Diagnosed with Stage IV thyroid cancer at 12, 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.
A riveting, emotional journey! As I’m from Hazel’s hometown (and also John Green’s), it was wonderful to tour the city through the eyes of fictional characters. It was also exciting to piece together random snippets from John’s videos across several years: his trip to Amsterdam, his musings about fake ruins in a park, and his wife’s job as an art dealer.
Apart from my familiarity with the city and John’s videos, the long-awaited book left an impact. I’m neither a cancer survivor nor am I sixteen, but I am a girl and I truly felt like I was Hazel. I remember when I met John at a reading how worried he was that as a 30-something male he would not convincingly pull off a teenage female narrator. He accomplished this, without a doubt. The bond Hazel formed with Augustus felt exactly like teenage first love; her conflicting feelings with her best friend, wanting to see her and yet wanting to stay away and prevent any further emotional damage; her intense obsession with a book that spoke to her – down to the serial watching of America’s Next Time Model and her jokes with her parents, Hazel was real.
This book also enlightened me to the awkwardness of human interaction when a healthy person encounters one with a disability or an illness. We, as humans, immediately resort to pity or embarrassment or an over-eagerness to help. In reality, or at least with John’s characters, they want to be treated without the pity and sad faces and deliberate avoidance of any topic revolving around their situation.
Looking for Alaska was a good book, but I can say without a doubt that The Fault in Our Stars (published January 10th!) is, by leaps a bounds, a greater story with characters that feel like close friends you’ve known forever, and with dialogue and situations that make you pause and think twice.
Rating: ★★★★★ of 5
GoodReads: 4.79 of 5