My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This is absolutely one of the MOST brilliant books I have ever read. I was ready for a sappy, Nick Sparks type book about two star crossed kids with cancer, but what I read by John Green was so much more. “Sometimes, you read a book and it fills you with this weird evangelical zeal, and you become convinced that the shattered world will never be put back together unless and until all living humans read the book.”
The book focuses on two teens, one who has stage IV thyroid Cancer, and her lungs no longer work. Hazel is a fabulous young lady. She loves America's Top Model, lies around the house, has no real friends and is slowly and inevitably dying from cancer. Her Mother thinks she is depressed because she: a. lies around all the time b. has cancer and this causes depression; therefore she ships her off to a support group for teens with cancer. “Whenever you read a cancer booklet or website or whatever, they always list depression among the side effects of cancer. But, in fact, depression is not a side effect of cancer. Depression is a side effect of dying.” Like Hazel, this support group would make me even more depressed; I mean who wants to hear about the leader’s ball cancer every week.
All stinks until she meets Augustus"Gus" who has survived osteosarcoma and has a fake leg. He is there at the request of his best friend Isaac who has to have surgery to remove his eye, leaving him blind but cancer free.
Augustus is gorgeous smart, loving and well read. He is empathetic kind, and interesting. All the characters in this book are extraordinarily well developed and Gus is no exception. “I'm in love with you," he said quietly. "Augustus," I said. "I am," he said. He was staring at me, and I could see the corners of his eyes crinkling. "I'm in love with you, and I'm not in the business of denying myself the simple pleasure of saying true things. I'm in love with you, and I know that love is just a shout into the void, and that oblivion is inevitable, and that we're all doomed and that there will come a day when all our labor has been returned to dust, and I know the sun will swallow the only earth we'll ever have, and I am in love with you.”
The beauty in the book is not only the loves story but the introspection of the characters the wit of Hazel and Gus, as well as the inspiration and quotes of wonderful works of literature. “We are literally in the heart of Jesus," he said. "I thought we were in a church basement, but we are literally in the heart of Jesus. ‘Someone should tell Jesus," I said. "I mean, it's gotta be dangerous, storing children with cancer in your heart." ‘I would tell Him myself," Augustus said, "but unfortunately I am literally stuck inside of His heart, so He won't be able to hear me.”
Along with the quotes, the most sad and significant part of the book was the swing set. Perhaps it is because I am parent but it made me sad on so many levels. First, as she laid out in the grass staring at the forlorn swing set at night: “My thoughts are stars I cannot fathom into constellations.”
Then when she and Gus plan to get rid of the swing set and it finally is gone off to a new family. Finally, in the end when Gus remembers it. “We sat out there in silence for a minute and then Gus said, ' I wish we had that swing set sometimes.' 'The one from my backyard?' 'Yeah. My nostalgia is so extreme that I am capable of missing a swing my butt never actually touched.' 'Nostalgia is a side effect of cancer,' I told him. 'Nah, nostalgia is a side effect of dying, ' he answered. Above us, the wind blew and the branching shadows rearranged themselves on our skin. Gus squeezed my hand. 'It is a good life, Hazel Grace.”
I do not think I can urge you strongly enough that you NEED to read this book; like you need to breathe, it is in short a must read. However I will caution you to have a nice cup of tea, tissues, a warm bath, and time set aside because you will not be able to stop till you reach the end of the book. “Books so special and rare and yours that advertising your affection feels like a betrayal.”
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