Reading Level: Young Adult
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Size: 336 pages
Publisher: Dutton Juvenile
Release Date: January 10, 2012
Stand Alone or Series: Stand Alone
Rating: 5/5 stars
I have been wanting to read this book for a long time. It was an absolutely wonderful read. It was at turns hilarious and heartfelt; I laughed a number of times and cried a few as well.
Hazel is sixteen and on a drug that is holding her cancer at bay, but just barely. Her lungs don’t work and she needs oxygen to breath, but she is going to school and taking it one day at a time. That is until Augustus Waters limps into Cancer Kid Support Group with his 80% survival rate and a wicked wink. Hazel doesn’t want to get involved but she just can’t help herself.
Yes this book is about teen kids with cancer, but it is surprisingly hilarious despite it’s somewhat somber topic. Hazel has a snarky and hilariously dark sense of humor. She sees dark humor in everything from the Cancer Group’s continually rotating attendance (because you know a lot of the kids die off) to the sad fact that their councilor’s best accomplishment of his rather boring life is having survived testicular cancer.
Somehow rather than pitying Hazel you empathize with her and laugh along with her as she struggles to make a life with this crazy hand she’s been dealt. Green does an excellent job of covering a number of issues for this kind of situation. Hazel is very smart and emotionally mature. One of the things she is most concerned about is being a burden on those she loves. At one point she says something to the effect of “After all, the only thing worse than being a kid with cancer is being the parent of a kid with cancer.”
Watching Hazel interact with her parents is really interesting too. She’s an only child. Her dad is excessively emotional and breaks into tears at the slightest emotional tumult (good or bad). Her mother basically has a full time job managing Hazel’s doctor appointments and care. Her parents love her and try hard not to hover and this is portrayed really well in this book. Hazel never gets really rebellious, but her and her mother do get into some very typical mom/teen arguments.
The other characters in this book are just as interesting and engaging as Hazel. Augustus of course is in the story a ton; he is a happy-go-lucky type of guy who is absolutely drawn to Hazel right from the get go. He draws her out of her comfort zone to a place where she gets to experience something she never would.
Isaac is another major character in this book. He is struggling with eye cancer and is getting ready to undergo a surgery that will require the removal of his other eye…making him blind. Watching him cope with this along with all your other typical teenage problems was interesting; he was a very engaging character as well.
It was awesome both how extraordinary and ordinary these kids are. They are all just making their way through life and trying to deal with all the stuff we are all trying to deal with day to day, with some extra junk thrown in.
I won’t talk a lot about the plot except to say it builds up to Hazel getting to fullfill one of her lifelong dreams. There are many twists and turns along the way. The ending is hopeful, realistic, and heartbreaking all at once. This story is incredibly engaging, well written, and hard to put down. I stayed up super late to finish this book.
Overall an amazing and excellent book that manages to be hilarious and heartfelt all at the same time. It puts the reader through such an emotional roller-coaster; you will laugh out loud a ton…you will cry some too. I really really enjoyed it. It takes a wonderful author to write such a fabulous book that deals with such a tough topic and yet makes it hilarious, absolutely heartfelt, and engaging. Strongly recommended for everyone to read!