It is not often that I stumble on a book that pins me to the sofa and forbids me from looking up even once until finished. My phone continued to buzz as I buried my nose in this book, pages flying, choking up, laughing, smirking, until it was over. A fantastically written book from the perspective of a sixteen year old girl with terminal cancer. Hazel meets a boy, Augustus, at her support group; she’s got oxygen tubes up her nose to help her breathe, he’s got an amputated leg, but otherwise they are an attractive, clever couple. She dazzles him with her repartee and love of great literature, most notably the fictional An Imperial Affliction by the fictional author Peter Van Houten. Green begins the book with a quote from this fake book:
As the tide washed in, the Dutch Tulip Man faced the ocean: “Conjoiner rejoinder poisoner concealer revelator. Look at it, rising up and rising down, taking everything with it.” “What’s that?” I asked. “Water,” the Dutchman said. “Well, and time.”
The book (Imperial Affliction) deals with a girl who has cancer and her gardening mom (obsessed with tulips), who start a charity called The Anna Foundation for People with Cancer Who Want to Cure Cholera. Hazel introduces Augustus to the book and they mutually obsess over it, ending with a trip to Amsterdam to meet the reclusive author who spews obscenities at them. The author inexplicably ends up at Augustus’ funeral (oops, spoiler, but what do you expect from a book where both main characters are fighting cancer) and Hazel exhorts him to stop drinking and churn out another book.
Highly recommended for all ages.