My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This is a sharp, snarky, funny, intelligent, philosophical coming of age story with a bitter twist. The three teenagers at its center–one who has to go everywhere with her oxygen tank in tow, one whose leg was amputated, and one who lost an eye–all live with advanced cancer.
Yep. It’s a funny story about kids with cancer.
It’s also touching and inspirational, but not in that sappy made-for-television movie way. The kids use wry humor to deal with their deforming, crippling disease. I get it: that is how I deal with my own metastatic cancer.
There is love interest, there are plans and schemes, there is rebellion and disobedience, there are parents to rely on and outwit, there are doctors and nurses, there is the secret language of people living with cancer. (Trudging up the stairs to the support group with oxygen tank in tow because taking the elevator is too “last days”, or asking their peers if they “go to school” as a way of finding out how advanced their disease is because being taken out of school is a sign that you don’t have much longer to live, for example.)
Hazel, Isaac and Augustus are intelligent and creative, they love to read and to play video games. They indulge the adults who don’t know how to help them (or themselves) feel better. They have wishes and dreams, and they are also realistic about what can be achieved.
I loved The Fault in Our Stars, a life-affirming book. I have advanced cancer and I have been a teenager, but never both at the same time. If I had had the misfortune to be a teenager with advanced cancer, I think I would have been a lot like Hazel. I hope I would have.