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.
First of all, the copy that I got from the library was a signed copy. So yay, awesome.
I fell in love with this book on page four, and this is why: “So here’s how it went in God’s heart: the six or seven or ten of us walked/wheeled in, grazed at a decrepit selection of cookies and lemonade, sat down in the Circle of Trust, and listened to Patrick recount for the thousandth time his depressingly miserable life story – how he had cancer in his balls and they thought he was going to die but he didn’t die and now here he is, a full-grown adult in a church basement in the 137th nicest city in America, divorced, addicted to video games, mostly friendless, eking out a meager living by exploiting his cancertastic past, slowly working his way toward a master’s degree that will not improve his career prospects, waiting, as we all do, for the sword of Damocles to give him the relief that he escaped lo those many years ago when cancer took both of his nuts but spared what only the most generous soul would call his life. AND YOU TOO MIGHT BE SO LUCKY!”
Also? “We are literally in the heart of Jesus,” he said. “I thought we were in a church basement, but we are literally in the heart of Jesus.” “Someone should tell Jesus,” I said. “I mean, it’s gotta be dangerous, storing children with cancer in your heart.”
Or? “Augustus Waters,” I said, looking up at him, thinking that you cannot kiss anyone in the Anne Frank house, and then thinking that Anne Frank, after all, kissed someone in the Anne Frank house, and that she would probably like nothing more than for her home to have become a place where the young and irreparably broken sink into love.”
Obviously, John Green has a gift with words. I love everything about the way he writes. Characters are intelligent but not unbelievably so. Their words are beautiful but not unnatural. Everything just flows along so well. I love the use of big vocabulary words. I suppose there are people who would say that it would be unnatural for teenagers to talk the way that Hazel and Augustus do, but I don’t think those people give teenagers enough credit. They’re capable of using words that aren’t monosyllabic (and so am I, as you can see…booya!)
Hazel and Augustus are incredible protagonists. They are realists, though not wholly without hope. Hazel has accepted her fate but hasn’t given up on living. They’re not bitter about the hand that life has dealt them but they’ve got just enough of the snark and cynicism you’d expect to see in someone who was never given a fair chance in life.
It doesn’t happen often, but this book made me kinda sorta miss being a teenager. Or at least, a little wistful for that completely awkward getting-to-know-you relationship time. And I don’t say that lightly because even though I had a great time as a teenager, 999 days out of 1000 you couldn’t pay me enough to go back to those days.
TFiOS is and is not a sad book. It’s sad because, obviously, kids with cancer. But it’s not sad because there’s a happiness and a hopefulness and a zest for life that you don’t expect to see in kids who are basically on borrowed time or have lost appendages to cancer. It does make you think of how unfair it is, that there are Hazels and Augustuses and Isaacs out there, and kids who don’t even get the years that they get before they start dying or losing limbs or becoming handicapped by their cancer. I thought I’d cry through the whole book, but I made it to page 270 before I started bawling and really blowing through the Kleenex.
I really think that this is going to be my favorite book. In fact, it may be already. I am most definitely picking up this one in hard copy. A signed copy, if I can still get my hands on one.
6/5 Stars. Yes, six out of five!
Also? I immediately looked to see if An Imperial Affliction was a real book. Sadly, it’s not.