I resisted reading this book for really stupid reasons. John and Hank Green have a youtube blog that I first found entertaining but then, increasingly, annoying. This is in it itself was not a problem, but their fans (including a couple of my friends) are crazy enthusiastic about everything they do, including this book. Again, this isn’t a problem. I’m just someone who really dislikes doing something when everyone tells me how great it is. That’s why I took so long with Wolf Hall, Girls, Japanese food and, like these now wonderful parts of my life, I regret not getting to The Fault in our Stars earlier.
TFiOS begins with sixteen year old cancer patient Hazel being forced by her parents to go support group. Which ultimately pays off for her because she meets charismatic and super attractive Augustus Waters. I don’t want to say too much more because, you know, spoilers, but the plot points aren’t really the crux of the novel anyway. It’s about love and chance and empathy and tragedy as the two young people are forced to deal with a really harsh reality that no-one should have to deal with, let alone people who aren’t legally allowed to drink. Hazel and Augustus are philosophical and way too smart, as well as caring and honest and all the other things that cancer patients are supposed to be. But there are also the other emotions that you expect but that can get glossed over in Moving Cancer Stories, like scared, angry, rebellious and hilarious. The writing feels like all the things I wish I’d said when I was sixteen, in fact all the things I wish I could come up with now. It’s obviously also sad and unfair.
In a way it’s also the same kind of manipulative as The Art of Fielding in that there are no unlikeable characters, only charming, funny, clever people you’d like to be friends with and want only the best for. In this novel, as Hazel says, not even cancer is the bad guy – it’s just trying to survive. The one cancer patient who is a jerk (as any people, sick or not, are allowed to be) is revealed only allegorically. But ultimately it’s a book that made me laugh and cry at unexpected moments and a moving and humanising experience.