It’s not often that I find a book that makes me really and truly cry. In fact, I spent ten pages at least trying very hard to not cry (mainly because I was holding a signed copy of The Fault in Our Stars, and despite the 100+ dog eared pages, I wanted to preserve at least some of the integrity of the book) but really, like Looking for Alaska John Green has once again written a book that dives into the depth of human emotion, love, and the faith we all have in the world to be a good and worthwhile place.
For all three of you who haven’t picked up a copy of this YA novel, do it. Right now. Go to the library or your local bookstore and get it asap. Because you need to read this. It’s the story about a girl named Hazel Grace, who suffers from an incurable form of cancer that is slowly destroying her lungs. She has to carry around a pressurized air canister she lovingly calls Philip, and otherwise she’s just playing that slow and painful game of waiting to see when things get worse. She meets a boy named Augustus Waters at a recovery/support group for cancer kids (it’s actually super reminiscent of the beginning of Fight Club, anyone else see the parallel?) and the consequential story is of the two of them searching for meaning, hope, trust, and love.
You know, I actually got this book several months ago but it took me forever to finally pull it off a book shelf to read it. Why? Probably cowardice. Looking for Alaska is one of my favorite books of all time, and I was terrified of opening this book up and finding myself disappointed. I was dreading the feeling of deflation that comes with dashed hopes and unmet expectations, and like finding socks under the Christmas tree, I didn’t want to find that this novel wasn’t as good as my favorite.
But isn’t that exactly the sort of feeling that Augustus and Hazel have? They know that there’s nothing but socks under the Christmas tree, in fact, they’re really sucky socks that have holes in them and are all sweaty and moldy, but nevertheless, Christmas will be here sooner or later and they have to open that present. On some level, we’re all scared like that. We all dread the moment in our lives when we find out that life is either a super cool awesome toy, or a pair of old socks. Imagine if you knew you were going to get nothing but dirty socks, and you still have to act excited, because ’tis the season and your friends/family will be bummed out if you don’t share the holiday spirit.
But then again, who am I to say what they feel? I’ve never before been close to death in the way they have; a long, drawn-out, patience tearing painful event. No one can really say what they feel, until they get there. And so how are we to experience, to sympathize with these characters, when what they are experiencing is so very isolated and removed from our day-to-day lives. But isn’t that part of human conscience? That we can go share emotions, even if we have not shared the same experiences? That I can cry at the end of Augustus’s life, even though I am fully aware that he is fictional and therefore will never really die?
Let me know what you think.