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Diagnosed with Stage IV thyroid cancer at 13, Hazel was prepared to die until, at 14, a medical miracle shrunk the tumours in her lungs... for now.When I finished The Fault in Our Stars, I was not sure that I'd review it. At the time, I'd never read another John Green book. I only finally picked up the book because I found his YouTube channel with his brother, Hank, and loved it. I have a lot of mixed feelings about TFiOS (I honestly just HAVE to shorten the title. It's so long when you write it over and over again, as I'm wont to do in a review.), though most of them are definitely positive. A lot of my complaints were explained when I sought out interviews with John Green, but I can't quite get over them. I knew immediately after finished TFiOS that I needed to read another of his books, though, to give myself some bearings. I read Looking for Alaska and found it really helped me get a handle on how I felt about this book. Odd, right? Whatever works, though. With that done, I felt able to write this review. We'll see how coherent it turns out!
Two years post-miracle, sixteen-year-old Hazel is post-everything else, too; post-high school, post-friends and post-normalcy. And even though she could live for a long time (whatever that means), Hazel lives tethered to an oxygen tank, the tumours tenuously kept at bay with a constant chemical assault.
Enter Augustus Waters. A match made at cancer kid support group, Augustus is gorgeous, in remission, and shockingly to her, interested in Hazel. Being with Augustus is both an unexpected destination and a long-needed journey, pushing Hazel to re-examine how sickness and health, life and death, will define her and the legacy that everyone leaves behind.
The Fault in Our Stars follows Hazel, a teenager with Stage IV thyroid cancer. She was slated to die years ago, but an experimental drug has prolonged her life, though everyone knows she'll die sooner rather than later. Hazel lives with the idea of leaving the lightest mark on the world she can; this means being a vegetarian, among other things. But when she meets Augustus Waters, a boy with a big name and big ideas, she begins to recreate her ideas on life, legacy, and--most importantly--death.
To be quite honest, I haven't had such an emotional response to a book--or, well, anything--in quite a while. TFiOS had me crying in quite an embarrassing way. But what's stuck with me are not really the parts that made me cry (except for the one at the gas station, maybe two-thirds in). In comparing TFiOS to Looking for Alaska, I see two very different methods of coping with death. Hazel's someone who has been preparing for death for quite a long time. She's at peace in a way many of us could never understand. She's living on borrowed time, so every day is a gift. Miles has to deal with death in the most sudden and jolting way; it's an abstract idea...until it isn't. Neither is prepared for death when it comes and watching each character break down in the ways John Green depicts is fascinating and heart-breaking.
In some ways I felt like TFiOS was searching for my tears, though. It got them, but at times it felt disingenuous. I don't know if that's my imagination, but when I read Looking for Alaska I didn't feel that same way. The emotions were raw and not analyzed in any way. I thought, "This could be me dealing with this." That was not the case with TFiOS. I know Hazel is supposed to be intelligent and the language of the book is heightened. I got all of that. But I also thought that, in my own grief, I would never find such realizations so quickly. It would take distance and time. This is just how I feel, but I held importance in my reading experience.
I can't say TFiOS is a bad book in any way. Like I said, I really enjoyed it. John Green has grown quite a bit as a writer since Looking for Alaska, though I do believe it to be a superior book. But I can definitely say TFiOS made me think and taught me more than I originally believed. I can definitely recommend it; I just think it should be read thoughtfully. (Was that a coherent review? I honestly couldn't tell you. Let me know?)