Dear John Green,
This might be cheesy, but "Your book has a way of telling me what I'm feeling before I even feel it, and I've reread it dozens of times." Also, I'm 27 and kind of worry that a book marketed towards teens shouldn't make me feel this way. Dammit, where were you ten years ago? Seriously, I wish that I could just give you a hug someday for all the wonderful ways your books make me feel. Can we please, please be friends?
Okay, I haven't been this excited for a new book in a long, long time. Counting down the day, is it here yet
kind of anticipation. I've read reviews that said this was his best book, so it had a lot to live up to. And honestly, the first 50 pages had me worried. I wasn't sure I liked Hazel as much as Green's other protagonists. Maybe the problem was in the whole male-writing-a-female-narrator thing or maybe it was the sixteen-year-old-girl-whose-thyroid-cancer-has-metastasized-to-her-lungs thing, but she didn't have the zip I've come to love about John Green characters. I was also worried about the potential for excess sentimentality. I know, a YA novel with excessive sentiment? Gasp. Still, I was nervous that it would use the characters' cancer as an emotional toy or that it might ignore the realities of cancer in favor of a message of earnest hope.
But then page 111 hit, around the time Augustus received the second letter and gave it to Hazel, and I just started bawling and I couldn't stop. I mean, I know that you can't expect a book whose title is a take on the crossed celestial bodies of Shakespeare's Caesar
to be super happy. This book is sad -- very
sad. It's honest and emotional, but it's also somehow filled with a very strong sense of hope -- in the face of crossed stars, not just death -- without ever straying into hokey. It's not just that the book is about kids who have cancer. I didn't read it, as Green himself puts it, as a Cancer Book. Really. I read it as a book about teens trying to go about normal teen things even though they have cancer, and it was those normal teen things that got to me.
Just like all of John Green's protagonists, the protagonists are nerdy kids who like books and fall for other kids who like books and talk vaguely like they are in an Aaron Sorkin screenplay. That's why I love them; I'm a nerdy girl who fell for a boy just because he made a Moby Dick joke on our first date and wish I could live in an Aaron Sorkin screenplay. They're insightful and curious, they manage to balance their earnestness with their jadedness. I started underlining like a madwoman and thinking of how true Green's sentiments rang to me, even though my Difficult Shit is nowhere near Teen with Terminal Cancer on the grand scale of things. That's what I love so much about John Green.
Yeah, I had some quibbles about Hazel's characterization (the shoe shopping and the Top Model
marathons? groan) and the love story is -- as almost always in teen books -- idealistic. I didn't care. This book was fantastic, I loved it and I couldn't stop reading it. Seriously, I started it the second I got home from work and didn't move until I was done five hours later.