1.How/Why/Where did you buy the book?
Darned cable TV, kept showing adverts for a movie with a girl with nasal prongs and a bob. I thought it was one of those, irritatingly “inspiring” cancer stories.
And then, whenever I went to The Virgin Store or Jarir (bookstore in the Middle East) I saw this bunch of colorful, teeny- bopperish books on the best- seller racks. Some guy called John Green wrote them.
It must have been the font, or the dialogue clouds on the cover that put me off. I thought, they were books meant for kids, teenagers at best.
“Diary of a Wimpy Kid” types.
I never quite put them together- the movie and the colorful book; until I saw the book on Amazon, with The- Cable- Cancer- Girl on the cover!
Aah! It finally clicked.
I read some of the reviews. It was great book apparently. A critic/ reader wrote-
“This is a book that will break your heart – not by wearing it down, but by making it bigger and bigger until it bursts.”
It was No. 1 on several lists. I claim I care two hoots for these lists, yet I buy most of the books that appear on them!
Well, what can I do?
I am a compulsive reader, and if someone says something is good, I HAVE to read/see/ experience it myself for two reasons:
1. I would hate to lose out on something in life
2. I like proving people wrong 😉
And if the thing is on discount….Well, that’s just the straw that break’s the camel’s back.
2. What is the book about?
It’s the standard “battle- with- cancer- brave- strong- kid- tears- death- life” sort of tale. The narrator is sixteen year old cancer patient, Hazel Grace Lancaster. She meets a fellow- cancer survivor Augustus Waters at a support group meeting. The young adults hit it off, in an endearing, cancer- groupie- philosophical way. The book then follows their life for brief time, cut short by death that is after- all inevitable in a story such as this.
It is about illness ridden, puppy love.
The pristine, untarnished, first- love that can only bloom between young people.
A love that is clouded by illness and impending death and misery.
A love that is not restrained by life or togetherness.
It is about spunky, young people whose lives are far too short. Or maybe it’s the shortness of their lives that makes them spunky…
3. First impressions?
Be warned, if you are anything over 25 years of age, the language at first will seem juvenile or rather YOU will feel “uncool” and ancient.
In fact, on the Wednesday I made the acquaintance of Augustus Waters, I tried my level best to get out of Support Group while sitting on the couch with my mom in the third leg of a twelve- hour marathon of the previous season’s America’s Next Top Model, which admittedly I had already seen, but still.
Me: “I refuse to attend Support Group.”
Mom: “One of the symptoms of depression is disinterest in activities.”
Me: “Please just me watch America’s Next Top Model. It’s an activity.”
Mom: ” Television is a passivity.”
Me: “Ugh, Mom, please.”
Mom : “Hazel, you’re a teenager. You’re not a little kid anymore. You need to make friends, get out of the house, and live your life.”
Me: ” If you want to be a teenager, don’t send me to Support Group. Buy me a fake ID so I can go to clubs, drink vodka, and take pot.”
See what I mean? I mean it’s almost a decade since I even had to think about a fake ID!
4. Final evaluation?
Well, it’s a bit of a tear- jerker, no doubt. It’s not a cry fest that people are making it out to be though.
Yes, it’s written well. But not enough to warrant such a review, in my opinion.
“Just two paragraphs into the work, and he immediately wallops the readers with such an insightful observation delivered in such an unsentimental way that its hard not to shake your head in admiration.”
Jodi Picoult, author of My Sister’s Keeper (part of the Cancer- Genre) keeps the exaggeration in check and says, “an electric portrait of young people who learn to live life with one foot in the grave……..filled with staccato bursts of humor and tragedy.”
I think I agree with her. It has it’s moments, when simple things are portrayed with immense reconditeness and profound matters are dealt with a restraint and simpleness that is refreshing.
Yet, when a sixteen year old Hazel speaks this way…
“There are infinite numbers between 0 and 1. There’s .1 and .12 and .112 and an infinite collection of others. Of course, there is a bigger infinite set of numbers between 0 and 2, or between 0 and a million. Some infinities are bigger than other infinities. A writer we used to like taught us that. There are days, many of them, when I resent the size of my unbounded set. I want more numbers than I’m likely to get, and God, I want more numbers for Augustus Waters than he got. But, Gus, my love, I cannot tell you how thankful I am for our little infinity. I wouldn’t trade it for the world. You gave me a forever within the numbered days, and I’m grateful.”
I am not sure what I am supposed to feel!
Then it all becomes very age- appropriate when this happens…
“What a slut time is. She screws everybody.”
5. How long did it take to finish?
A few hours.
Well, for the genre that it belongs to (the young- people- with- cancer-who- become- wise-beyond- their- years genre), it is a great book. Insightful at times, funny at others. And tinged with just enough sorrow and hope that you are not bawling at the end of the book. You are left with a bitter- sweet feeling.
The characters are sketched with just enough novelty and spunk to give a whole book a breath of freshness and differentiate it from other similar stories. After all, most stories dealing with terminal/ incurable illness have to tread a similar path, and end at a pre- determined destination.
7. Who would you recommend the book to?
Mostly to young adults. People who need some sobering up. Youngsters who have great lives and yet whine and complain endlessly.
8. Would you read it again?
I doubt it. Though I do go back to most of the books I read.
9. Do you regret purchasing it?
10. Favourite part/ quote from the book?
“Augustus Waters was a self-aggrandizing bastard. But we forgive him. We forgive him not because he had a heart as figuratively good as his literal one sucked, or because he knew more about how to hold a cigarette than any nonsmoker in history, or because he got eighteen years when he should’ve gotten more.’
‘Seventeen,’ Gus corrected.
‘I’m assuming you’ve got some time, you interrupting bastard.
‘I’m telling you,’ Isaac continued, ‘Augustus Waters talked so much that he’d interrupt you at his own funeral. And he was pretentious: Sweet Jesus Christ, that kid never took a piss without pondering the abundant metaphorical resonances of human waste production. And he was vain: I do not believe I have ever met a more physically attractive person who was more acutely aware of his own physical attractiveness.
‘But I will say this: When the scientists of the future show up at my house with robot eyes and they tell me to try them on, I will tell the scientists to screw off, because I do not want to see a world without him.’
I was kind of crying by then.”
“Without pain, how could we know joy?’ This is an old argument in the field of thinking about suffering and its stupidity and lack of sophistication could be plumbed for centuries but suffice it to say that the existence of broccoli does not, in any way, affect the taste of chocolate.”
It was so good to be young and say things like abundant metaphorical resonances of human waste production!
Till the next book…