John Green is a favorite author of mine and yet I was reluctant to pick this one up, simply because of its subject matter. I am NOT a reader of cancer tales, and in particular cancer tales involving children. And yet this one kept calling to me; when my daughter read it and loved it, I knew it was time, assuring myself that with Green, cancer would be a backstory to the main one.
Warning: It's a cancer book.
Other than that minor (not) detail, it's beautiful, full of truth about human relationships and life. Hazel is sixteen and has terminal cancer which has been held at bay for three years, but stealing her lungs' capacity to their work ("crap lungs"). Forced by her parents to attend a support group, she meets the handsome, witty Augustus, who becomes infatuated with her almost immediately. And though Hazel wishes to minimize the destruction of her impending, someday death by not becoming a "grenade", she finds herself falling in love with the dashing Gus, himself a survivor of bone cancer. Together, the two use his Wish to track down the author of their favorite novel, demanding answers to its unanswered questions (A Metaphor For Life? Certainly). Along the way, medical crises ensue and lessons about the fragility of life abound. And Green does all this with his usual funny, endearing, charming flair, making us sob buckets and forcing his characters into our hearts whether we want them there or not.
While I adored the characters, I did feel the necessity of involving cancer in their lives was manipulative and unnecessary, though very realistic. Green did his research; he knew the ins and outs of how medical teams work and what can go wrong. It's a story worth reading and definitely one that involves the reader fully. I do wish Green would move on from the road trip drama, but he's still one of the best young adult writers out there today, my personal feelings about cancer story lines aside. He can make you laugh and cry and realize things you already knew. Beautifully written and recommended.