There was so much hype about this book it’s insane. This book almost single-handedly started the John Green fandom on Tumblr. It’s because of all the hype, however, that I was reluctant to read this book. There had been much hype around Twilight and I’d hated that. I didn’t want to be burned twice. But, when I got the book for Christmas I decided I’d give it a try.
As it turns out, the book is not bad. It was one of those stories I could blow through in a single night, but never be so deep in that I didn’t notice time was moving around me or that I was reading words on a page. Part of the reason it was such a quick read is that John Green doesn’t really use five dollar words. The other reason is, well I read way longer books in a single night, it wasn’t hard to finish this book by the end of the day. Anyway, let’s get into the plot.
The story mainly follows two teens, Hazel Grace and Augustus Waters, but I suppose the true main character is Hazel. Hazel is 16 and has thyroid cancer that has spread to her lungs (hence all the pictures of the girl with the oxygen tank). She is depressed, according to her parents and her doctors and forced to go to this cancer patient support group in the basement of a church. The meeting is pretty depressing stuff, to be honest, but that’s where she meets Augustus, who shows up with this kid Issac, who might lose his eyes but trades looks with Hazel every time their group leader does and says stupid stuff. Augustus only has one leg thanks to osteosarcoma and likes metaphors (note the cigarette in his mouth that is never lit). Not gonna lie, when I first started it I thought it was pretentious as hell but, for some reason, as I continued the characters began to grow on me. Hazel and Augustus form a bond almost instantly and agree to read each other’s favorite books (what better why to learn a person, I ask you). The book Hazel gives Augustus ends up being an integral part of the story as she is in love with novel, has read it several times, and desperately wants answers from the author about all the unanswered questions left at the end. It is later revealed she is so desperate for answers because she wants to know what will happen to the people in her own life if she passes as the main character of the book, An Imperial Affliction, did. Augustus tracks down Peter Van Houten, the author, and his assistant connects him directly to Van Houten. Gus and Hazel try to question Houten about the ending of his book but he tells them he can’t tell them over email for fear of them selling his writing. This sets them up for a very important trip. They go to Amsterdam where Van Houten is living, meet him and learn his is a mean-spirited drunk, Gus confesses his love for Hazel and then that his cancer, which had been in remission, was back.
I will not spoil the ending like it was spoiled for me, but I will say, despite knowing what was coming I was still left both hopeful and sad. If I am being honest, I did enjoy this book. I found it slightly clique and insanely quotable, and I’m not entirely sure if that’s because every line felt like it was written to be quotable or because Green is simply that good, but I still really enjoyed this book. There was a sort of honesty in the cancer that some shows and books don’t give you. Not every moment is happy and hopeful and full of unrealistic energy. Some days were honest to goodness bad for these characters. Not everybody goes into miracle remission. There is a sort of calm acceptance and underlying fear from these characters that makes you believe they are out there dealing with this. The parents are written with a truth you’d expect from someone having personally gone through this. I can’t say why this story didn’t suck me in as fully and as completely as others I have read, but there was just something there keeping a distance between me and the world presented to me in the story. Despite that, I’d still say if you’re curious you should give it a try.