Hazel is 16 and dying of cancer. Sure, she’s taken a miracle drug that’s prolonged her life, but she does not mince the facts: she has cancer and her lungs are “crap.” Tethered to an oxygen tube, she basically exists, waiting to die. That is, until she meets Augustus Waters. Hot, amazing, full-of-life (even though he’s lost a leg to cancer) Augustus Waters. He introduces Hazel to the joy that is a life — even one that’s filled with cancer — lived. We get to watch them slowly fall in love, as they share Thoughts, Books, Ideas, and Hopes and Fears. Sure, there’s an improbable trip (cancer perk!) to Amsterdam to meet the (horribly grumpy and somewhat cruel, though he does redeem himself a bit by the end) author of the book that Hazel adores (and Augustus grew to love as well).
But it’s mostly one of those books that Makes You Think. John Green’s writing has gotten better over the years: this book is not pretentious. Really. The emotions are honest; the cynicism, the reflections, the quoting of improbably sophisticated literature all works in this context. And yes, it is heartbreaking and hilarious, as everyone promises.
In other words, if you want the best that John Green has to offer, this is it.
Rated: Moderate for mild swearing, one instance of the f-word, and tasteful teenage sex (they have it once, but it’s entirely off screen).