Still extremely busy, but I just can’t NOT write a quick review about this book.
First of all, a quick summary:
The story focuses on Hazel, a 16 year old girl who was diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer but managed to survive due to an experimental drug. She’s alive but not really living. Her lungs “suck at being lungs” and therefore she’s attached to her oxygen tank 24/7. She spends most her days staying at home and watching America’s Next Top Model. Her mother comes to the conclusion that Hazel is depressed and urges her to start attending a cancer support group to try to make new friends. There she meets Augustus Waters, a witty and gorgeous cancer survivor. They discover things they have in common, become friends and eventually fall in love.
(Okay, I know that that was a really vague summary, but I didn’t want to give too much away…)
In the story, Hazel and Augustus read a book called An Imperial Affliction by Peter Van Houten. It’s about a girl named Anna, and just like Hazel and Augustus, she has cancer. The book is supposedly so well written that Hazel and Augustus become obsessed with it. In fact, here are the exact words Hazel used to describe her love for the book:
“Sometimes, you read a book and it fills you with this weird evangelical zeal, and you become convinced that the shattered world will never be put back together unless and until all living humans read the book.”
(I totally know how that feels btw XD)
Peter Van Houten ends An Imperial Affliction midsentece, causing the readers to wonder what happened to Anna and the rest of the characters in the book. While I was reading The Fault In Our Stars, I seriously thought An Imperial Affliction was an actual book. I even looked it up online and found a Goodreads entry for it. It was only after I finished TFIOS that I discovered that John Green made the book up for his story, and the Goodreads entry I found was fan-made. Anyway, while most readers wonder about what happened to Anna in AIA (did she die? did she get too weak to continue her story?), Hazel and Augustus are more concerned about what happened to her mother, and even her hamster. I thought this was strange at first, until I realized that Hazel and Augustus both see themselves in Anna and are worried about what would happen to their own mothers (and loved ones) when they eventually lose their battle with cancer. Most readers focus only on the pain felt by the person dying, and we often forget to think about the heartache that their loved ones would go through after that person is gone. I’m fortunate enough to never have lost someone I care so very deeply about, but I can imagine how it would feel like. I think John Green did a excellent job of describing the pain:
“When you go into the ER, one of the first things they ask you to do is rate your pain on a scale of one to ten, and from there they decide which drugs to use and how quickly to use them. I’d been asked this question hundreds of times over the years, and I remember once early on when I couldn’t get my breath and it felt like my chest was on fire, flames licking the inside of my ribs fighting for a way to burn out of my body, my parents took me to the ER. The nurse asked me about the pain, and I couldn’t even speak, so I held up nine fingers.
Later, after they’d given me something, the nurse came in and she was kind of stroking my head while she took my blood pressure and said, “You know how I know you’re a fighter? You called a ten a nine.”
But that wasn’t quite right. I called it a nine because I was saving my ten. And here it was, the great and terrible ten, slamming me again and again as I lay still and alone in my bed staring at the ceiling, the waves tossing me against the rocks then pulling me back out to sea so they could launch me again into the jagged face of the cliff, leaving me floating faceup on the water, undrowned.”
-John Green, The Fault In Our Stars
It should be pretty obvious by now that although The Fault In Our Stars contains some humor, this is ONE SAD BOOK. The beginning was okay, it mostly gives the readers an idea of what Hazel thinks about her cancer and life in general. To be honest, it took me a while to get through the first half. This was partly because I was busy with work, but mostly because I’ve always been a bit of a hypochondriac. It probably wasn’t the best idea for me to pick up a book about two kids with cancer because every time they described their symptoms, my imagination went crazy and I would picture myself in a hospital bed writhing in pain. But after the first half, the story took off and I couldn’t put the book down. A fair warning to all of you : have a box of tissues next to you when you read this. I made the mistake of reading the last few chapters at the office during my lunch break and I had to keep looking up to check that no student had come in to witness my trying to hold myself together.
I think the last book that I cried over before this one (as in really cried over, not just teared up) was probably The Hunger Games. That was also probably the last book I read before this one where I just sat and stared off into space for a few minutes after finishing the last chapter. This book was so heartbreaking and left me feeling so heavy. This doesn’t really come as a surprise since this book deals with some pretty tough issues. I tried to hold back my tears while I was reading the last few chapters, but in the end I just gave in and allowed myself one good cry.
I don’t really know how to describe it, I suppose I could say it felt like I was drowning in a sea of sadness. Totally cliche, but I don’t know how else to put it. Like Augustus Waters, I’m not very good with words. (Even though he is, because instead of saying “I’m not very good with words”, he said “my thoughts are stars I can’t fathom into constellations”.)
John Greene is just AMAZING with words. The entire book was just so sophisticated and profound. And the characters’ dialogues were so poetic. I’ll be posting some of my favorite quotes from the book in another entry soon, so watch out for that.
The ending felt a bit unfinished, but it did give the readers some closure. And honestly, I can’t really think of a better way to end the book. This is one of those stories that will probably stick with me forever. I may not remember all the details, but I will always know how much it touched me. I would love to give this book a perfect score, but like I said, it took me a while to get through the first half so I’m deducting some points from that. If you’re looking for a good cry, go ahead and try this book. It’s sweet, funny, sad, heartbreaking and beautifully written. I give it 4.7 out of 5 stars.
To end this review, here’s another one of my favorite quotes from the book:
“You don’t get to choose if you get hurt in this world, old man, but you do have some say in who hurts you. I like my choices.”
-Augustus Waters, The Fault in Our Stars