The Fault in Our Stars
by John Green
Dutton Juvenile/January 10, 2012
Diagnosed with Stage IV thyroid cancer at 12, Hazel was prepared to die until, at 14, a medical miracle shrunk the tumors in her lungs… for now.
Two years post-miracle, sixteen-year-old Hazel is post-everything else, too; post-high school, post-friends and post-normalcy. And even though she could live for a long time (whatever that means), Hazel lives tethered to an oxygen tank, the tumors tenuously kept at bay with a constant chemical assault.
Enter Augustus Waters. A match made at cancer kid support group, Augustus is gorgeous, in remission, and shockingly to her, interested in Hazel. Being with Augustus is both an unexpected destination and a long-needed journey, pushing Hazel to re-examine how sickness and health, life and death, will define her and the legacy that everyone leaves behind. (Taken from Goodreads.)
“Late in the winter of my seventeenth year, my mother decided that I was depressed, presumably because I rarely left the house, spent quite a lot of time in bed, read the same book over and over, ate infrequently, and devoted quite a bit of my abundant free time to thinking about death.”
My Take On It
See that sentence above? That is a shining example of why I include the opening line of every book I review in my post. In that one sentence, we the reader instantly get a feel about our protagonist Hazel, thereby setting the tone of what is to come in this book. Yet, it’s not a book about death. Cancer, and how Hazel and the other characters in the book deal with it, plays a role to be sure, but this book isn’t just about that either. It is about hope and about life. It’s not merely about the business of dying, but the business of living.
I have read all of John Green’s works, but this is the first review of one of his books I have ever written. Why the wait? Well, he’s sort of a tough act to follow isn’t he? I used to waitress and tend bar at a comedy club. And I can tell you that no headlining comedian ever appreciated being outshone by his opening act. So, I guess I always felt that there was no way on this sweet earth that I could ever come up with a review that would do justice to the writing of John Green. And I still feel that way. But I couldn’t not say something in response to a book I think one day may be hailed as Green’s finest written work.
So what is it about John Green? What makes him stand out in the massive sea of authors writing YA literature today? I think it’s because no matter whose voice he writes, be it a geeky heartbroken child prodigy with a knack for anagrams; a wayward boarding school student obsessed with the famous last words of people throughout history; the geeky boy next door trying to solve the mysterious disappearance of his neighbor and childhood crush; the awkward boy who tries to act as if he doesn’t care but has a larger than life best friend who makes it his mission to prove otherwise; or a seventeen year old terminally ill girl who meets the love of her life in a cancer kids support group she has nearly given up on; no matter whose voice it is, it’s authentic. It’s someone you or I know, or could know. John Green keeps it REAL.
Hazel is the first female protagonist Green has written but I didn’t even pick up on that right away. Because it didn’t matter. Green can write the voice of a teenage girl just as effortlessly and legitimately as that of a teenage boy. Through his words he can transport a reader into the hearts and minds of his characters.
I nodded. I liked Augustus Waters. I really, really, really liked him. I liked the way his story ended with someone else. I liked his voice. I liked that he took existentially fraught free throws. I liked that he was a tenured professor in the Department of Slightly Crooked Smiles with a dual appointment in the Department of Having a Voice That Made My Skin Feel More Like Skin. And I liked that he had two names. I’ve always liked people with two names, because you get to make up your own mind what you call them. Gus or Augustus? Me, I was always just Hazel, univalent Hazel.
And what a cast of character’s he creates for us. Hazel, like many of Green’s MC’s, is the epitome of studious sarcasm. But she’s lived so long with her disease it’s become all that she is. Until she meets Augustus Waters. What can I say to express the love that I feel for Augustus? Like Tiny Cooper (Will Grayson, Will Grayson)
and Hassan Harbish (An Abundance of Katherines),
he sort of steals the show. And I am hard pressed to say that I have ever read a more romantic character in a John Green book, or any book for that matter, than Augustus Waters. He seems too good to be true, but then you remember: he’s in remission, falling for a dying girl. He doesn’t have time for small talk or small sentiments. He is loyal, generous, and kind. And like Hazel, I fell for him too.
“I’m in love with you,” he said quietly.
“Augustus,” I said.
“I am,” he said. He was staring at me, and I could see the corners of his eyes crinkling. “I’m in love with you, and I’m not in the business of denying myself the simple pleasure of saying true things. I’m in love with you, and I know that love is just a shout into the void, and that oblivion is inevitable, and that we’re all doomed and that there will come a day when all our labor has been returned to dust, and I know the sun will swallow the only earth we’ll ever have, and I am in love with you.”
Yeah. Holy. Cow.
Heartbroken friend and fellow gamer Isaac is also really well written and through him we see other facets of Hazel and Gus’ personality. I also loved the inclusion of Hazel’s parents in this book. Parental figures don’t always play a large role in Green’s books, but I absolutely adore Hazel’s mom and dad. I’m a mom, and this book hit me hard in that regard. The sacrifices that her parents make to give their daughter as normal a life as possible coupled with the guilt Hazel feels for being such a stress and emotional burden on her parents is heartbreaking. But even in that heartbreak, there are still moments of profound hope and joy and love.
So, in closing, John Green has done it again. I loved this book and chose to write about it because it made me laugh out loud. It made me cry my eyes out. I grinned and I swooned. I ran the full gamut of emotions. And I walked away feeling changed. It’s not a book about cancer and loss and death. It’s a book about life. Read it.