I don’t even know if I should bother reviewing this book. Honestly. There’s maybe one thousand reviews out there telling you to read this book. John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars is only a year old. Every single copy of this book is checked out in the entire Chicago public library system. I had to borrow it from my friend Lindsay. Chances are, you have already read this book. But I’m going to go ahead and review it anyway because it’s the first piece of fiction that I’ve read in something like three months and I read it in approximately two days.
It is no secret to you that I have a hard time putting books down, even when they’re not…good. But this book is good. It’s a novel about a teenage girl, Hazel, who happens to be living with cancer, falling for a boy named Augustus, whose cancer took his leg before he meets Hazel. She loans him a fictional book, also narrated from the view of a girl with cancer, whose book ends mid-sentence, intentionally. They track down the author of the book, who now lives in Holland, and are promised that if they can make it to Holland, he will tell them what happens to the girl’s family and pet hamster. This is the set up…the rest is too spoiler laden, I think, so I’ll talk more generally for the rest of the post about my reactions to the book.
A common critique I’ve read of John Green is that he tends to write manic pixie dream girls when he includes female characters, or at least rarely passes the Bechdel test. This book does pass the Bechdel test, at least in the sense that since Hazel is the narrator and she talks to her mother about her cancer. But…there are ways in which I don’t know how I feel about Hazel as a character. She is ostensibly female, but I swear, if you just swapped her and Augustus’ genders, the book wouldn’t be any different. Maybe that’s a good sign, that Hazel is being written as a person first.
I was warned that it would make me cry, and it didn’t quite. I can’t talk about the specific scene without spoiling, but suffice to say, it reflected my own life experiences in a way that was very real, very moving, but not so moving that I allowed myself to cry on the bus. Cause I’m not that person yet. It is mostly, though, a funny book, with characters who are well fleshed out, and respond in ways that feel like the people I know.