A multi-million bestseller, this book has been highly recommended as a young adult fiction must read. It deals with issues from your worst nightmare, whether you’re a parent, teenager or friend: the issue of dying. This is interspersed with romance, philosophy and a fictional book – An Imperial Affliction, which also happens to be about death.
John Green – one of the most renowned authors in young adult fiction. I don’t think I need introduce him any further.
|Hazel Grace Lancaster – 16 years old, has stage 4 thyroid cancer, which is terminal. The main protagonist who tells the story from her perspective. Fierce and independent, she wants to make the most of the time she has left.
|Augustus Waters – 17 years old, ex-basketball player, somewhat cocky almost verging on arrogant. Highly opinionated and expressive.
|Hazel’s Mother – dotes on Hazel, almost suffocating at times, but very sensible and forgiving.
|Isaac – a mutual friend of Hazel and Augustus, who has lost his eyes due to cancer and is now recovering.
Hazel has cancer, thyroid stage 4, this is terminal and through a support group, she meets Augustus who is recovering from an osteosarcoma operation that has left him somewhat different to how he was before. Without giving the game away, the story is about the interaction of these characters and the growth of their relationship, mainly through Hazel’s perspective.
I would have to call this a tragedy interspersed with romance, philosophy, coming of age and real-world issues.
I had a lot of expectations from this book, as I had heard and read so many good reviews. So maybe this has tainted my opinion, but I have to admit, I was somewhat disappointed. Perhaps it is just the culture difference? But being British I found a lot of it way over the top. I understand the raw emotions of teenagers, I work with them and I was one, and in a lot of respects in my head, I still am one: everything is raw and intense at that stage of your life, even when you’re in good health. Time passes more slowly and things really do feel like forever. So, I totally get that if you’re a teenager whose dying, that’s going to increase at least 100-fold. But even so, there were just certain aspects that irritated me.
I thought the cigarette thing was just stupid. Every time it was referenced I cringed. I’m sorry but I don’t think it’s a metaphor, especially as even unlit there’s a lot of toxic crap in them that can harm you by putting them in your mouth! I found Hazel didn’t really have any depth to her and she didn’t really grow on me as a character. I don’t think the author quite got inside the mind of a teenage girl, Hazel’s voice wasn’t clear to me.
What it did like, was the dialogue. I thought the verbal exchanges between the characters, although sometimes over the top, were realistic and I really felt every word that was said. I thought the humour was relevant and well referenced. Subtle, yet obvious enough to be recognised. The interactions between the parents and the teenagers were really well portrayed, exactly as I would expect.
I also liked the, what as far as I could tell, sympathetic and realistic approach to the issues that were dealt with. The management and challenges faced by Hazel, because of the symptoms caused by her cancer, was really heartfelt; I developed great empathy for her, Augustus, and the parents and relatives. I think the author has taken some really sensitive, and somewhat taboo issues, and written about them really well with a balanced approach.
Overall, the book tells a heartfelt story of a teenage girl who happens to have cancer and falls in love with a teenage boy who is able to empathise with her situation. The dialogue is clear and realistic and the interaction between the characters if believable, if somewhat over the top at times. It is quite eye-opening and educational. Although I didn’t thoroughly enjoy it, I think it has a very important place amongst young adult fiction and successfully portrays what so many authors are unable to.