The BUZZ: This book is everywhere. John Green is a hero of the Young Adult genre (search #TFIOS on Twitter and you’ll find thousands of tweets). Green started as a vlogger on YouTube and has written five previous novels. The movie opens in theaters on June 6.
The GIST: The narrator, Hazel, is a teenager fighting cancer who is forced by her mother to attend a support group. There she meets Augustus, who is in remission. They develop a friendship, go on an adventure, and come up against the joys and agony of loving someone deeply and of being completely vulnerable in that love.
The WRITING: Authentic. John Green pulls no punches from the opening paragraphs of this book. It’s about how ugly and terrifying cancer is, how it destroys lives, and how those who love us suffer in our suffering. It is heartbreaking and, yet, a profoundly uplifting novel. John Green must believe in humanity and love and that those things will save us from ourselves. He is an accessible, real, and highly quotable author. Here’s one pearl: “Grief does not change you, Hazel. It reveals you.” I found it refreshing to read a Young Adult novel after some heavy slogging lately in the world of literary fiction. This genre – and Green himself – cuts to the chase; this is a book about life.
BUY or BORROW?: Buy it, because you’ll want to lend it. I read it in hardcover (I actually borrowed it from my younger daughter, a big Green fan) and loved the experience of holding this book and becoming part of it. It’s that kind of work – you are drawn in immediately and are quickly comfortable with Green’s style of storytelling, which is respectful of the reader’s emotional intelligence. Loss and grief are difficult topics, and Green handles them with mastery.
You don’t get to choose if you get hurt in this world…but you do have some say in who hurts you. I like my choices.