At 16, Hazel Grace Lancaster, a three-year stage IV–cancer survivor, is clinically depressed. To help her deal with this, her doctor sends her to a weekly support group where she meets Augustus Waters, a fellow cancer survivor, and the two fall in love. Both kids are preternaturally intelligent, and Hazel is fascinated with a novel about cancer called An Imperial Affliction. Most particularly, she longs to know what happened to its characters after an ambiguous ending. To find out, the enterprising Augustus makes it possible for them to travel to Amsterdam, where Imperial’s author, an expatriate American, lives. What happens when they meet him must be left to readers to discover. Suffice it to say, it is significant. Writing about kids with cancer is an invitation to sentimentality and pathos—or worse, in unskilled hands, bathos. Happily, Green is able to transcend such pitfalls in his best and most ambitious novel to date. Beautifully conceived and executed, this story artfully examines the largest possible considerations—life, love, and death—with sensitivity, intelligence, honesty, and integrity. In the process, Green shows his readers what it is like to live with cancer, sometimes no more than a breath or a heartbeat away from death. But it is life that Green spiritedly celebrates here, even while acknowledging its pain. (From Booklist)
I had read several reviews of this book, mostly good, a few negative, and was excited to have a chance to read it for myself. The short answer is that I loved it. There are plenty of books out there about people dying of cancer but what I loved about this one was the relationships, primarily between Hazel and Gus, but also their mutual friend Isaac. I loved the sarcastic conversations balanced with tender emotions between people who were really struggling. One of the recurring conversations is about An Imperial Affliction and how many times Hazel has re-read it. I found it somewhat ironic that as soon as I finished reading, I wanted to read it again. In fact, just talking about it has put it back on my shelf of books to be read.
A few of my favorite quotes: