Oh, John Green. What can I say? This time the Greenster, the Greenmeister the Greenonator , has penned a tome that deals with such heady topics as love in the midst of death. And when I say ” in the midst” I mean in the chomping down on your internal organs kind of way.
He departs from his usual goofy and witty but always charming and kind main male protagonist to tell this story from the point of view of a sixteen-year old Hazel Grace Lancaster, who just happened to be dying of lung cancer. At the moment, her cancer has been stalled by a new drug, which, though it doesn’t cure her cancer, stops it from taking her over. So though her lungs work as well as a twenty year old Russian Lada left to rot in a swamp, she is still pretty functional. However, she is a tad depressed. She spends her days reading or watching America’s Top model and worrying about how her parents are going to deal with her death. Her only regular outing is a cancer survivor support group her mother forces her to attend. Most days, it is the same old, same old: same stories, same platitudes, nothing helpful. Until one day Augustus Waters shows up and he can’t stop staring at her.
I won’t say anymore.
Okay I will say more but not about the plot. John Green has taken a terrible situation, an ugly situation and made it beautiful without denying the terribleness and the ugliness. Though the plot twist is predictable, it was pleasantly so- in that it did not take away from the pathos of the situation. Never does it deteriorate into cheesy sentimentality nor become insipidly maudlin, a feat worth noting given the tear-jerker subject.
With the same with and humour we see in his other books, he introduces two intelligent, kind, unique characters that make you think if these are modeled on real teenagers then perhaps there is yet hope for humanity (not that I don’t see amazing teenagers on a regular basis- I do. And they give me the same hope). I also give him kudos for writing parents that don’t suck. Hazel’s parents are flawed yes, but loving and worried and sympathetic and funny and even, sometimes, have little nuggets of wisdom that actually comfort Hazel.
I like that.
A love story islanded by a sea of grief, this novel will make you laugh, cry and think carefully about the way you treat sick people. I am swiftly coming to the conclusion that Mr. Green might be one of the best YA authors writing today.