The Fault in Our Stars
I’ll admit that I’m a John Green junkie. I loved Paper Towns and An Abundance of Katherines, which were both deliciously angsty and witty. I love me some wit. Green moved off my radar for a couple of years for no particular reason other than life happening. Then a friend mentioned his Crash Course videos on YouTube, which I watched and loved. They’re like 10 minute biology or world history courses by the cool teacher at school who always makes things interesting enough to remember later. Watching those reminded me again of how much I enjoy Green’s lightning fast humor and overwhelming nerdiness. John and his brother, Hank, have made an industry out of turning nerdiness into cool. We all knew it was going to happen someday anyway, right? I’m all for it.
Pretty soon I was subscribed to the Crash Course channel, then the Vlog Brothers channel, also done by John and Hank Green, then The Lizzie Bennet diaries, which is a modern retelling of Pride and Prejudice via vlogging (a hoot), also a Hank Green production. I’m obviously overdosing on the Green family, but I don’t mind a bit. Whether or not I agree with every political bent, they are at least super funny about it. And I’m a sucker for super funny! And nerdy funny! They had me at the invented word “nerdfighter”.
John Green’s newest book, The Fault In Our Stars, just came out in January and since I was overdosing myself with Green brothers genius, I decided to give that a read too. I was not prepared for this book. I knew it had something to do with teenagers and cancer, but I was not ready for loving these characters as quickly and thoroughly as I did, so having the subject matter be so serious ate away at me. Sixteen-year-old Hazel Lancaster and seventeen-year-old Augustus Waters meet at a cancer support group for kids. Hazel’s thyroid cancer is held at bay for the indeterminate future by a miracle drug, while Augustus is in remission from bone cancer, after having had his leg amputated. Augustus is shockingly handsome and interested in Hazel, much to her shock and surprise. Hazel is tethered to an oxygen tank for the rest of her life since no miracle drug can undo the damage already done to her lungs, and has spent the last several years at home, doing school with her mom and obsessing over her favorite novel, An Imperial Affliction by the fictional Peter Van Houten. The book is about another girl with cancer and ends tauntingly mid-sentence. The book torments Hazel and after she and Augustus bond over the book, they end up in Amsterdam to hunt down its reclusive author.
Van Houten wasn’t what they expected or hoped for and they return home. Life begins to unravel, though. Hazel and Augustus ask so much of each other and hang on so tightly that I could almost physically feel it. They both learn so much about what it means to be sick or healthy and what defines them. Cancer is this huge, looming shadow over both their lives, taking up every inch of space and yet, they find ways to be happy and see other people as they truly are. What’s wonderful is that Green was able to thread humor throughout, never making it feel forced. And that’s life, right? Tragedy and comedy all rolled up together.
This book made my heart ache. I felt consumed by it when I reached the end and in fact, I think I told a friend that the book ate me alive. It was so beautiful and agonizing that I felt empty when I finished, like it sucked out every last emotion I was capable of feeling. Hopefully this paragraph isn’t going to keep anyone from reading the book, but if you’re looking for something light, this shouldn’t be your choice. If you’re looking for something that will make you cry, this is a sure bet. But I hate crying needlessly and wouldn’t recommend a book that wasn’t worth the tears. This one is worth every drop.
For some more blurbs of reviews, check out John Green’s website. Those snippets say it even better than I can.
On an additional side note, this a young adult novel that leans more to the adult in regards to language and content. I’d say give your teenager some time before recommending it to them.