Late in the winter of my seventeenth year, my mother decided I was depressed, presumably because I rarely left the house, spent quite a lot of time in bed, read the same book over and over, ate infrequently, and devoted quite a bit of my abundant free time to thinking about death.
Whenever you read a cancer booklet or website or whatever, they always list depression among the side effects of cancer. But, in fact, depression is not a side effect of cancer. Depression is a side effect of dying.(Cancer is also a side effect of dying. Almost everything is really.) But my mom believed I required treatment, so she took me to my Regular Doctor Jim, who agreed that I was verbally swimming in a paralysing and totally clinical depression, and that therefore my meds should be adjusted and also I should attend a weekly Support Group.
Published by Penguin 2013
Pages – 313
Despite the tumour-shrinking medical miracle that has bought her a few years, Hazel has never been anything but terminal, her final chapter inscribed upon diagnosis. But when a gorgeous plot twist named Augustus Waters suddenly appears at Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazel's story is about to be completely rewritten.
I first picked up this book before all the hype and adulation now heaped on it. I read the first few pages, and put it down again, thinking I didn’t want to read a depressing book about someone dying from cancer. I was wrong and I’m so glad I picked it up again this year. It is not depressing, it’s uplifting, it’s sad, but it’s also funny, it’s heart-breaking but also heart-warming. And it is written by John Green, who is such an amazing writer, that you want to read it almost as much as for his beautiful way with words, as the story itself.
Except it’s such a brilliant story, it’s impossible to stop once started. Hazel and Augustus seem so believable and real. They are cancer-sufferers, but so much more than that, they are American teenagers, brought together by their cancer support group, who refuse to be defined by their illness, who share a zest for life, video games and a growing love, despite the turmoil this brings – for how can you possibly allow anyone to get close when your life feels like a grenade that will explode when you die, devastating everyone near you?
This is a book about life and our impact on the world, about taking responsibility for our own actions and making the most of the hand life deals. Light and witty as well as serious and sad, it delves into the lives of families touched by cancer as well as the sufferers themselves. It is funny, sharp, poignant, irreverent and insightful. Above all, it is life-affirming and achingly beautiful. Do read it, whatever age you are. You won’t regret it.