Hazel is only 17 and she can see the end of her life. She must carry around an oxygen tank to keep her cancer ravaged lungs breathing. The oxygen tank is the weight holding her back and preventing her from hoping for a new chance at life. John Green introduces us to someone who is unimpressed with her time on earth and sees no point to her existence. She is a character with a prickly outside and a very philosophical and introspective mind. I liked her spirit and was glad that Green chose to give us a teen that didn’t feel sorry for herself and approached the cards she was dealt with dark humor.
Augustus is introduced quickly into the story before I feel like we, as the reader, have had time to get to know Hazel. But Augustus seems to know her well enough for all of us. Lucky for Augustus, he is in remission due to having a leg amputated. He immediately take Hazel into his world in the hopes that she will open her thoughts up to him and they learn to communicate through books. Hazel’s favorite novel, An Imperial Affliction, mirrors the hopelessness of her life. She seems to rejoice in the acceptance of this loss of hope. Slowly but surely, the bond between these two morphs into a shared belief that they both might beat the odds and by some miracle, be together forever. The eventually find a replacement for saying I Love You, by saying “Okay” to one another.
The idea of destiny is polarized when seen through the lens of someone living with cancer. Hazel and Gus start at opposite ends of the spectrum and slowly move towards one another. Green had his characters symbolically lose a part of their bodies to cancer, Gus and his leg, Issac and his eyes, and Hazel and her lungs. As these characters learn to live without these part of their bodies, they learn to accept the world as it’s been handed to them.
Where did this book fail for me? The cheesiness. The influence of social media had already informed me that one of them will die. They made it seem like it was a gut-wrenching turn of events in this teenage love story. Yet, my reality in reading it was cold detachment. Am I unable to feel you ask? Why, no, I’ve cried reading a book before. But the emotional build-up fizzled for me. Green piles a lot of philosophical questions onto these two fragile beings and rather than really resonating, it seemed forced.
I guess they are making it into a movie and it will be the tear-jerker teen movie of the year. I doubt I’ll take the time to see it.
Visit John Green’s website for more details : http://johngreenbooks.com/