This book made me cry like onions. Not wracking sobs that necessitate throwing the book to the ground while you get them all out, but a steady stream of just-bearable tears constantly pouring from my eyes. I kept reading through the tears because, like onions, this book is exquisite and worth every minute of pain. It also made me laugh through my tears, like my husband when I am cutting onions.
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
I can’t even remember the last time a book made me cry. Maybe never. I don’t read cancer books, or books about the sick or suffering in general, because I can’t deal. I am a very smart person, like, abnormally smart. I am not especially pretty, funny, nice, athletic, cool, charismatic, polite, or easygoing. I have a surplus of only two traits: brains and empathy. The surplus of brains means that many people encouraged me to become a doctor in my youth, something which I didn’t consider for a single instant because of my other surplus. I cannot bear people suffering. Heartbreak, disappointment, massive head trauma, skinned knee, whatever. Doesn’t matter. Can’t handle it.
So, when I saw this novel about the relationship between a couple of teens with cancer popping up on all my favorite book blogs, I was very reluctant to place it on my to-read list. Having read the whole thing in less than one day, I can confidently state two things: John Green is a dick, and you should read this book.
What could possibly cause me to besmirch the name of an innocent YA author such as Mr. Green? He is ridiculously talented, and he knows it. Also, people who make me cry make me mad. There is not a single cheap tear to be had in this whole novel. No lingering hugs at dawn, empowering speeches, or Hallmark schmaltz: this book is bitterly painful from the bottom of its heart to the depths of its stomach. Just when it’s getting too painful to bear, it gets hysterically funny. Something insane will happen right as the lump in your throat reaches critical mass and you will be guffawing through your tears. Literally laughing out loud is another thing I don’t often do while reading novels, but my husband could hear me doing so from two rooms away.
Hazel Grace Lancaster and Augustus Waters meet-morbid at a support group meeting for kids living with cancer. Hazel is terminal, it’s a question of when not if. Gus is a one-legged special guest, former basketball-star and osteosarcoma survivor, attending at the request of the one-eyed, soon-to-be-blind Isaaac. Yeah, it’s not your typical light’n’fluffy romance. It’s also not a “Manic Pixie Dream Girl with terminal illness forever changes the rakish hero before kicking the bucket” romance. Hazel and Augustus fall in love in between dealing with full-body tumor scans and oxygen tanks, and the glory of it outshines the clock ticking in the background for our guarded heroine. This is a raw and real look at what it means to be a kid who has few illusions left, one who doesn’t have the option of hoping it will all turn out all alright in the end, and deciding to live anyway. It is also a book about love, familial and romantic, and its power to wound and heal.
It is resonant.