapter, so then end of this book was tough. This was truly an exhibit of John Green’s strength as a writer: creating characters that people care about from the first page, then not being afraid to put them through very real pain.
The Fault in Our Stars was a brilliant book. Beautiful writing, engaging characters, and a story that won’t quit combined to make one of the best young adult books I’ve ever read. I’d recommend this one to both teenagers and adults alike, along with suggesting that they make sure they have tissues in the house when they read it.
Rating: hands down, a 5 - shelf of freaking favorites