I’m in two minds about this books. On one hand, I thought the emotional side of the story, how the writer treats terminal cancer, the depth of experience the characters go through, was full of conviction and really thought provoking. On the other hand, the characters themselves (especially wunderkind Augustus) were often unbelievable and tended to neatly perform the aims of the story, whether or not that made them less believable. My main complaint would be Augustus — mostly because I honestly don’t believe in him. People that perfect aren’t allowed to wander around outside of romance novels — and the romance in this book trod a little too close to happily-ever-after fairytales. Fortunately, Green pulls this back with a healthy dose of realism; followed by some heartbreaking emotional lows which will guarantee that you sob at some point while reading this book.
It’s a pretty smooth, easy read; a bit much overworked teenagery slang and some staged dialogue. The plot jumps about a bit and I thought it could have been better paced but this is mostly made up for with a well rounded main character who is likable and distinctive. Not that you need to be likable, but I think that makes the emotional impact of the story so much more affecting. Not sure if some of my complaints would both the target audience of teens quite so much (maybe they do use that slang in the US?) and as I’ve lent my copy to a younger reader, I may yet get a second opinion. It is a book to lend with a warning though — this is not a topic for the faint hearted and Green is not going to jolly you up with happy endings for everyone.
In the spirit of honesty — I was given a copy of this for free by Penguin who were handing it out to employees. They can’t make me read it and they can’t make me like it, but I never say no to a free book. Although it isn’t something I’d have read otherwise, it’s nice to broaden your reading pool; and in the end I think this is a book that really has some interesting things to say about both cancer, death, and being a teenager. Normally I’d avoid a book that made you miserable, except in this case the sorrow really is bittersweet. You cry and at the same time you see wonderful life can be despite the misery. All in all, a rather uplifting read.