If you haunt the twitter AT ALL you are aware that all tweets vis-a-vis TFioS are something along the lines of THIS BOOK RUINED ME. The cake is not, in this case, a lie. This book ruined me.
Ok so remember that time I had thyroid cancer and I was all, Be cool, internets, it’s not the kind that kills you? 16-year-old Hazel has the kind that kills you (by jaunting off to and camping out in your lungs), and through a medical miracle it is only killing her rather than having killed. That is to say, she is not dead YET.
And then she meets Augustus Waters, who had osteosarcoma and is now short a leg but long on HANDSOMENESS and WIT. And there is much banter.
It’s hard to say what the plot is, really. Hazel and Augustus read this book about a girl with cancer and it ends mid-sentence and they are PISSED to the point of wasting Augustus’ Make-a-Wish wish on travelling to Amsterdam to find the reclusive author to ask him what happens to all the other characters and I feel you on this one, guys, because I used to read a lot of Margaret Atwood and there was no one quite like MargAt for leaving you hanging. But at A Certain Point in Fault you realize that ending mid-sentence is maybe the more merciful route, because to go on is unmercifully hard. The bit after The Thing happens feels interminable, but obviously it terminates, and I can’t stop making terminal puns because I am so sad. I refuse to look up any synonyms and will just keep saying ‘sad’ a lot.
I love this book for the reasons I loved 50/50, for the amusements. People are Distinctly And Understandably Uncomfortable making the cancer jokes, and yet! Someone needs to say things like ‘Osteosarcoma sometimes takes a limb to check you out. Then, if it likes you, it takes the rest.’ Firstly because cancer jokes are HILARIOUS and secondly because they Help You Deal (ok, they help ME deal. And even *I* feel uncomfortable making them because I don’t know your life and what if your mom has, like, pancreatic cancer? That is way less funny than my franken-neck). But lulz with a sprinkle of weepies are the salted caramel of the literary world, in that I will NEVER GET TIRED OF IT even as the world moves on to, like, mini pies. Make me laugh and then CRUSH MY HEART and I will kiss your ring forever.
And it’s real and not-real in all the best ways. The dialogue and the interactions are too clever and sharp to be realistic, because who wants book-people to talk like actual people? Actual people are boring as hayul, especially if you just sort of follow them around for several months. But the PULSING HEART is real, the tone is real, the timidity and the anger and the hope and the SADNESS, they are so real.
And then, this will sound bats, but there are some crazily romantic moments. Not the grand gesturey ones, but the ‘It would be a privilege to have my heart broken by you’ ones. And then there are the moments when someone is quoting Shakespeare, all ‘The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars/But in ourselves’ where it all comes home to you how hopelessly fucking sad it all is. And that is when you cry, even though it’s still the middle of the book and nothing (comparatively) tragic has happened yet (except for all the teenage-cancer-having).
And, as Ana points out, this isn’t a Cancer Book so much as a Book About People Who Have Cancer But Also Other Character Points. In fact, it is deliberately ABOUT those other points, about what it means to have cancer but not let that define you. Also, it is hilarious? Also sad. I am a broken record. John Green, you have LOOKING FOR ALASKA’d me all over again, only more so!
Nine caterpillars. Hot cancery damn.