(Warning: The blurb of this book is misleading.) On the back cover, this book is compared to ‘The Fault in Our Stars’. Normally, comparing a contemporary book with John Green is a risky business, as A LOT of people in the world love TFIOS. However, I’d say the only similarity with John Green’s most famous novel is that the two main characters have cancer. That’s like comparing Shadow and Bone with The Selection, because they both have a female protagonist!
Francis, our protagonist, gets cancer. Unlike TFIOS, we experience his journey from diagnosis to semi-recovery. Amber, his love interest, acts as Augustus Waters. (We all know how that ends….maybe the comparison was more accurate after all?) Minor characters play a big role in the book, especially Francis’ family, Chris, his brother and Julie, his mother. This book is more about coping with cancer and how it manages to completely change family life, but in reality, a lot stays the same. It was banal to read in some places because it was just so average. I guess that makes it true-to-life, but I was expecting something a little more adventurous than what I got.
As with Hazel and Gus, it was hard to discern whether Francis and Amber were in a relationship because they genuinely loved each other, or if it was just convenient, in order to experience a relationship before the end. The two didn’t go over the top with romantic gestures or actions. As with most of the plot, it was an average love story and left me wanting a little more. The book was alternately titled ‘The Brilliant Light of Amber Sunrise’, which suggests Amber is more manic-pixie-dream-girl, when in reality, she’s just a girl with a new-age mother interested in crystal healing techniques.
As this was a short book, you couldn’t really get to know the characters in that much depth. I don’t think the experience of being diagnosed with cancer actually changed Francis. He didn’t go through any magical character development when he was cured, realising that life’s too short. Amber didn’t change him either, she was just his girlfriend, not his spirit guide. It was interesting to read something so…normal, for lack of a better word.
One thing I took away from this book was an excellent character analysis quote:
“Boys like him were, essentially, pasta. Everyone thought they loved him because they had never been forced to experience the true blandness of him on his own.”
I had to read this out to my family, it seemed so true. So, when I read the next 150 pages, I was disappointed that this witty writing style wasn’t the consistent style. If it had been filled with little gems like this, then I definitely would have enjoyed it more.
Overall, I’d give this book 2 stars. Not because it wasn’t enjoyable, but because I think it will be easy to forget. Nothing much actually happened in this book. What did happen was ‘nice’, but, like pasta, I was always told in primary school that ‘nice’ was a bland adjective.