Shailene Woodley as Hazel Grace in the movie adaptation of John Green's THE FAULT IN OUR STARS, it's about time I caught up on my reviews and wrote this one.
I finished this book over a month ago, and I have so struggled with how to write about it that I swear I just avoided it altogether. This story of Hazel Grace and Gus, two kids who have cancer who meet at a cancer support group, sounds like it's going to be one of those wrenching, rip your heart out books, and, well, it is, but it is so much more.
SO. Much. More.
I could go into the statements Green makes about life and how you live it, about parents and children, about children and parents, about boyfriends and best friends and people who you don't even know who still, somehow, make a staggering impact.
I could say this is a story that's deep without being preachy. Emotional without being maudlin. A story that's funny and poignant and touching and horrendous and REAL. But it's that last one that stood out to me and I think that's what I'll focus on: How REAL this story felt.
For those readers who have experienced cancer, I would guess they would feel the same. Green clearly gets it. I would think for "cancer kids," they would appreciate a story that truly represents the experience. On the flip side, many readers won't know what it's like to have cancer. And at first, they will probably see this as a blessing. And then they will forget all about that because they will be so swept up in Hazel Grace and Gus's story.
Augustus Waters -- the 17 year old former high school basketball star who lost his leg to cancer and who loses his heart to Hazel Grace -- 16 year old with stage 4 thyroid cancer and a miraculous experimental drug that has extended her life (but who knows for how long). Hazel Grace doesn't want to be the girlfriend who dies and leaves Gus behind and broken hearted (again), but she can't help but fall for his charming and adorable ways.
On the surface, this seems like a basic girl with cancer meets boy with cancer story. But between the pages you soon realize it's actually about what's beneath the surface -- and I don't mean the cancer. It's about falling in love by falling in love over the same book. It's about putting someone else first. It's about young love without a chance for a future and why that isn't any different that a first love most grown ups brush off as not being REAL. "When you're older, you'll understand what REAL love is."
For Hazel Grace and Gus, REAL is about now. REAL hurts and REAL is boring and REAL is heart-stoppingly amazing. All at once.
Through their pain and their laughter and their love, these kids show us that, sometimes, it's a short window of opportunity that makes something even more REAL than if life wasn't finite and the possibilities were endless.
Don't think you're going to walk away from this book without shedding some real tears, either. They just might sneak up on you.