Thursday, January 24, 2013
Diagnosed with Stage IV thyroid cancer at 13, 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.
This book has had buzz surrounding it since it was published last year. I’ve heard of it, but the real reason I finally picked it up was that my (high school) students had been circulating the book like crazy, in fact, some of them demanded that I read it because it was so good. When I finally picked it up off my shelf, I was wary to start. Did I really want to read a story about a kid with cancer?
After reading the first few chapters, I was hooked. Hazel is our main character, who has stage IV cancer and is sixteen years old. At the cancer support group, which is full of other kids who have various stages of cancer, she meets Augustus Waters, another cancer survivor. He wins her over with his charm and their shared sense of humor. It’s a pleasure to watch their romance blossom. They change each other’s lives. The two of them are smart beyond their years. Since they are both dealing with cancer they struggle with questions everyone eventually ponders (except years sooner)- Does my life have a meaning? Will I be remembered?
It seems as if most authors that write YAL want to sugar coat their character’s feelings, to try to make things sound better when they aren’t. Green does a phenomenal job of capturing true emotion in these characters. When you have kids meeting at a cancer support group, things aren’t awesome for them, when things aren’t going well, the characters call it like it is.
I have to admit, I have an author’s crush on John Green now. The way he weaved literary references into his story had me cheering and jumping up and down (internally). So many authors out there try a little too hard to reference other novels or books, Green makes references masterfully.
I haven’t read a book in a long time where I was so emotionally wrapped up in a story, where I laughed and cried reading it. Maybe it’s because I have read so many dystopian novels lately, that I’ve grown accustomed to the format of those stories (not knocking them- I really do love them).
It’s been days since I finished this book, and I’m still thinking about it. It’s rare (for me at least), to find a YAL novel to stop and really make me think about life. This is a young adult book filled with raw emotions and read characters that everybody should read, not just teens. You win kids, I loved this book. Must read!