The Fault in Our Stars -- John Green
A note to those of you who assured me that The Fault in Our Stars wouldn't make me cry:
BLEEPITY-BLEEP BLEEPING BLEEP BLEEP. BLEEP BLEEP BLEEP. BLEEP.
I would like, very much, for one of you to come over here are make me some Serious Comfort Food right now. It's the least you could do.
As I suspect that everyone else* has already read this one, I'm not going to go into the whole synopsis thing. I'll give you ten words: girl with terminal cancer meets boy in her support group. Okay, I'll give you four more: they fall in love. Cancer is front-and-center—Hazel is, after all, terminal, and Augustus and Isaac are living with different varieties of it as well—but it's not a Cancer Book.
It's not full of platitudes—well, there are some platitudes, but they aren't ever directed at the reader—and it's not gentle. It's never gentle.
You know what got me about The Fault in Our Stars more than anything else? What made me, on more the one occasion, laugh out loud even while I was bawling**? It wasn't the witty banter or the poetry or the philosophizing or the mullings-over of mortality. It was Hazel's empathy.
Hazel—and through her, the reader, or at least, this reader—feels empathy for everyone. She doesn't eat meat because she wants to "minimize the number of deaths [she is] responsible for". She doesn't want to get close to Augustus Waters because she thinks of herself as a grenade and she'd like to "minimize casualties". She feels for the four Dutch Aron Franks who died in the Holocaust, "without museums, without historical markers, without anyone to mourn them". She feels for a girl who dumped her newly-blind boyfriend, a girl she doesn't even know, and boy who is Hazel's friend. She feels for a bitter old man who verbally abuses and disappoints her. Hell, in a way, she even feels for cancer: "Even cancer isn't a bad guy really: Cancer just wants to be alive".
I've seen, here and there, complaints about Augustus—that he's too understanding, too perfect—and, yes: maybe he is. But Hazel—not just her voice, because she was so real to me from the start that I felt physically connected to her—transcended any issues I had with Augustus as a character.
So, yeah. I'm going to go break into the Thin Mints now.
*Except my sister.
**And holy cow, I was bawling. My face hurts from all of the crying I just did.
Book source: personal copy.