Beautiful, powerful, and funny even when it's heartbreaking. Such an amazing combination. I really love the characters, especially Hazel, the narrator, who is WONDERFUL.
The only reason I'm calling this 4.5 stars instead of 5 is that there was one fairly important section where the intensity seemed to flatten out a bit, for me, and I felt less connected to the characters than before (or after), even though I thought it ought to be one of the *most* intense sections, based on what was going on. Afterwards, I wondered if that might have actually been intentional, a kind of commentary on how that kind of situation really feels as it's being experienced in real life? If it was intentional, that's an artistic decision I can respect, and which may work well for a lot of people, but for me as a reader, it just didn't work quite as well.
Still, it was an amazing, amazing book that I really highly recommend.
ETA: OK, a few days later, I think I've finally got a handle on why I felt less engaged with the second half of the novel than the first. The thing is, in the first half, Hazel feels very much like the protagonist of the story - it's HER story, she's the center of it - and I was SO there with her, feeling all her feelings, totally engaged at every moment. In the second half, though, Hazel's role is more observer than active protagonist - it's more someone else's story than her own - so it's not surprising that I was less emotionally engaged by that half of the novel.
This is NOT necessarily a criticism of the book, though, because I honestly can't see how the author could have handled it differently, given the (very powerful) storyline, and it's still an amazing book. There were lots of wonderful, perfectly observed moments in that second half of the book, and I believed in the emotional truth of it wholeheartedly. I just wanted to write here about my realization because when I first finished the book, I closed it with a feeling of genuine confusion - WHY hadn't I been as into the second half as the first? I couldn't figure it out - and now I finally have.
And I still recommend the book very strongly. I might not have been as emotionally engaged by the second half as by the first, but I still really, really liked the second half, found the whole book important and powerful, and I LOVED the first half of it. And I bet there are readers out there who love the second half of the book best of all.