Updated: Oct 14, 2021
Author: John Green
Total Pages: 316
Total approximate words: 91000
Holding the book with an aquatic blue cover, I am trying hard to remember where did I buy this piece of art. Part of me is considering the possibility that it might have been a handed down book from my sister, and the other part of me is thinking that I might have brought it at a thrift store. Either way it was sheer luck that I discovered the book. Only after I read it, that I realised what a catch it was! From then, John Green has become one of my favorite authors to read light hearted romance fiction.
Hazel, the narrator and the central character of the fiction, is a sixteen-year-old who suffers from terminal lung cancer. Though a teenager, her persona is relatively mature. She likes to be left alone with books, and TV for the most. Other than these, she slept a lot too. Worried that her teenage daughter was spending too much time alone, Hazel’s mother suggests that she join The Literal Heart of Jesus, a support group.
Hazel unwillingly joins the support group, even though she resented the idea of such groups. She was content spending time on her bed, watching a little TV every now and then, reading, and pondering on the inevitable death. On her first day at the support group, she meets Isaac, who was suffering from eye cancer. He was the only kid with whom, Hazel sort of got along. After a few weeks at the Support Group, she meets Augustus Waters, a seventeen-year-old, incredibly romantic and a video game lover, boy, through Isaac, when the former accompanied the later to one of the sessions. Augustus had a past with cancer, and had to amputee one of his legs to get rid of it. Augustus and Hazel instantaneously like each other, and he invites her over to watch one of his favorite movies, V for Vendetta, at his place. In return, Augustus offers to read An Imperial Affliction, one of Hazel’s favorite books, where the protagonist was a cancer patient too.
They continue seeing each other while pondering on the probable cause of the abrupt ending of the book. Since there was no other way to find out about it, other than to meet the author himself and ask him, who was residing in the Netherlands, Augustus decides to use his ‘Wish’ from the organization, The Genie Foundation, which is in the business of granting sick kids one wish, to go for a short trip to Amsterdam. He also found it amusing that Hazel used her only dying ‘Wish’ on a trip to the Disney World. The trip is almost finalized, until one night Hazel gets a throbbing pain in her head and shoulder, and is rushed to the Emergency room. She stayed in the hospital for almost a week, as they drained out the fluid from her lungs.
Meanwhile, Augustus starts corresponding with Peter Van Houten, the author of An Imperial Affliction, in order for them to meet him. Hazel, is elated at the news and gets excited to read the hand written letter posted to Augustus Waters. Although the letter had almost nothing about the ending of the book, but reading Van Houten’s words about the living and the dead, and his brief but valuable insight on Hazel’s and Augustus’s love for each other, she asks her mother to ask the doctors if she can do an international trip.
After much consultations and making sure that Hazel’s medical requirements are made through out the journey, the two along with Hazel’s mother set off to the city of freedom. As the airplane made its way to another continent, Augustus and Hazel sat together, hand in hand, watching the same movies in the entertainment system, while the clouds soared past them at 31000 feet in the sky. Before drifting to sleep, Augustus talks about how inevitable oblivion is, and how everything is meaningless from the universe’s perspective, but also, having said that, he was still convinced with the idea of being in love, and that he is in love with Hazel Grace.
After resting for the day in the hotel, Hazel and Augustus go for a dinner, at a fancy restaurant, the type where they have round tables with white table cloth on it, and serve Don Perignon. The next morning, they finally go to meet Van Houten, with all their hopes up, about finally getting to know the book’s ending. However, they meet with disappointment when Van Houten turned out to be an alcoholic and a rather rude, obnoxious and unempathetic individual. He also tells them that his letter was just a gesture and that he never really expected them to fly all the way from another continent. Determined not to spoil their trip to an otherwise beautiful place, Hazel and Augustus with the assistance of Van Houten’s assistant, Lidewij, who profusely was apologizing for her boss’s behavior, go to see Anne Frank’s Museum. The museum had a whole lot of stairs to walk and by the time the duo made it to the top, Hazel was extremely tired and Augustus’s limp didn’t help much. Despite that, the tour turned out to be a nice experience. The two were chauffeured back to the hotel by Lidewij, and they go to Augustus room. Anxious that Hazel might not like how he looked without his prosthetic, he paused for sometime in the corridor outside the elevator, before he finally said the same to her. Hazel laughed it off by telling him to ‘get over it’. The two walk in Augustus’s hotel room and spend the afternoon together, before Hazel leaves a sleeping Augustus a love letter in the form of a Venn Diagram, to go to her room that she shared with her mother.
Before the end of the trip, Hazel finds out that Augustus’s cancer has hit again, and this time it is all over everywhere, including the lining of his chest, left hip and liver. They both now know what was to become of Augustus; it was just a matter of time.
