You will need a BOX of tissues and many free hours for my April pick: The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. It’s the love story of two cancer-stricken teenagers; Hazel and Augustus. It sounds depressing, but it’s not. Yes, you will cry, but you will also laugh. A lot. Hazel and Augustus meet in a cancer support group and they’re an instant match with similar quirky humor and their perspective on sickness and death. Hazel is very sick but could survive indefinitely with a trial drug. and Augusts us in remission and attending the support group to support a friend. Their conversations and interactions are charming, heartfelt, and often heartbreaking.
As they are getting to know each other, Hazel shares her favorite book, An Imperial Affliction, with Augustus and admits that the thing she wants most in the world is to know what happens to the characters. The book is about a teenage girl with cancer and it ends literally in mid-sentence. It’s the only book every written by the eccentric Peter Van Houten and Hazel has been writing to him for years with no response. Augustus is determined to help Hazel find out what happens and he is able to contact the author’s assistant in Amsterdam and gain permission for them to visit. Augustus uses his one wish with a Make A Wish-type foundation to make the trip happen.
The novel and the trip to Amsterdam helped move the plot forward but it was an unrealistic part of the book. I found it to be very contrived and unnatural. Augustus and Hazel fall in love on the trip (and consummate their relationship) but they fail to find out the ending to the novel because the author is a complete jerk/drunk. At the end of the trip, Augustus reveals to Hazel that his cancer is back and all over his body. They travel back to the states and grow closer even as he is dying. He asks Hazel and best friend Isaac to write eulogies that they read to him before he is too sick. That scene is incredibly depressing and funny and endearing. Augustus eventually succumbs to his cancer and his death is terrible and sad and my book would be tear-soaked from that part except Kindles are pretty tear-proof. Mean, nasty Peter Van Houten appears at his funeral. It turns out that he is a bitter shell of a man because he lost his only child to cancer when she was very young (he wrote An Imperial Affliction about her).
The last pages of the book are a eulogy that Augustus wrote for Hazel and sent to Peter Van Houten to review. The ending is similar to An Imperial Affliction in that there is no real “ending.” But Hazel was kind enough to let us know beforehand that her parents will be okay; her mother was training to become a grief counselor for other teens with cancer. The ending is appropriate and doesn’t feel like a harsh let-down. So many books suck you in with such engaging characters and plot lines only to cut you off like a heroin addict in rehab at the ending…but this ending felt like a gentle letting go.
I enjoyed this book immensely. It was fresh and different and funny and sad. It was a gentle reminder to just enjoy life. Read it!
Overall Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Dark and Twisty Meter: Low on Dark, Medium on Twisty
Page Turner Rating: High
May’s book is The American Heiress.