Author: John Green
Release Date: January 10, 2012
Publisher: Dutton Books
Description: 318 pages,Young Adult Fiction
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.
The John Green Train
And that is because “bandwagon” hardly seems appropriate under the circumstances. Honestly, I wasn’t too keen on reading this book. A book, to me, is an escape route from the endless supply of problems the rest of the world has to offer, and considering that this one revolved around a real life struggle, I didn’t think I was ready. This isn’t to say that I can’t appreciate books dealing with tough subjects. On the contrary, I’m quite drawn to the emotional connection produced by such titles. However, I’m never entirely ready or excited to pick them up, mostly because I’m a big believer in happy endings (don’t judge me). Additionally, the title hinted at some sort of love that had to end, one way or another, and like I said, I’m not a huge fan of pre-written tragedies- it was a relief to find out that this book wasn’t exactly like that. Beyond all the hype, however, I realized that there was a reason why a lot people wanted to explore that struggle. It was an eye-opener of sorts, to the fact that love doesn’t come so easy to a lot of people, and many young adult readers, myself included, found that this book introduced a situation within a familiar spectrum. The book also gave me an opportunity to realize that I was luckier than most, and that isn’t a feeling I get all too often. But I’m not going to continue reviewing this book from a theoretical angle- I thoroughly enjoyed it most of the time, and I loved how the characters were able to retain their sense of humor, despite all of the hardships they had no choice but to go through. The dialogue was epic, classic John Green, and that for me, makes the book amazing by default.
In The Literal Heart of Jesus
I understand why Support Groups exist, although I still don’t think they’re supposed to work the way this one did. I didn’t get why Patrick the Star had to recount his ball-lessness in every session, and I didn’t quite get either why no one really pointed it out. I was thinking it was out of respect for Patrick who obviously relished in his situation (or at least in its retelling), and thrived under the spotlight while he was at it. But I kind of thought it was awkward at best. On the flip side, I’m glad he was such a positive thinker, and counted himself blessed in spite of that lack. The prayer/recitation of the names of all the dead didn’t really seem all too… supporting, considering that each one of them must have been thinking that sooner rather than later, their names would be tacked onto the end of the already long list. It’s not a happy thought, and I always did assume that support groups worked for a happy purpose. However, I thought the members were, though weak in health, really strong in the will to live. I liked Isaac’s character a lot, and I was happy that he remained so unbelievably Isaac despite everything he had to go through. Sometimes, his actions were overkill, but since I’m not in his position, I can’t say for sure that he’s to blame for the drama. I guess I understood what he was going through, and it was great that John Green was able to make me understand, because since I can’t actually know, that was the farthest that I could go. So I think in that way, the writing was pretty impressive.
Support Group Gus and Hazel
The main beef of many readers was the fact that both Hazel and Gus didn’t talk the way they were supposed to. Their dialogues were witty, but excessively so in most cases, and they used words that shouldn’t have come so naturally to most teenagers. I, for one, heard John Green speaking instead of the characters themselves whenever he used big words (like “existentially fraught” for example), presented philosophical ideas accompanied by deep metaphors, or gave analyses that even I found clever, though hugely unnatural. I get, however, that they’re not normal teenagers for starters, so under the circumstances, they must have been given the chance to think and converse the way they did. However, I was having trouble actually getting them, because though Gus and Hazel were many things- dependent, clever, deep, humorous- they were anything but believable, at least while their mouths were open. Which was a problem, because they were going through very real struggles. I was a bit disappointed by that. On the other hand, I think it’s quite ironic that I would probably have enjoyed the entire book much less without those conversations, so overall, I think Gus and Hazel were satisfactory and likable characters, mature, and perfectly imperfect. I can count the number of times I got annoyed by either of them in one hand, including the insta-love which thankfully had an explanation. I think that at this point, no one can deny John Green the obvious talent he has with self expression.
Cancer Perks and Consequences
I think the relationship Gus and Hazel fostered between them was their best source of redemption, because it was deeply moving. As mentioned earlier, I at first had a hard time understanding why Gus had a thing for Hazel almost immediately, without the almost (because I was being generous). Yet, the flirtatious Augustus was surprisingly patient, and I enjoyed the way he courted her. I was happy that they started off as good friends. Though Hazel obviously liked him back, it was great how they didn’t jump into a relationship immediately, actually weighing the pros and cons of what they were about to throw themselves into. It was amazing that they did their best not to hurt each other. And though they were both imperfect in the way that Gus was missing a leg while Hazel was missing a functional set of lungs, they were able to look past that and appreciate the things they did have, enjoy each other’s company, and truly love in the deep and unconditional way that most of us can’t learn to (despite having been given the chance to actually grow into adulthood, of course).
On Death And Human Oblivion
I myself am afraid of death, afraid of knowing and confirming that eventually, I will have died and not left a mark on this world. I understood the pain and longing that the characters were feeling, and I liked how Gus and Hazel were able to live out what they assumed was the last of their days together. Though it seemed at first like an unfair and cheap trick that Gus wasn’t healthy the way I would’ve liked to think he was, I liked how they didn’t waste time crying or detesting themselves for not being strong enough to sustain their own lives (because one, it doesn’t help, and two, it’s not their fault). It was great that instead of that they decide to appreciate what they did have and do things. I for one, in their place, would be content with having nothing more than loving company. I don’t have much to say about van Houten really, but I found him quite fascinating- he was probably the character that made me ask the most questions about life and living, which is great because I don’t do that often. Like Gus, I also believe in a capital S Something beyond death, and though this book was tragic in large proportions, I was comforted by the fact that maybe soon, maybe later, Gus and Hazel would eventually find themselves capital S Somewhere, free of trouble and pain, and above all, together.
This is a deep and heart wrenching title, fearless and full of emotion. Though it had issues, I think it was a pretty worthy read.