I can honestly say that I have never enjoyed an incredibly depressing book more. John Green’s novels always manage to grab my attention, and this one even more than the others. Serious plots with earnest themes that are easier to swallow then some by other writers. He is incredibly blunt but he overlays it with copious amounts of humor and wit. The Fault in Our Stars made me laugh and cry, and I absolutely adored every second of it. I may or may not have reread it four times since I first got it on my kindle about a month ago.
It is advertised as a young adult book (I presume, because it is about teenagers), but I believe it is one of those rare books which could be appreciated by people of many ages. I would recommend it wholeheartedly to anyone looking for a good book.
Hazel Lancaster, like most slightly anti-social teenage girls, has a favorite book; she also has cancer in her thyroid and lungs. The book that she is so passionate about, An Imperial Affliction, is also from the perspective of a young girl with cancer, but it ends in the middle of a sentence leaving its fictional readers to guess the outcome. She, along with osteosarcoma survivor, Gus (who, in all honesty, I would be head over heels for if he was a real person) begin a search for answers about what happens after the book ends, and learn many things about themselves and each other in the process.
The beauty of John Green’s writing isn’t in the novelty of the plot. There are plenty of stories out there about kids with cancer. What draws the reader in is the characters he creates. They seem normal in the beginning, but he reveals so many quirks in their personalities throughout the story that you fall in love with every single one. This isn’t limited to the main characters either. Hazel, Gus, and Van Houten (The reclusive author of Hazel’s favorite book) are the works of a brilliant mind without a doubt, but the minor characters can capture the imagination just as much. Gus’ and Hazel’s parents and their friend, Isaac, shape the story in just as many ways. It’s almost blasphemy to say, but these characters might be as close to my heart as many of the Harry Potter characters, and I had seven books with them.
Isaac is my personal favorite. His cancer takes his eyes, but he is more upset about the girlfriend that breaks up with him just before the second eye goes. His story possibly breaks my heart even more than the Hazel and Gus star-crossed lovers plot.
I can’t help but admire his effortless prose, as well. He mesmerizes you with the way Hazel describes falling in love and Gus’ explanation of his need to be remembered after death. And it only serves to further the reader’s affection for the characters.
The novel is first and foremost heartbreakingly honest. He approaches cancer and death from rarely examined points of view. One cancer patient that merely floats through everyday life waiting to die, another which loses a leg to save his life, and a parent who drinks himself into a stupor day after day because of the loss of a daughter. John Green takes you through an exploration of death and life, and before you know it you are learning a lesson you thought you already knew.
That life is short and beautiful. When you finish the book, all you want to do is go sit in the sun and admire nature.
Because, after all, the universe wants to be noticed.