Published by Penguin Australia on January 2013
Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult
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Diagnosed with Stage IV thyroid cancer at 13, Hazel was prepared to die until, at 14, a medical miracle shrunk the tumours in her lungs… for now.
Two years post-miracle, sixteen-year-old Hazel is post-everything else, too; post-high school, post-friends and post-normalcy. And even though she could live for a long time (whatever that means), Hazel lives tethered to an oxygen tank, the tumours tenuously kept at bay with a constant chemical assault.
Enter Augustus Waters. A match made at cancer kid support group, Augustus is gorgeous, in remission, and shockingly to her, interested in Hazel. Being with Augustus is both an unexpected destination and a long-needed journey, pushing Hazel to re-examine how sickness and health, life and death, will define her and the legacy that everyone leaves behind.
“Some people don’t understand the promises they’re making when they make them,” I said.
“Right, of course. But you keep the promise anyway. That’s what love is. Love is keeping the promise anyway.”
I found this book so emotional that it took me a good week to pick up another book which is very unlike me, and it’s taken me 2 weeks to feel ready to actually put some thoughts about it in writing. I tossed up whether to read this book so many times last year when it came out as I saw nothing but stellar reviews constantly throughout 2012, but the topic of cancer is such a personal one for me having lost my mum to cancer at the end of 2010 that I wasn’t sure if I could really handle it. When I saw that Penguin Australia had it up in Netgalley for review I decided that I would take the plunge and give it ago and what a wonderful, albeit difficult read it ended up being.
What I loved most about this book was how multi faceted it was while at the same time really being very simple. The meat and bones of this book is most definitely a romance between 2 teens, though there are all these wonderful layers that are just subtlety woven in about death and dying, parenting and families, the realities of illness, how reading can affect one so personally – the list just goes on. Most likely because I am a mother and I am also pregnant and hormonal I found some of the scenes Hazel has with her mum really hard to read. There was one part where Hazel is describing when she was so very close to dying at 14, where her parents are there waiting to say goodbye and she overhears her parents talking and her mother starts crying saying “she wasn’t a mother anymore”. This had me in a pool of tears in moments, and that to me is how to sum up the very essence of this book – so many beautiful simple moments that are just so emotionally driven, reading it was honestly exhausting!
The characters of Hazel and Augustus are both lovely and while I felt that the banter between the 2 of them was perhaps a little too adult or perhaps a bit staged and melodramatic it still worked as these aren’t your run of the mill teenagers with long lives ahead of them. I was impressed with the way the author managed to pull of a female protagonist she was well done, not over the top and really incredibly strong considering all she had faced in her short life so far.
For all that this is a pretty depressing topic it is handled really well without glossing over the ugliness of illness. I read this over 2 nights and found it difficult to put down or stop thinking about. While this isn’t a book I would recommend to everyone – too many of my friends are young mums and I don’t think this is really a middle of the night feeding type book, I do think that if you are after something that will make you laugh, cry, smile and most importantly think that this is a fantastic book to read.
– This book is simply brilliant and don’t forget to have tissues nearby!