In John Green's newest young adult novel, two teenagers meet and fall in love at the unlikeliest of places: a cancer support group held at a church ("in the literal heart of Jesus" according to their moderator.) Hazel is terminally ill and needs to lug a tank of oxygen with her everywhere she goes. Augustus has lost a leg to osteosarcoma. They meet through Isaac, who is about to lose his second eye from a rare form of cancer. It doesn't sound like a very cheery setup, but this book has a great deal of humor and heart.
Hazel's favorite book in the world is An Imperial Affliction by Peter Van Houten, and more than anything in the world she wants to find out what happens after the book ends. Augustus will do anything to help her. Hazel is stand-offish at first because she knows Augustus's last girlfriend died and doesn't want to put him through that again, but she finally gives in to his irresistible wit and charm. Together the young lovers embark on a trip to Amsterdam to seek out Peter Van Houten and get some answers. Events take a different turn, however, and everything is different after they return.
There were some pretty sad parts of this book, as you can imagine, but despite all of that it was fairly uplifting. Hazel and Augustus were clever, yet pragmatic, even as they philosophized about life, death, and how they want to be remembered. I especially liked how down-to-earth they were about dying and how much it sucked. They both hated the stories about kids heroically facing their mortality and fighting until the bitter end and being such role models for other dying kids. Because it's not usually like that, even when people say it is, and although Hazel and Gus had basically positive outlooks, they still kept it real. As Augustus says, "The world is not a wish-granting factory." They were just great people to be around, and their story can teach us a lot about dealing with the pain that life inevitably brings us.
To paraphrase a passage from his own book, you have a choice about how to tell sad stories, and John Green made the funny choice. Very well told, Mr. Green!
This is truly a book full of quotes, many of which you can find here. I also have to put in a good word for the incredible job of narrator Kate Rudd on the audiobook - I highly recommend it.
The town where I work has just chosen The Fault in Our Stars as the community reads book for this year, so I'm quite excited that I'll soon see it everywhere, and everyone will be talking about it. I already want to read it again!