Wednesday, August 28, 2013


BY: John Green

PUBLISHED: January 10, 2012 by Dutton Books
GENRES: YA • Contemporary Fiction • Realistic • Romance • Death • Illness • Philosophical • Life Issues

 (Technically 4.4 rounded to 4)

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.

• • • • • • 
I'm not sure I've ever been more haunted by a book in my life. You all know how attached I get to certain characters (cough... Ash... cough... Luca... cough... Daemon and cough... Will and Oh Lord I don't have all night...cough cough) but I grieved for these two. Hazel and Augustus were so real to me I thought I had touched them once or twice while reading. It was harrowing, rich and tragic. Shakespeare would have gobbled this story up like the best plum pudding in England. 

I'll be frank. I was nervous about reading this book and probably not for the reasons you may be thinking. For most of my life I have dealt with various and multiple medical issues. There were times in my life that I had to stay home and deal with my body trying to destroy itself and rebelling against what I wanted to do. I wanted to be normal. I wanted to go out, not fight for breath and feel like a freak. 

When I read that Hazel had breathing issues, I panicked. Growing a pair, I went and got a copy to bravely plow through. Little did I know that I would immediately be sucked into the story like the ship from 'The Black Hole.' Though I disagreed with some of the religious and philosophical ideas, I completely and utterly related to their feelings. 

My husband was honestly worried about me when I read it. It struck home and hit all my fears about my health problems worsening or returning. The feelings of frustration, fear, fury and grappling with loss were completely organic, physical and concrete. Green knew exactly what people dealing with severe illness go through. That knowledge flowed out of his words and into my heart to create a rock solid connection. You know the phrase, "takes one to know one"? Yeah.

This was honest, frank and gritty. It was intellectual and instinctual at the same time. I rooted for them and mourned for them. I ranted about the unfairness of life and pondered the reasons why we're here at all. They made me laugh and cry and my heart bleed for them. 

Augustus and Hazel were polar opposites that made for a delicious combination. He was sunshine and hope and joy. Hazel was gritty and sharp and slightly bitter. Both witty, both loyal and both determined as hell. If the world was more like them, it would be a better place.

This was no joy ride. It was agonizing, bumpy, rough and hard. But reading this was one experience people should embrace. If nothing else, readers would get a glimpse inside the world of living with illness. The loss of dreams, of daily living, of bodily function. No HEA ending here. But there were rays of sunshine, wit and fun. Just like life.

There were a couple of sticking points for me, but they resided more in the philosophical and religious realms. It felt like he was trying to be too deep at times and tried to make some great cosmic point with the littlest item. That made for a stuttered reading speed for me. Another point was their love. It bothered me that she was so much like someone from his past. It kept questions about his true motives in my head. Though by the end of the book, I had set those aside. Augustus showed he was not just a serious hotly and sweetheart, but his determination to set things right and make Hazel's dreams come true shattered my soul. (Crying right now as I write this... sniff sniff.)

This book wasn't perfect and had its flaws. But I think it should be required reading. It reminds each of us to cherish our family and friends, to focus on others and that selfless actions are way more important than trivial crap. To live each day like it could our last, to let things go and hold on only to what is really important. To be in the moment, to notice details and experience everything around us with all our senses. To love fully, completely and with abandon.

This book is in the process of being made into a major motion picture. I can only imagine how hard I will bawl in the theater watching this played out, but I'll be there. Probably with about ten boxes of tissues and some anti-inflammatory cream to rub on my face so I'll be able to see with my face so swollen from crying. But its worth it... so worth it.

Get ready for your heart to be touched, cracked and possible shattered in a really meaningful way.