Wow. First, I need to mention the fact that this is my 95th blog posting! Stay posted because I will be offering up my first book contest when I hit 100!
I need to mention now that I am a big John Green fan. His award-winning book, Looking for Alaska, was actually my least favorite of his books, but still gets a 10/10 from me. And I still need to read Paper Towns, which I own and will read soon. But the book he co-wrote with David Levithan: Will Grayson Will Grayson is one of my all time favorite YA novels.
I also love all other John Green fans. I feel like, growing up as a bit of a book nerd, going to book signings for me is a lot like how going to concerts is like for big music fans. The Harry Potter midnight release parties, the signings I ditched school to go to, and the readings I’ve been able to attend for free in Chicago are all kind of like what going to see Madonna or Lady Gaga would be like for someone else. It’s more than just the show or the book; it’s being in a room/building/arena full of people who all seem to care about the same things you do, just as much. And I have been around John Green fans in Chicago, in New Orleans, and in Pittsburgh. I’ve even been to a Harry Potter Wrock concert, where one of the bands sang a side song dedicated to John Green. People love him. And they have a good reason to.
I bought a signed copy of this book the day it came out. And if nothing else can convince you to read this one, read the blurb from E. Lockhart that’s on the back cover: “John Green writes incredible, honest truths about the secret, weird hearts of human beings. He makes me laugh and gasp at the beauty of a sentence or the twist of a tale. He is one of the best writers alive and I am seething with envy of his talent.”
It took me a little while to read this one, not because I didn’t like it, but because it dealt with some serious, heavy stuff. The two main characters/teens have cancer. And a lot of the book takes place in hospitals and support groups. And frankly, I have spent so much time in hospitals the past few months, with my dad that I found myself getting a little too invested in these characters. Thinking so much about death, survival, and illness was hard for me. But then again, it was also kind of perfect.
It’s about Hazel, a girl who with one medical miracle is granted a little extra time in life, but knows that soon she will die. She meets Augustus, a cancer survivor, in a support group that takes place in a church basement they quickly coin “the heart of Jesus” for all of the prayers and mention of the name. The book is essentially a love story between these two teens who have already been through so much. They bond over a mutual friend in support group. And they continue to bond over a series of amazing conversations, violent video game playing, and book sharing.
Hazel is obsessed with this one book: An Imperial Affliction. And she and Augustus switch favorite books. Hazel gets the series his favorite video game is based off of, and devours several in the series really quickly. And Augustus loves her book too, which ends mid sentence where the main character is assumed to have died of cancer. But both Hazel and Augustus are obsessed with trying to figure out what happens to the other characters in the novel. And the two teens end up going to Amsterdam, spending Augustus’ wish (something all cancer kids seem to get and that Hazel wasted on a trip to Disney when she was 13) to go meet the author of An Imperial Affliction and get some asnwers. There’s international adventures, first love, death, survival, philosophical questions, some amazing characters, and a lot of talk about the people cancer patients have relationships with, who they know they will end up leaving behind. There’s a scene when the two go to Anne Frank’s house and the connections Hazel kept making between herself and Anne Frank, without even realizing she was making the connections, were so scary, and moving.
It’s not a typical cancer book. It’s jam-packed with amazing dialogue, dark and witty humor, and plenty of intense philosophical questions. Why do bad things happen to good people? Why do some people survive and some don’t? How can you make your life mean something? Is love worth it even when you know it will end badly? So many of the questions asked in this book are questions you think of adults (way past the stage of mid-life crisis’) asking. So, it’s really hard reading about kids asking these questions. And these kids are brilliant, real, and so wise beyond their years.
I stopped reading all of the other books I was reading to finish this one. Sometimes I’d read a page, or a conversation, and just need to pause and let it all sink in. I slowly savored this book in meaningful and small bites because I didn’t want any other food corrupting this flavor.
On a side note: the book made me want to know how many children (around the same age) in the same area tend to all have cancer? Does this typically happen? I feel like they all lived really close to each other too –and you know I’m thinking about Erin Brockovich…But, this has nothing to do with the book. It’s just something random I thought about.
Really, this book is beautiful. And it was capable of putting me in a completely different mindset. It’s sad. And I knew it would have a sad ending, so I kind of postponed finishing it. But, really, I shouldn’t have done that because the sad ending was such a beautiful ending. I give this one a 10/10. Go, read it!