Hazel has terminal cancer being treated by a miracle tumor-shrinking drug that has bought her more time. Her life is pretty predictable with her careful and loving parents taking care of her, her classes at the local community college, and a Cancer Kid Support Group that she dislikes attending. Everything changes on a dime for smart and witty Hazel when Augustus Waters walks into the group. All of a sudden her small world opens up and she finds herself falling in love.
This book has everything I could possibly ask for within its pages. There’s amazing witty teen voices, a tender love story, strong family ties, and unbreakable bonds of friendship. I loved the precocious and beyond-their-years dialogue between Hazel and Augustus. I read some reviews that blasted the more complex vocabulary and adult viewpoint of these two teenage characters, but lets face it; these are not your average teens. They are terminally ill cancer patients who have seen more death and experienced more pain than most people see in a lifetime. Their views of the world are going to be more mature and drastically different than your average teen. John Green does an excellent job of proving this in writing Hazel’s friend Kaitlyn. She lives in a different world than Hazel and worries about much more mundane things. Hazel feels slightly adrift from her former schoolmates. I think that knowing you are going to die young and feeling the burden of leaving family and friends behind ages you, and Hazel and Gus have a dialogue that reflects that maturity.
I loved that this book had a healthy dose of realism. The cancer patients are not treated as wonder beings with more insight to life than a healthy person. Green portrays these patients in a very realistic manner. When Isaac gets dumped by his healthy girlfriend he goes crazy breaking things and ranting with his friends. His raw emotion over the loss of normalcy in his life is evident and he is a real teen. He is almost as broken up over his breakup as he is over the loss of his eyes. The teen emotions are very real.
The love story in this book is beautiful and tragic, but it is not perfect. Hazel and Augustus don’t always see eye to eye and their love for one another grows slowly out of mutual understanding and respect. Knowing we are dealing with cancer and shortened life spans you know this book will be sad, but it was all the more heart wrenching because John Green writes such complex and likable characters. I was laughing out loud with Hazel in her good times and crying tears of real sadness when life takes its inevitable turns for her.
The writing is beautiful and Green is a master storyteller. I found myself highlighting lines like this one throughout the book: “As he read, I fell in love the way you fell asleep: slowly, and then all at once.” It’s absolutely stunning the way Green makes the reader feel. I highly recommend this book. It is by far one of my favorites read all year. Yes, it will make you cry, but it will make you laugh too, and see the world though different eyes, and isn’t that what good book is supposed to do?