Review by Steve Thomas
"Sometimes, you read a book and it fills you with this weird evangelical zeal, and you become convinced that the shattered world will never be put back together unless and until all living humans read the book. And then there are books which you can't tell people about, books so special and rare and yours that advertising your affection feels like a betrayal." – Hazel Grace Lancaster
When I was in college, a literature professor told my class that a book means whatever you think it means. If you can find evidence in the text to support your interpretation, then your interpretation is as valid as anyone else's, including the author's. Hazel Grace Lancaster, whose first person voice guides the reader through John Green's The Fault in Our Stars, would almost certainly agree, though she's more concerned about the ultimate fate of the characters in her favorite book, An Imperial Affliction, than the deeper meaning lurking beneath the text. Fiction, you see, is supposed to give you endings; the circles are supposed to close. Hazel knows her own life won’t have a tidy ending because, at 16 years of age, she has terminal cancer (though an experimental treatment has given her more years than expected).
Hazel philosophizes about the emptiness of life and is clinically depressed ("Depression is not a side effect of cancer. Depression is a side effect of dying."). She begrudgingly attends a support group where she meets Augustus Waters, who lost a leg to a cancer that has been in remission ever since. That they fall in love is not a spoiler but their journey into love is a fascinating reveal of what the human heart can attain ("I fell in love the way you fall asleep: slowly, then all at once."). Like the water that periodically imperils her life by filling her lungs, Waters fills her heart and soul to give her life new meaning, but Hazel fears getting too close, knowing her life will not be long ("I'm a grenade and at some point I’m going to blow up and I would like to minimize the casualties, okay?").
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