The Fault is Mine That I Didn't Read This Sooner!
If a book makes me cry, it means the story and characters strike me as emotionally compelling. I believed I cried four different times reading this story---the sign of an amazing emotional read! Hazel and Augustus completely drew me in.
But this story isn't only about the drama of two teenagers struck with cancer. There's also quirky sarcasm, authentic relationships, and making meaning out of loss. And how cool is it that the title comes from Shakespeare?
Seventeen year-old Hazel's mother forces her to go to a cancer support group, where she meets Augustus. (Interesting names.) When he pulls out a cigarette, he instantly repulses straitlaced Hazel Grace. But Augustus isn't your average teenager trying to look cool. He doesn't even light the cigarette."They don't kill you unless you light them," he said as Mom arrived at the curb. "And I've never lit one. It's a metaphor, see: You put the killing thing right between your teeth, but you don't give it the power to do its killing."
When death has stared down Hazel and her sick friends countless times, the only retaliation they have is an act of rebellion such as this. Augustus grabs Hazel's attention with the unlit cigarette, and he never lets it go.
I loved the conversations between Hazel and Augustus, like this one:"Do you have a Wish?" he asked, referring to this organization, The Genie Foundation, which is in the business of granting sick kids one wish.
"No," I said. "I used my Wish pre-Miracle."
"What'd you do?"
I sighed loudly. "I was thirteen," I said.
"Not Disney," he said.
I said nothing.
"You did not go to Disney World."
I said nothing.
"Hazel GRACE!" he shouted. "You did not use your one dying Wish to go to Disney World with your parents."
"Also Epcot Center," I mumbled.
"Oh, my God," Augustus said. "I can't believe I have a crush on a girl with such cliche wishes."
What Augustus chooses to do with his wish only further endears him to me.
There is a horribly sad twist I didn't see coming (but I never see twists coming). The twist shocked and disturbed me--just what a good twist should do.
I can't say enough about the brilliant characterization. In addition to Hazel and Augustus, I loved the portrayal of Hazel's parents. But the real whackadoodle scene-stealing character is Peter Van Houten, author. His actions enraged me until I found out his backstory and then it all made sense. Wow.
I thought the story lagged just a tad before the twist, and I didn't appreciate Hazel spouting off memorized poems to Augustus now and then. Does anyone actually quote poetry in real life? I realize these teens are precocious beyond the pale (they've had to grow up quickly) but the poetry wasn't my favorite part of the story.
John Green is a fantastic writer. He and I attended the same small college in Ohio--Kenyon College--but I think I somehow missed taking the same English classes as him! Highly recommended.