A really special thing started happening about two years ago which has enriched my life to no end. Having drowned my students in reading lists and excited rushes around the library thrusting books at them with maniacal enthusiasm, they began recommending books for me to read.
I really need to big up the year 9 student in my tutor group who told me to read this particular one – I don’t think it would be fair to use her real name, so we can just call her Mrs Bieber (it’s the name she would want – trust me).
Mrs Bieber told me to read this book by John Green, and then told me it was about a cancer patient. With all due respect to sufferers, I have to admit I was not especially pumped for this book. Many of my students have a deep love for what we might cruelly term “misery lit”, and I assumed this book would fall into that category.
Mrs B assured me otherwise. I took the book, and can’t thank her enough for persisting. This is a story about a cancer victim, but it has a major twist. This girl is about so much more than just her disease. She comes alive on the page effortlessly; we are invested within five pages; we really care about her as a person. We want to be her friend.
Hazel has terminal cancer, and this never once stops the reader rooting for her in life. Her death is casually assumed in her narrative voice and never dwelled upon. Through Hazel, we are continually reminded of the need to stay in the present. This story is essentially centred on her first romantic experience.
Her story is both realistic and magical all at once, and told with care and humour. The humour is vital. There are also some interestingly post-modern intertextual references to made-up books, which I am certain will posit interesting literary thoughts in more erudite minds than mine.
I will be recommending this for my students. Thanks Mrs B!