First let me say that I am and was before reading this book a fan of John Green’s and of everything he has been doing to “decrease worldsuck.”
The Fault in Our Stars, the love story of star-crossed Hazel Grace and Augustus Waters, young teenagers whose lives have been ravaged by cancer, is his latest novel and the first of Green’s books that I’ve read.
I had before reading it heard so much about The Fault in Our Stars. It’s been lauded by many as a must-read and has been on the bestseller list for many weeks. As I was warned, I had a strong hate-and-love relationship with this book while reading it. I cried and was angry with Green, and I laughed aloud even more often than I was upset.
Death hangs like a Damocles sword over the heads of so many of the characters, and Green shows how that threat effects all the characters from the protagonists to their parents to their friends who understand and their friends who don’t down to people in the food court at a mall who catch a glimpse of Hazel’s oxygen tank, a full and round cast. There is a hopelessness and sadness in the knowledge that few characters that you love here will live long or healthy lives.
Yet, their lives go on despite the disease that tries to destroy them—they live, play video games like ordinary boys, The Fault in Our Stars reads primarily like a romance—and disease brings the cast together. There is hope in the continuation of their lives.
The story tells of parents caring for a child that they know that they will lose too early and parents who have lost a child, of the devastation that a young death can cause and of the ability of a parent to move on. Though categorized as and reading like a teen book, Green does not neglect directing a message to adults.
I do not know if it’s merely that I tend to avoid this genre, but it seems to me that Green gives voice to a pretty much voiceless group, which I believe to be an important endeavor. I believe that cancer is oft talked about in our society as the great evil, the last, great American disease to be conquered, but there is little hope offered to those suffering from it. Survivors are lauded as heroes and heroines, but we speak of discovering a cure for cancer the way we speak of finding Atlantis or of planting a colony on the moon. There’s not a lot of hope beyond the example of survivors given to those suffering from the disease.
Green captures the exile of disease well. Green’s is an honest rather than a glorified look at cancer and death and disease, though he does take a rosy glass to life.
With likeable characters, intelligent banter, philosophical thoughts, and quotable one-liners, the text is enjoyable—surprisingly so for the depth of the subject matter (the nature of life, death, and immortality), the characters’ circumstances, (try explaining to people who don’t know about the book that you’re laughing aloud at a story about a group of cancer-riddled friends; they look half-scandalized), and the stilettos with which this book’s plot stomps on your poor heart.
Now something must be shared that was not shared with me and would have had me reading this book (one that’s out of my usual comfort-genres) much sooner: Augustus Waters is Jace (from Cassandra Clare’s Mortal Instruments series) with fewer thorns. Now go out and read some realistic fiction, Shadowhunters and Mundie Moms.
Green, John. The Fault in Our Stars. New York: Dutton-Penguin, 2012.
This review is not endorsed by John Green, Dutton Books, or Penguin Group, Inc. It is an independent, honest review by a reader. DFTBA.