Life as a live grenade, Heidi Kristono
The Book of Hat
The Book of Hat, a non-fictional book by Harriet Rowland, is a deep and humorous story taken from Rowland’s blog posts. Harriet is your normal, everyday teenager, when suddenly life becomes not so normal. She is diagnosed with osteosarcoma (cancer in the knee), which consequently puts a stop to her teenage habits – or, at least, it tries to. A metaphor which strikes deep in the book is that “cancer is like having a dog, because as long as it stays in the yard it’s okay.” Hence, the book is about Harriet’s journey trying to keep her dog in. Her constant trips to the hospital prove to be challenging for her usual habits. This book is not all about maladies, however. Despite the fact that Harriet may not live till 20, she makes many friends and experiences life. She even finds love, travels, and parties. It is through cancer that Harriet’s views and understanding of life changes.
Harriet’s approach to cancer astonishes me. She has the choice to see cancer as a depressor: a roadblock in her path. Instead, she takes it as her call to live life to the fullest and clearly does not intend on “becoming an odd child whose life is cancer. I intend to be me until the end.”
Although cancer and chemotherapy may cause her fatigue, she does not let it drag her down. She keeps on moving. Of course, she cries a few times, but it does not stop her will to live as normally as possible.
Something else that strikes me is how Harriet does not give up on anything as long as she is physically capable. “Living normally” is not easily achievable when one has cancer. Admirably, Harriet manages it all (if you ignore the fact that cancer is never normal). She goes to university, volunteers, meets celebrities etc. A quote she uses to explain it is “Life is not about waiting for the storms to pass. It’s about learning how to dance in the rain.” I find this very inspiring, because it teaches the readers not to give up easily as well.
When I first picked up this book, I was slightly frightened that it would leave me sad and depressed at the end. On the contrary, it is not possible the book would do such a thing. Harriet’s optimism fills up the pages. And although cancer and death should be morbid topics, her story does not make it so.
Initially, Rowland’s writing sounds quite mature for her age to me, but I soon realise she is at the brink of adulthood so it makes sense. I dislike Rowland’s frequent use of “sooo”, but luckily it stops towards the middle of the book. I admit that the use of “sooo” gives the book a slightly more authentic teenage tone as well. Nevertheless, the pace of the book is rather slow, the reason for this being it is written through blog posts like a diary. Thus, it takes me a while to become immersed in the book. It makes sense that it is not fast-paced, though. After all, diary entries are usually never fast-paced.
The Book of Hat is an uplifting novel that has many life lessons inside it. Altogether, this book shows me that life is beautiful. Despite cancer being a saddening topic, Harriet’s support system of friends and family make up for it all. In the beginning, Harriet’s only fear is how her possible death may affect her loved ones. Like Hazel Grace, from The Fault in Our Stars, Harriet feels like a live grenade. Many times, however, it is emphasised in the book that everyone must die at some point. Therefore, Harriet’s conclusion is she “may be a live grenade… but so is everyone” else.
I recommend this book for readers aged 14 and up. Because the book is about cancer and death, I am not too sure if younger readers should read it. I do believe, nonetheless, that adults would be able to enjoy this book as much as I do. I find this book very delightful and rate it 4 out of 5 stars.
Heidi Kristono is aged 15, and is year 11 at Wellington East Girls’ College, Wellington.