This is not a book about “cancer kids” but rather a book about young teenage attitude, intellect, heart, heartbreak, and loss.
Part of me was annoyed reading this book and part of me yearned to feel the way these kids felt so deeply. Hazel meets Augustus in a cancer support group for kids. She has terminal lung cancer and he’s recovered from bone cancer. As they spend time together and learn to love each other you think about the inevitable moment when one of them will no longer be there. In the beginning you feel cynical that it’s just “young love” or infatuation. But as the characters grow together and love each other more, you begin to feel it more deeply as well. There is a moment where they are on a plane together where they tell each other “I love you.” When reading their words and thoughts I couldn’t help but feel nostalgic about that intense feeling that you have when you first realize this and tell someone you love them. Being married almost 9 years it’s been awhile since that happened. Although I am very happily married and thoroughly love my husband, it is a very different manifestation of that feeling of love. One I am happy to have! But oh so different than that newly-in-love feeling.
One other aspect of this book that resonated with me is the need for sick people to feel that they are capable. At one point Augustine drives himself to a gas station to buy cigarettes (he “not smokes” as a statement against smoking!) He obviously wasn’t capable of this at the time and paid the price with a trip to the emergency room. My mom is currently battling breast cancer, and as I help her with her recovery from different surgeries and treatments, I want to help her with everything I possibly can! But there are moments where I can tell – she just wants to do it herself! And I can resonate. Hardly a comparable circumstance, but having just had a baby, and c-section at that, there were a few weeks there where people wanted to help and help and help. And I couldn’t keep myself from feeling that I just wanted to show that I could do it myself! Maybe I get that from my mom 🙂 But how do you balance that as someone caring for someone else in need? You want them to feel empowered, but you also just want to care for them. I don’t think there’s an easy answer here… I haven’t really found it yet.
We read this book in my book club and there was positive response from everyone who read it. That said, some could not read it. You start the book knowing that it will be a sad topic. Even with the wit and humor it does get heavy at the end. Most people will be ok with this – it helps you to think about mortality and leaving your stamp on the world. But I can see how someone dealing with similar issues might not want to go there.
Overall I rate this a 4 out of 5 stars. I liked it. The writing was witty and intelligent. The story touching. Not on my favorites list, but I would pass the book on to a friend.