I read a lot of Young Adult fiction. I realize it’s not written for my age group, but I find some of it very well-written and enjoyable. Why did I read this book? I read it because everyone has been talking about it non-stop, it’s very popular, and it’s now a major movie. I knew going into this novel that someone was going to die. Most of the reviews I read were by people saying how sad it was and how much they cried at the end. I normally shy away from those types of stories, but I kept hearing how great this book is and decided to give it a try.
Did I enjoy it? Yes and no. Probably more no than yes. Did I cry when I read it? No, not at all. I had read a number of reviews and plot summaries beforehand as I tried to decide whether or not I wanted to read it so I knew going into it who was going to die. I spent most of the book waiting for it to happen. I had guessed at how it was going to happen, but I was incorrect in my guess.
Why didn’t I love this book? I didn’t like that the author never actually describes his characters’ physical appearances. Hazel had a round face (from steroids) and green eyes. That’s all I remember him saying about how she looked. I had a hard time picturing her, and when I see the actress who portrays her in the movie, she doesn’t look 16 to me (she’s not in real life – she’s older). Augustus is described as lanky, and I think he had blue eyes. Again, I had trouble seeing this boy in my mind’s eye as I read, and that kind-of spoiled it for me. I like to “see” the characters as I read.
I didn’t like the way the author has the characters speak. I get that Hazel is supposed to be really smart, and she attends college classes at age 16, but some of the words she used were ridiculous. I graduated college with a 4.0 (I’m not stupid), and I had to look up some of the words he had her using. No one talks like that.
I didn’t like the fact that her mother who was very protective and a very involved caregiver allowed a sick 16-year old and a 17-year old to wander around by themselves in a strange foreign city. They go to Amsterdam to track down the author of Hazel’s favorite book. Mom goes one way and allows the kids to go do their own thing. I found that very improbable. I know it was supposed to be romantic, and parts of it were, but then again the characters behave as if they are in their mid-20’s and not teenagers.
I didn’t like the fact that the miracle drug that Hazel takes isn’t real. I read the author’s notes at the end of the book where he admits that he made it up. I felt deceived when I read that. As you read the book, you start to hope that such a medicine might be possible and could extend cancer patients lives by a few months or years. When I read his notes, I was disappointed.
I also didn’t care for the whole VanHouten part of the story. Hazel is obsessed with this book she has read about a cancer patient. The book she read never really ends and just stops mid-sentence. She doesn’t know if the main character in the book was supposed to have died, and she wants to know the end of the story. She wants to find the author. I thought this part of the plot went on too long. At the funeral when VanHouten just comes up and climbs into her parents’ car, I actually rolled my eyes. Her parents had never met this guy. Her Dad would have tossed this drunken guy out of his car. What the heck? There were times in the story where Hazel and Augustus were far more mature and wiser than the parents were. That was just silly to me.
Would I recommend this book? Yes, I do think it’s worth reading. Would I read it again? No. Will I go see the movie? No.