Despite the tumor-shrinking medical miracle that has bought her a few years, Hazel has never been anything but terminal, her final chapter inscribed upon diagnosis. But when a gorgeous plot twist named Augustus Waters suddenly appears at Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazel's story is about to be completely rewritten.
This is the fifth John Green book that I have picked up and only the second one I have finished. I DNF the three books because I hated the characters and didn't get what the author was trying to show the reader. It seems impossible to believe that those books were written by the author who brings us this beautiful piece of writing with characters that you love and root for throughout.
Hazel has had terminal thyroid cancer with lung mets for as long as she can remember and hates being forced to attend a cancer support group for kids. Her friend at the group, Isaac has eye cancer, losing one eye already and nearing surgery to remove the other. Things are about to change when Isaac brings his best friend Augustus to the group and an instant attraction happens with him and Hazel. Hazel fears getting too close to him as she fears she is a grenade who will some day explode and destroy the lives of those who love her but Augustus is not put off by her fears. He lost a leg to bone cancer but has been clear for 14 months.
Hazel is the only female character (other than Lindsey in An Abundance of Katherines) that I actually liked in books by the author. She has come to terms with her fate better than her family and she fears more for how they will cope when she is gone. She is quirky and brave, smart and the kind of character you want to have that miracle cure by the end of the book. Isaac is such a nice guy and my heart broke for him as he faced the surgery that could cure him but will leave him blind, especially after the Monica incident. I just wanted to hug him.
Augustus is the kind of teenage boy that every girl would want to have as their boyfriend. Cute, intelligent, funny, sweet and would do anything he could to make Hazel's life better. He knows that her last wish is to discover what happened to the characters after the end of her favourite book and he is determined to find the reclusive author and find out for her. How many teenage boys would do that for you even if you weren't dying? At school, I would have loved to have an Augustus to spend time with, talk books with etc. He is also the perfect best friend, there for Isaac in his time of need as he struggles to learn how to be blind and still play his beloved console games. I swear that even as an adult I never found that Augustus!
You know from the moment you pick up the book that the subject matter will make this a tough book to read. This shows the evil that cancer is, the lives it destroys, the dignity that it robs you of, shown through the experiences of teenagers at a cancer support group and their suffering families. In particular, Hazel's poor father and his failure to cope just tore me apart. It is painful, heartbreaking and leaves a lump in your throat like a tennis ball. I spent most of the book gripping the paper hankies that I knew I was going to need at some point. And when that moment came, the floodgates opened. I sobbed from then to the end of the book.
The progression of the relationship between Hazel and Augustus felt realistic instead of the way YA books usually introduce the dreaded instaluv. These kids are all felling as if they are on borrowed time but even then Hazel refuses to rush into anything until she is sure that it is what she wants. The friendships where they joke about each other's cancer is also realistic as I feel that teenagers would do this with friends who are going through the same thing. At no point did I feel that the characters were fake. I believed in them and their story, and that is down to how well the author crafted this story.
In amongst the pain was humour and just getting on with life the best they could. It really is a great book despite the pain that it brings to the reader. I recommend it to fans of contemporary, YA or who has had cancer blight their lives. Even if you have previously not enjoyed a John Green book, read this one. It is by far his best. Now I have to face the agony of watching the film and I know it is going to be an ordeal...