I knew about this book. Read about it right when it came out earlier this year. It's by John Green who's a great writer. It's about teenage cancer victims, which is depressing. Everyone said it was amazing.
Lev Grossman, the Times book critic, gushed in a way I'd never seen before. Grossman, a successful novelist in his own right, raved that this was the perfect example of why YA fiction is taking off, because it's wonderful storytelling without self-conscious pretensions and long, boring descriptions. He also said that he reads a ton of books and he can't remember the last time he cried reading one until TFIOS.
I said, no thanks.
I get really into my characters when I read. I develop a highly personal relationship. I don't need to go in knowing something awful is going to happen to them.
Then more people said it was wonderful, amazingly good. Months went by. I was in Barnes and Noble, trolling for books and I saw it. I thought, I'll just pick and read the first few pages, to see what all the fuss is about.
Because Green, darn him, hooks you from the first page. By the end of Chapter One, I was a goner. I was charmed and half in love with Hazel and Augustus, and come hell or high water, I needed to find out what happened next.
I won't lie to you. You have to be brave to read this book. Or as my husband--who saw me weeping at midnight, and then some more at seven in the morning as I picked up where I left off--would say, masochistic. Hazel and Augustus broke my heart about seventeen times over the course of 300 pages. But I'm here to tell you, it was worth it.
I do not go out of my way to read sad books. And there's no denying or avoiding the senseless tragady of cancer, especially at a young age. But Green's characters transend their lot in life. They're looking head on at questions that hover in the back of all of our minds. We're all going to die one day. Every one of us. We all want to find love, a purpose, to mean something before that happens. We just think we have years to get around to that, and they know that they don't.
And it's funny. I couldn't believe how often I laughed--watery, teary chuckles maybe--but still, damn funny.
So gird your loins. Set aside a nice long weekend. Stock up on tissues. And read it.