Once they were back in Indianapolis, Hazel visited Augustus everyday at his place. Their friend Isaac, who had to operate his other eye in order to get rid of the cancer, is now completely blind. He was also heartbroken as his girlfriend dumped him just before his surgery, and did not even bother to do as much as call him afterwards to know how he was doing. In an attempt to take revenge on that, the three drive to her house, and do an act of mischief by throwing eggs on her car and all over the front yard.
A few weeks followed after that with Augustus getting sicker than ever before. He is in a wheel chair, unable to eat without puking, and needs assistance in doing even the smallest things. Hazel feels bad to see Augustus pity his self-worth, but there was hardly anything that she could do, other than, to just be with him. He is eventually admitted to the hospital, and one late night Hazel gets the call from Augustus’s parents about him passing away during his sleep.
After that, it was a series of endless crying and dealing with the pain of losing the love of her life for days and weeks that followed. Peter Van Houten, realizing that he was a douchebag, shows up discreetly at Augustus’s service. He tries to talk to Hazel, but only receives her ferocity of how much she despised him. When Van Houten didn’t give up and tried sneaking in the back seat of her car, outside Isaac’s place, Hazel mellowed down, and the two talked. She learnt that Van Houten’s own daughter died of cancer at the age of eight. Listening to his share of tragedy, Hazel softens up for him and forgives him. At Issac’s place, she also learns that Augustus wrote something for her.
Hazel talks to Augustus’s parents but they didn’t seem to know anything, she also looks for it in his room, where his smell still lingered. Finally, she writes to Lidewij to ask if Augustus sent anything to Van Houten’s address. Lidewij says that she resigned from working for Van Houten, but she promises to find out about the papers.
In a few days, Hazel gets an email from Lidewij, with the scanned copies of the papers that had Augustus writings about life, love, and them and a request to compile all that in the form of a eulogy for Hazel. He actually wrote to Van Houten to write a eulogy for her, because he could not.
The book ends with Hazel reading Augustus’s writing about how he doesn’t have a choice about getting hurt, but he certainly can choose the person that hurts him. And he chose Hazel, and that he likes his choice, and he hopes Hazel likes hers too. Hazel silently says, that she does, she really does.
What I really liked in the story?
The depiction of the story itself, along with its characterization, and plot development. Since the protagonist is the narrator, it gives a lot of space to understand the mind of the central character, which is one of the fundamental things about fiction writing, from a reader’s perspective. The more the protagonist talks and mentions about the details, the more the reader is able to dive into the protagonist’s mind itself and eventually experience the story by himself/herself rather than just reading it. This specific characterization is done tremendously awesome in this book. The story is weaved so methodically that while reading, the sequence of events just seems so natural, and logical, and fall into the exact place where they should be, instead of being just put there for the sake of it or because may be the author got lazy or whatever (like tacky and patchy make up; if you know what I mean). The words used are simple and easy to understand. The plot keeps up as the story progresses. There were no unnecessary details that felt like a drag to the story.
What I didn’t like about the story?
Almost nothing. Hazel’s and Augustus’s parents seemed like the best parents in the world, especially because Asian parenting is the bang on opposite of that! So that was a bit unrelatable for me being an Indian kid. But that has less to do with the story line, and more to do with my personal perspective. Other than that, there is absolutely nothing that I didn’t like in the book.
Lines that made me smile (more than I already was!)
Out of nowhere Augustus asked, “Do you believe in an afterlife?”
“I think forever is an incorrect concept,” I answered.
He smirked. “You are an incorrect concept.”
“I know. That’s why I am being taken out of the rotation.”
‘…..Always was a promise! How can you just break the promise?’
“Sometimes people don’t understand the promises they’re making when they make them,” I said.
Isaac shot me a look. “Right, of course. But you keep the promise anyway. That’s what love is. Love is keeping the promise anyway. Don’t you believe in true love?”
“I am in love with you, and I’m not in the business of denying myself the simplest pleasure of saying true things. I’m in love with you, and I know that love is just a shout into the void, and that oblivion is inevitable, and that we’re all doomed and that there will come a day when all our labor has been returned to dust, and I know the sun will swallow the only earth we’ll ever have, and I am in love with you.”
And many many more.
If your genre is romance, and teen, this is your book! If you don’t like any of these in particular, but you still like a good story, this is your book too. Despite the fact that I don’t usually like teen genre, I would still love to devour in the happy and sad lines of these wonderful heart-warming story more than once for sure. (I actually read it three times already!) I would give it an overall rating of 7.5/10. The breakdown as follows:
Ease of reading: 9/10
Character/ Plot building: 8/10
World Building: 7/10
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This review is based on my personal reading of the book and understanding it with my own limited experiences.