At the center of the story is Hazel, who needs assistance to breathe because her lungs are very weak. She meets Augustus at a cancer support group. Their growing relationship drives the story. They become closer through an interest in Hazel’s favorite book that leaves her with too many unanswered questions. Contacting the author to find those answers becomes a shared goal for them. Through it all, they deal with a disease that could turn on them at any point.
After reading the synopsis, you might think this book sounds depressing. It is about teens with cancer, but the characters lift the story above what could easily be a dark tale. Hazel and Augustus are trying to be regular teens not defined by their disease. This is not always easy when they have frequent doctor visits, constant physical limitations and parents who, out of love and concern, hover over them with worried expressions and fear of what may happen to their children.
A bonus for me as a reader was having part of the story set in Indianapolis, where Green lives. Readers who frequent the north side of the city will recognize the many references. The book was recently optioned for a movie, and one can only hope they will film some scenes on the locations described.
For compelling stories with true-to-life teen characters, I recommend this book, and any of Green’s other books. He continues to write quality books for teens and adults, alike.
By Will Smither
Young Adult/Children’s Librarian, Westfield Washington Public Library