This is the only book I've read by John Green, and I found his writing to be very good. This book moved me to tears, a rare occurrence for me. I can count on one hand the books that have made me cry, but I'm not particularly pleased that this one is among greats like A Tale of Two Cities and Cyrano de Bergerac. Yes, I think Green is a good writer who can power his books with love, loss, sorrow, and fear, but he put a whole lot of other stuff in there that really was completely unnecessary.
The story centers on two teens who meet at a support group for cancer kids. The narrator, Hazel, has not been without her oxygen tank since her diagnosis several years ago, and Augustus has lost one leg to bone cancer but is now healthy. Hazel knows she will not live for more than a few years, at best. Augustus it seems will live forever.
The rest of the story is about Hazel's favorite book, which is also about a cancer kid and which the author ended in the middle of a sentence, because “It portrays death truthfully. You die in the middle of your life, in the middle of a sentence.” The story is also about love, about loving when you know you will someday, perhaps very soon, lose that person. It's also a small encapsulation of life as a broadly untouched surface, as seen by these two people who are doing there best to live well while they have the time. It's an existential book, if you'll forgive the term. It is about life and death.
The characters are precocious, but somehow not annoyingly so. They both have parents who are still married to each other, and their families are close and respectful. So far, everything I have said about this book I have liked. There were two things that ruined it for me. It had a lot of language, and the kids slept together. Both could have been left out and the book would have lost none of its savor, none of its poignancy.
Augustus did believe in Something, but there were no Christian messages in the book. It went more like this:
“I believe the universe wants to be noticed. I think the universe is improbably biased toward the consciousness, that it rewards intelligence in part because the universe enjoys its elegance being observed. And who am I, living in the middle of history, to tell the universe that it-or my observation of it-is temporary?”
Such an attitude towards a conscious universe would inevitably lead to some idea, however off-center, of God. Yet only through true recognition of God through the Holy Spirit does it bear any meaning.
I wanted so much to like this book, to buy a copy and reread it and tell others to read it, but its good parts cannot override its faults. It is unfortunate.