The fact that John Green wrote this book is all I needed to pick it up. But since this book is in a whole new league from John Greens earlier masterpieces, I feel it needs more of an introduction than just a rock star byline. This book is beautifully painful, that’s the only way I can describe it. It’s a love story about two teenagers both deep in the throes of terminal cancer. These kids are smart and funny and sarcastic, and oh yeah busy dying horribly painful deaths. And this book presents their feelings honestly in a way that is so un-halmark that it’s gut wrenching.
One of my favorite parts is when the main character, Hazel, explains Maslow’s hierarchy of needs which explains that until a person’s physiological needs are met they can’t even want love or esteem or least of all self-actualization. I remember learning about Maslow’s hierarchy in psych 101 in college and finding it logical. Then Hazel came along and had to explain that even though she couldn’t breathe she still needed to be loved. And even if they should have lived at the bottom of Maslow’s pyramid, the characters in this book are some of the most self-actualized characters I’ve ever encountered.
One of my best friends from high school got cancer while we were in college. She was extremely lucky and her cancer was operable. She celebrated ten years of remission a few months ago. My grandfather and uncle both died of cancer, but there is a big difference between kids dying and adults dying. So despite a few months of fear and college kid angst about possibly losing my friend, I have no personal experience with terminally ill children. This book ripped me open anyway. And I sincerely hope that the honest voices of Hazel, Augustus and Isaac can speak to sick readers, who are still entirely human even if they are also busy dying.
If you want to know more about this unbelievably amazing book, here is what goodreads has to say:
Diagnosed with Stage IV thyroid cancer at 12, Hazel was prepared to die until, at 14, a medical miracle shrunk the tumours in her lungs... for now.
Two years post-miracle, sixteen-year-old Hazel is post-everything else, too; post-high school, post-friends and post-normalcy. And even though she could live for a long time (whatever that means), Hazel lives tethered to an oxygen tank, the tumours tenuously kept at bay with a constant chemical assault.
Enter Augustus Waters. A match made at cancer kid support group, Augustus is gorgeous, in remission, and shockingly to her, interested in Hazel. Being with Augustus is both an unexpected destination and a long-needed journey, pushing Hazel to re-examine how sickness and health, life and death, will define her and the legacy that everyone leaves behind.