Release Date: January 10, 2012
Publisher: Dutton Books
Age Group: Young adult
“Diagnosed with Stage IV thyroid cancer at 13, Hazel was prepared to die until, at 14, a medical miracle shrunk the tumours 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 tumours 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.”
Sometimes, I feel I’m at a disadvantage when I pick up a young adult novel to read. Sometimes, I feel like I’m right back in elementary school—the fat kid trailing behind the other students as they all rush out onto the playground, ready to start their Friday afternoon recess. My feet are tingling at the thought of jumping on and off that one swing that seems to go a little higher than the others, but I know my butt just won’t fit in the seat.
You see, there are times when I pick up a book, read the dust jacket description, and find myself immediately torn as my inner fat kid and I duke it out in a battle of needs, wants, and butts.
Me: “Wow…this sounds really good.”
IFK: “Yeah, it does. But it’s not for you.”
Me: “What do you mean it’s not for me?”
IFK: “It’s not for you. Put it back.”
Me: “But it sounds really interesting.”
IFK: “Look, you’re in your 30s. Go find some Vonnegut and leave the teen girl lit to the women.”
Me: “I want to read this, though.”
IFK: “Why? What are you gonna get out of reading a book about a teenage girl falling in love with a teenage boy?”
Me: “I don’t know, I just want to read it, I guess.”
IFK: “Trust me, it’s not for you. Your butt’s not gonna fit in that book, man, so just put it back.”
Me: “But I don’t get Vonnegut.”
IFK: “Nobody gets Vonnegut.”
And that’s generally how the war ends, coming to an emotionally crumbling stop just about as quickly as it began. I had that same back-and-forth argument when I initially picked up John Green’s The Fault in our Stars. Love story. Sixteen-year-old girl. Angst. Overbearing parents. Mysterious and handsome teenage boy. More angst. My hand was inching closer to the rack to replace the book as each item was checked off in my mind. Then I saw it. The word that made my hand stop.
That’s when I heard it. Silence. That beautiful silence. No little voice inside my head saying that this book wasn’t for me because I simply don’t fit inside.
You know why? Because, truthfully, nobody fits inside this book.
This was one world where I could visit young Hazel Grace and Augustus Waters in Indianapolis, and be just as much of an outcast as everyone else who had visited before me.
And that’s the beauty of The Fault in our Stars. Green hasn’t gone for the utterly original here (I can hear you rolling your eyes now as you mumble, Who does, anymore?), but what he does is twist the typical just enough to give us readers a reason to dive into the unknown world of teenagers dealing with cancer, while providing a safety net of the familiar love story.
There are so many YA novels that I’ve read where I thought I was getting something different, but—once I peeled back the magic, or vampires, or dystopia, or war—the characters were all the same. The characters could easily live their lives and love their counterparts in a stripped down version of themselves, as if regurgitating the same boy-and-girl-in-love story covered in a gimmick would make it any better.
But without Hazel Grace’s cancer, the story ceases to exist because that’s what’s driving everything forward, that’s the reason these two get thrown together, and that’s the reason their world is worth visiting. To me, this is what makes this book so good. The problem exists because of the characters, not despite them.
Now, it may seem like I’m gushing. And perhaps I am, so let me say this:
There were times when I felt Green’s dialogue could have been a little more…diversified. Occasionally the characters bordered on pretentious, which is a very dangerous line to draw in the sand for the main characters you’re trying to make everyone fall in love.
The dialogue wasn’t poorly written and I won’t say it’s completely unrealistic for teenagers to speak that way, it was just overwhelming at times. I really did like the inhabitants of The Fault in our Stars, but I felt like if I had known them in real life, they wouldn’t have liked me back.
So mime the violin and spit out the joke about the world’s saddest song playing for me.
Now stop, because I’m going to assume that Green wrote Hazel Grace and Augustus like that on purpose. I mean, come on, these kids have/had cancer. They probably don’t like a whole lot of things, plus they’re teenagers. Add that with having something as horrible as cancer, and you’ve got yourself an unbeatable formula for young angst.
So to sum this review up:
I really liked The Fault in our Stars.
There were so many moments between Hazel Grace and Augustus Waters that made me smile. I was genuinely rooting for them every step of the way and my own lungs ached for every struggled breath poor Hazel Grace had to take. I would say that that this book would resonate even more deeply with readers who have battled cancer, or who have had to watch a significant other battle it. I cannot imagine what kind of hell that would be, and I can only send out massive amounts of love for those who have gone through something like that.
So, okay, I really liked it. And how much did I cry at the end?
My heart broke, yes, and I was waiting to find myself crying when I put this book down, but the tears never came. And I promise you, a heart of stone doth not reside beneath this breast. I cry every time I see one of those Sarah McLachian commercials about abused dogs and I’m a sucker for a well-made musical montage in a movie. I thought John Green created a wonderful story and allowed us a terrific glimpse at a completely possible human condition, and I applaud him for that.
And perhaps, my biggest compliment to Mr. Green:
He writes a more convincing teenage girl than some female authors I’ve read recently. So, in an ocean of literature out there we can fall into, take a chance on The Fault in our Stars. And don’t worry, no matter what size your own butt is, I have a feeling it’ll still fit just fine.