Hazel is 16 years old and living on borrowed time. At 12, she was diagnosed with terminal thyroid cancer. She fought the good fight, almost lost the fight, but an experimental “miracle” drug shrank her tumors and bought her a few more years of life. Now, she has finished high school, started taking college classes, and is waiting to die. Her parents, understandably, worry for her. Believing her depression to be a side-effect of the cancer (no, says Hazel, it is a side-effect of dying) they encourage her to get out of the house.
This means going to Cancer Support Group.
Which is the last place Hazel wants to go. As she kinda hates it.
Because it is depressing.
She gives in however, and let’s her mother take her to group. Once there, she meets Augustus Waters, in remission from bone cancer, all around hottie and, in typical John Green fashion, wit extraordinaire. Hazel is totally unprepared to, well, live again, but Augustus Waters is going to make her do just. that.
I’m sure you’re thinking, that sounds kinda manipulative. Cancer kids. Terminal. Falling in love. With maybe only years to live. And honestly, it does sound that way, but it’s really not. Because this isn’t a book about dying of cancer. It’s about living with cancer. It’s about learning to appreciate the time you have left, about worrying about those who will be left behind, about trying to carry on under such circumstances. It’s about these two teenagers learning to love, giving into love, despite being a grenade about to go off any second. As Hazel says, “I’m a grenade and at some point I’m going to blow up and I would like to minimize the casualties, okay?” I leave it to you to find out if that grenade goes off before the end of the book.
All that said, I do want to say, I wasn’t as enamored of this book as I have been in the past with John Green. And I HATE TO SAY THAT. *sigh* Oh my goodness, do I hate to say this! I love John Green. I ADORE HIM. Looking for Alaska completely gutted me with its awesomeness. An Abundance of Katherines was fantastic. Paper Towns was amazing. But oh my goodness, this is the fourth book he’s written with his “manic dream pixie girls” (although I would argue that Augustus is actually the “pixie girl”), smart wisecracking kids, and a freaking ROAD TRIP. Yes, it’s a formula that works for him, but geez louise, and I feel awful for saying this as he’s one of my favorite authors but I really want him to grow as a writer, can we please break the mold a little bit. Grow a little. Branch out. Try. Something. New.
Seriously though, I did really like the book. It wasn’t Looking for Alaska good FOR ME but it was good. And I’m glad I read it, if only for these little nuggets:
There are infinite numbers between 0 and 1. There’s .1 and .12 and .112 and an infinite collection of others. Of course, there is a bigger infinite set of numbers between 0 and 2, or between 0 and a million. Some infinities are bigger than other infinities. A writer we used to like taught us that. There are days, many of them, when I resent the size of my unbounded set. I want more numbers than I’m likely to get, and God, I want more numbers for Augustus Waters than he got. But, Gus, my love, I cannot tell you how thankful I am for our little infinity. I wouldn’t trade it for the world. You gave me a forever within the numbered days, and I’m grateful.
There will come a time when all of us are dead. All of us. There will come a time when there are no human beings remaining to remember that anyone ever existed or that our species ever did anything. There will be no one left to remember Aristotle or Cleopatra, let alone you. Everything that we did and built and wrote and thought and discovered will be forgotten and all of this will have been for naught. Maybe that time is coming soon and maybe it is millions of years away, but even if we survive the collapse of our sun, we will not survive forever. There was time before organisms experienced consciousness, and there will be time after. And if the inevitability of human oblivion worries you, I encourage you to ignore it. God knows that’s what everyone else does.
“Without pain, how could we know joy?’ This is an old argument in the field of thinking about suffering and its stupidity and lack of sophistication could be plumbed for centuries but suffice it to say that the existence of broccoli does not, in any way, affect the taste of chocolate.”
I was compensated for this BlogHer Book Club review but all opinions expressed are my own. Obviously, since I’m one of the very few people who had a tiny negative thing to say about this book.