Two years post-miracle, sixteen-year-old Hazel is post-everything else, too; post-high school, post-friends and post-normalcy. And even though she could live for a long time (whatever that means), Hazel lives tethered to an oxygen tank, the tumours tenuously kept at bay with a constant chemical assault.
Enter Augustus Waters. A match made at cancer kid support group, Augustus is gorgeous, in remission, and shockingly to her, interested in Hazel. Being with Augustus is both an unexpected destination and a long-needed journey, pushing Hazel to re-examine how sickness and health, life and death, will define her and the legacy that everyone leaves behind.
Released: January 10th 2012 Pages: 313
Publisher: Dutton Books Source: Library
First Look: ***** I was very, very wary of this one. For starters, contemporary romance is not my thing. Never has been, and probably never will be. No, I'm that girl who would much rather watch Lord of the Rings than The Notebook. And yet, I had heard so much about this book. It seemed that every single person on Goodreads was singing their praises of this at the top of their lungs. Which made me even more wary, but also made me curious. Basically, I read this because I wanted to know what the big deal was, a curiosity that has gotten me into trouble in the past (Twilight, Across the Universe). Besides, I already knew who was going to die, and I figured that would lessen my reading experience. In that, I was so, so wrong. More on this later.
Setting: ***** The setting played a bit of a role, but not much. In this kind of book, that's perfectly alright. John Green's descriptions of Amsterdam were lovely, and I felt like I was there. And it made Imagine Dragons songs run through my head, which gave me mixed feelings when I finished this. The night I finished it, I had been planning on going to an Imagine Dragons concert, but tickets sold out too fast. But I digress.
Characters: ***** I thought knowing who died would make this book less impactful for me, but I was wrong. Instead, I felt myself falling in love with this character, knowing they would die. And I hated the knowing, but at the same time it made me treasure every word this character spoke, because I had no idea how much time they had left.
First, let's talk about Hazel. It's easier to talk about Hazel. I liked her at first, but I wasn't truly loving her until this happened:
"Keep your s*** together," I whispered to my lungs.
For some reason this sentence endeared me to her more than anything else. It shows a grim determination, a resilience. I admire that. I also could really connect to her love for books. I know this exact feeling: "Sometimes, you read a book and it fills you with this weird evangelical zeal, and you become convinced that the shattered world will never be put back together unless and until all living humans read the book. And then there are books like An Imperial Affliction, which you can't tell people about, books so special and rare and yours that advertising your affection feels like betrayal.”
And then there's Augustus. Oh my gosh, Augustus. One of the most adorable fictional boyfriends to ever grace this planet. He was one of those characters where at the end of the book I thought "It was an honor to read about you, Augustus".
*spoiler--highlight to read*When he died, I was heartbroken. I literally spent fifteen minutes with my face shoved into a pillow, trying to convince myself to get over it. I knew all along he was going to die, but that only made it harder. I was falling in love with him, but my mind was screaming "Don't do it, Annie! This won't end well!". But I did love him, and the death was no less heartbreaking. If anything, it was worse, because I knew it and yet it managed to take me by surprise. I spent a long time trying to convince myself that I had heard wrong somehow, but I hadn't. *end of spoiler*
Both these characters were so incredibly real. There was a brutal yet beautiful honesty to this book, and nowhere did that come through better than with the characters.
Plot: ***** Whhhhyyyyy? John Green, why must you tear your readers apart this way? WHY DID IT HAVE TO HAPPEN LIKE THAT?
Ahem. While this book was slower than what I usually read, action-wise, I was glued to every word. The beginning and middle were lovely, and Augustus and Hazel had a beautiful, tragic relationship. I loved how much Hazel wanted to meet her favorite author, and how central that was to the plot.
Augustus and Hazel's relationship was an excellent example of a situation where insta-love is, actually, appropriate. It was a healthy relationship, and realistically awkward for people that have never met each other. It fit the book, because both characters realized that they didn't have much time left, so insta-love was the only love they could have. As much as I rant about how much I hate insta-love, it occasionally works.
It's been a long time since the ending of a book turned me from a rational human being into an incoherent slushpile of feelings. *coughInheritanceTheSoldiersofHallaMonstersofMen* This is noteworthy because, though it does happen, it does not happen often.
I'm not sure what it is about this book. About the ending. Something about it hits me way too close to home. I can't describe the feeling, though I've been trying. It's like John Green has slapped you in the face and yelled at you until you burst into tears, then hands you a tissue and a vat of ice cream. It's a love-hate thing. And no matter how hard I try to figure out what on Earth makes this book affect me so much, I can't do it. I suppose, maybe, this book is utterly terrifying for teenagers. It could happen to anyone, and whether consciously or not, you realize it. It makes you aware of the ticking clock, and how at any second, the second hand could speed up.
Also, I feel like I'm obligated to do this: THE FEEEEEELS.
Uniqueness: ***** I don't read much of this genre, so I can't really speak for its uniqueness. But I'll give it five stars because it certainly affected me in a unique way.
Writing: ***** What can I say that hasn't already been said? John Green's writing makes you feel. It's eloquent in a simple way. Instead of me sitting here ranting, here are some examples:
“I believe the universe wants to be noticed. I think the universe is inprobably biased toward the consciousness, that it rewards intelligence in part because the universe enjoys its elegance being observed. And who am I, living in the middle of history, to tell the universe that it--or my observation of it--is temporary?”
“I'm in love with you, and I know that love is just a shout into the void, and that oblivion is inevitable, and that we're all doomed and that there will come a day when all our labor has been returned to dust, and I know the sun will swallow the only earth we'll ever have, and I am in love with you.”
“But it is the nature of stars to cross, and never was Shakespeare more wrong than when he has Cassius note, ‘The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars / But in ourselves.”
Likes: Why is John Green so awesome? Not only does he write fabulous books, but he also makes awesome history videos and other random videos. Also, he made a Starkid reference on live TV. Did you catch that? Starkid reference. TV. When THE Joe Moses was in the audience.
Not-so-great: Why does this The Price of Dawn book not exist in real life? I want it to. I would read it! (I looked it up on Goodreads. Just in case.)
Overall: I was cautious of this book and fully expected for it to not live up to its massive hype. I was incredibly wrong, and I'm glad of it. John Green has painted a beautiful and heartbreaking picture of teenagers whose lives are numbered, and love in the face of that tradegy. Highly recommended. PSA: If you start reading this and you don't like it, you probably won't care. But if you start reading this book and you're liking it, prepare yourself. Seriously. Brace yourselves...pain is coming. I am not joking.
There is a perfect description of how it feels to read this book right here.