This is the new all-time favourite of my 13yo daughter. "Mom, you've just GOT to read this!" Throughout the evening, she kept glancing sideways at me, looking to see if my tears were leaking yet, especially if I got sniffly. She fist pumped in victory when a few got squeezed out at the end.
This is such a great book for her. It captures the innocence of the early-mid teenage years, and how it crashes into cruel reality, and also how youthful innocence and optimism can still rescue the mess.
Green has created likeable smart characters, who are a bit nerdy and preternaturally verbally gifted. I kept thinking of the movie 'Juno'. They are witty, funny, charming and they love books. My daughter squealed with delight when one of the characters quoted the opening lines of T.S. Eliot's The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock. She recognised it immediately, because I have quoted them to her since she was a toddler, on many many nights when I was ushering her to bed: "Let us go then, you and I, When the evening is spread out against the sky..."
Of course the book is manipulative and a bit sentimental (in a smart-ass kind of way) -- it's impossible not to be, when the story is of kids and cancer. But at least it doesn't take on the more common syrupy tones of oh-look-how-brave-these-poor-kidswithcancer-are, but instead allows the characters to practice teenagery sarcasm as a best defense.
The pacing of the book is remarkably even throughout. It is going to make a hit movie, I think. Love, threat of death, allure of sex, charming funny characters. What's not to like?