Author: John Green
Publisher: Dutton Books
Published: January 1, 2012
Number of Pages: 313
Genre(s): YA, Realistic Fiction
Date Read: February 9, 2014
Acquired: Waterloo Public Library
Hazel Grace Lancaster is dying. This is not a secret. This is not new. Hazel has been dying since she was born, as have we all been. Because dying is a side effect of living. But if you really want to get technical, Hazel is actively dying whereas the rest of us are passively dying, and she has been actively dying since they found the cancer in her body. Her cancer has always been terminal, she's never had an X chance of surviving, there's never been a surgery to take the cancer out, because it's not that kind of cancer. She has accepted all of this with a grace befitting a girl whose middle name is Grace, she has accepted that she will cease to be sooner rather than later, and she just wants to get out with as little bit of a mess as possible. She doesn't want to be a grenade in the lives of the people who she loves and who love her.
She thinks she has a choice. Right up until the moment that Augustus Waters walks into her life, she is right. But Gus changes everything. They suddenly find themselves together on a whirlwind journey that only leads to one inevitable ending. Absolute and complete heartbreak.
Oh. My. Gods. John Green what have you done to me!? Oh but does this book ever live up to all of the hype about it. Mr. Green you are as spectacular an author as you are an entertainer sir, and you are an exceptional entertainer in my eyes so draw your conclusions on how I feel about your writing from that statement.
I had seen John Green's book in the Library, while shelving them, but I had never bothered to pick one up and read the dust jacket. And then I came across the YouTube Mental_Floss list show. Well that show is right up my alley, educational and entertaining, and hosted by John Green. As I worked my way through the playlist I said to myself, before he ever mentioned his books in the videos, "Gee I wonder if this is the same John Green who wrote those YA novels everyone is talking about." Well of course he's the same John Green. Still didn't make me pick up his books, but it did drive me to his other videos (CrashCourse is AMAZING and I watched all of the humanities videos in under a month, omg.). It was as I was working my way through CrashCourse US history, with all the hype building for the TFiOS movie, that I decided that I should check out his books. So I put The Fault in Our Stars on hold at the WPL, and while I was waiting I went out and bought Looking for Alaska (which is now on the to-be-read shelf of course, because my hold came in).
TFiOS arrived this past Thursday at the library, and obviously, since I am now writing this review I have finished reading it. I started it Friday night and I devoured it in three dedicated sittings in between bouts of watching Olympic Slopestyle (YES THAT IS ONE WORD, AND A REAL WORD GOOGLE, NO I WILL NOT HYPHENATE IT!) Snowboarding and Luge; and working on job applications, with a little smattering of John Green on the side because the last video for Crash Course US History was posted. I knew a little of what I was getting myself into having been watching John Green videos lately and having watched the trailer for the movie, and being brutally honest, I didn't think I was going to like it, like at all. I am not usually a Realistic Fiction fan. I am all about the escapism of literature, but at the same time, one of my favourite things about literature is well written, intelligent, sharp witted, and insightful characters. This book is chock full of those types of characters. Hazel and Augustus, even the names, especially his, conjure to mind images of old scholars in tweed jackets with leather patches on the elbows. They are not that image, they are young and they are funny, and they are dying. They are fully aware of the tragedy of their circumstances and they both have a deliciously black sense of humour. Which I can fully appreciate. My own family, myself included, is known for our wickedly dark sense of humour.
This is not a happy book, there is no happy ending, there is tragedy and there is death, but as I said throughout it all there is humour. I think it is a truly special thing when a book that is essentially all about dying, death and the tragedy of lost love can still have a current of humour running from cover to cover. More than once I found myself moved to near tears (that is not to say your book could not induce tears in someone else Mr. Green, but I am one of those silly over emotional people that has an easier time crying over tiny things rather than big things, and your book is a very big thing indeed Sir.), but for every one of those moments there were two where I was laughing loudly, smiling, or snorting to keep myself from laughing at something that was probably meant to be serious.
This book resonated with me, I am not a cancer kid, but I have been affected by cancer many times over. We lost my father directly after a cancer operation four days before Christmas in 2002. Before that there was my Grandmother, before that my Uncle Jim, and even before that there was my Mother's sister, for whom I am named, but who I have never met, because she was a cancer kid, she died when she was 9. Since I am being honest, all of that was why I didn't want to read this book initially, because I didn't want to read about a young girl who had to face the awfulness that is cancer. But that is in the end what makes this book so good, Hazel handles the awfulness with a complete and devastating honesty. And I am emotionally devastated having finished this book. Because every page makes you think, and every page makes you thankful for the people and the things in your life that you love and that love you.
So maybe it's the combination of the sheer emotionality of this book, combined with the feeling I always get about the Olympics, but I am sitting here bereft feeling both simultaneously like an insignificant speck upon the Universe, but also a complete and utter triumph because I am here, and I am living, and I am able to sit here and contemplate the way a fictional book has impacted my worldview, and that's not something that everyone can do. Sometimes we need to be reminded of that in order to remember that some of the things we take for granted every day are actually a BFD.
What am I trying to get at then? GO AND READ THIS BOOK. That is what I am trying to get at. It is just so well written, and moving, and powerful. And you need to read it. Now. Or you know not, really in the end it's up to you, but I think you should read it and I think everyone should read it. It should become required reading in high schools.
Now if you'll excuse me, I am going to try and decide what book to read next, and watch some more Luge! Well after I write the summary anyway, because I wrote the review first...