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 seems to turn me into a bag of nerves at every angle… I was nervous to read it. I was beyond nervous whilst reading it. And now I’m nervous to review it. I don’t think many people are going to like this review… but I need to write as I find. Forgive me for this collection or rambling thoughts. They are literally hitting the keyboard as they pop into my head and I’m trying to make something of them all.
I looked down my blouse at my chest. “Keep your shit together,” I whispered to my lungs.
Firstly, I must begin by saying… I sobbed. Jesus Christ, I don’t think I’ve ever read such a harrowing ‘romance’ novel. I was in tears throughout the entire second half of the book!
“I love you present tense… It’s okay, Gus. It’s okay. It is. It’s okay, you hear me?”
I’m not entirely sure I want to read a book about teenage cancer and death. I know that might sound shallow. It happens, it fucking sucks, I know that. I’ve witnessed the suffering caused by cancer, first hand, and I’ve witnessed the destruction it leaves behind. I’ve been the destruction it leaves behind. It’s evil, it’s painful, it’s tragic and I can’t help thinking that romanticising the whole thing is kind of belittling of it. There isnothing romantic about cancer or dying a cancerous death. That’s not to say that cancer patients don’t have a love story to tell… they do, like every other person… but I don’t think that their death is a romantic part of that. That part isn’t their romance, it’s their tragedy. That’s a whole different genre.
“Oh I wouldn’t mind, Hazel Grace. It would be a privilege to have my heart broken by you.”
I felt like this book was a complete guilt trip. Introduce two completely loveable kids with cancer, make the reader fall in love with them, make them fall in love with one another, kill them off. Boom! Tears. Emotion. Rave reviews. ‘Cancer perk’, as Hazel Grace would say.
I felt like I was being emotionally blackmailed… like if I didn’t give these dying kids five stars, I was a bad person.
I felt that the sole purpose of this book was to make me sob my heart out, which it did do. I’m all for a bit of cathartic release, but I felt like it wanted to fool me into thinking I’d read a life altering, heartrendering romance… when in fact, a kid, dying of cancer and leaving another cancer suffering kid to mourn the loss of the love of their life, is just about the saddest thing imaginable… not matter who tells it or how well written is it, or isn’t. I think my illiterate teenage brother could sit across the kitchen and tell me this story in his own jumbled words and teenage grunts, and I’d still cry! Who wouldn’t?! It’s completely harrowing. But that doesn’t make it a good romance novel. I feel like it should have been a great love story despite their illnesses, yet the book was written as if it were a great love story because of their illnesses.
The joy you bring us is so much greater than the sadness we feel about your illness.
And, whilst I do think that evoking powerful emotion is one measure of a great book, it certainly isn’t the be all and end all.
I think the writing tries entirely too hard. You can almost feel it’s palpable desperation to be profound and thought provoking. In my humble opinion, this leads to it being as clichéd and stereotyped as the clichés and stereotypes it so readily bashes.
“Hazel Grace,” he said, “do you have a pen and a piece of paper?” I said I did. “Okay, please draw a circle.” I did. “Now draw a smaller circle within that circle.” I did. “The larger circle is virgins. The smaller circle is seventeen-year-old guys with one leg.”
I have to be honest and say that there is no way I would recommend this to any of my friends. If I said ‘Here, read this book. It’s about teenagers with cancer who die. Oh but, don’t worry, they fall in love first,” I know they’d look at me like I was a nutter.
Reading, for me anyway, is about escapism. ‘Dreaming with your eyes open.’ Dreams about people dying of cancer are the dreams I try to avoid. The dreams I call nightmares. There is enough sadness, tragedy and loss in real life. In real life, we can’t ensure that everybody has a happy ending and that in itself is tragic. Everybody deserves their HEA, even if they don’t always get it… I don’t think I need such sorrow in my books. I don’t think I want to read about such heartache without the possibility of redemption and a happy ending. Perhaps that is superficial and idealistic… but we all read for our own reasons, right? And we all aim to get different things from our reading experiences. For me, I want that feeling of hope and happiness… not that irreversible feeling of agony.
I never took another picture of him.
On the plus side. And there were plenty of plus points too, despite my so far wholly negative review… a lot of the book was absolutely hilarious. I did giggle. Alot. I could have bookmarked hundreds of quotes from this book.
“Oh, my God. I’ve seen him at parties. The things I would do to that boy. I mean, not now that I know you’re interested in him. But, oh, sweet holy Lord, I would ride that one-legged pony all the way around the corral.”
I also have to say, possibly the cutest declaration of love. Ever. So utterly adorable.
“I’m in love with you,” he said quietly.
“Augustus,” I said.
“I am,” he said.
I did love Augustus. He was just too gorgeous for words.
Look, let me just say it: He was hot. A nonhot boy stares at you relentlessly and it is, at best, awkward and, at worst, a form of assault. But a hot boy… well.
I loved his affection for Hazel, and his determination to be with her even though he was bound to get hurt. Heart breaking and heart warming at the same time.
To be with him was to hurt him – inevitably.
My tears drenched my cheeks from about the fifty percent mark, just in anticipation of what was to come. But the eulogy and the funeral were what completely broke me.
“There are infinite numbers between 0 and 1. There’s .1 and .12 and .112 and an infinite collection of others. Of course, there is a bigger infinite set of numbers between 0 and 2, or between 0 and a million. Some infinities are bigger than other infinities.”
I was such a mess. This morning, I look as though I’ve gone ten rounds with a pro boxer. My eyes are swollen, puffy monstrosities, the skin under my nose is raw and my bedside was littered with tissues.
“My love, I cannot tell you how thankful I am for our little infinity. I wouldn’t trade it for the world. You gave me a forever within the numbered days, and I’m grateful.”
So, I’m now going to take cover and hide out for the rest of 2013, while I let people simmer down following my controversial review of the Goodreads Choice Award for Best Young Adult Fiction of 2012. I’m so so sorry if I’ve offended anyone, I truly would never intend to do that. I just have to be honest about what I review, otherwise, what is the point? I’m just hoping that I haven’t written the manual on How To Anger The Your Blog Readers.
“People always get used to beauty, though.”
“I haven’t gotten used to you just yet,” he answered, smiling.
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