November 8, 2013

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

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, because you get to make up your mind what you call them: Gus or Augustus? Me, I was always just Hazel, univalent Hazel.
-from The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

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One of the best things that has happened to me since plugging into the book review blogging world is that I have been exposed to books and authors outside of the rock from under which I've been living. Case in point: John Green. Obviously I've seen his books around for years, but why I had never actually read one is beyond me. After reading The Fault in Our Stars, I plan on reading much more John Green in the future.

In this witty and emotionally insightful novel, 16-year old Hazel maneuvers through life with terminal cancer (and her ever-present oxygen tank). Keeping her social circle small so that her anticipated passing doesn't affect any more people than necessary, Hazel's world changes when she meets Augustus at a cancer support meeting. Though Augustus is in remission, their mutual experience living with cancer catalyzes their relationship and injects more life into the both of them than any medication can. Written with an emotional poignancy that few contemporary novels have come close to replicating on this subject, John Green's The Fault in Our Stars has more life in its pages than its subject matter may imply. 

There are many topics in literature that I wouldn't recommend an author tackle without sincere writing talent and acute caution; one, of course, is cancer. There are far too many sensitivities associated with this painful disease to gamble with writing something trite or insincere. All that said, I'm so pleased that John Green was successful in crafting a novel that handles the topic of cancer with the love, care and expertise it deserves and honors those affected by cancer in such a beautiful and honest way.

There are very little ways in which Hazel resembles a healthy teenager: she is extra sensitive to her interactions with her parents who she is well-aware will be left childless once she passes; she is no longer able to attend normal high school; even her appearance is unable to be masked as she is forced to tote around an oxygen tank and be subjected to stares. But despite her cancer-related trials, Green still presents a 16-year old girl who can become frustrated with her parents, who marathons America's Next Top Model, and who is expertly capable of falling for a cute boy.

Hazel and Augustus are both especially memorable characters because of their insight into life far advanced for their ages, most powerfully their selflessness. Instead of embarking on a romance with a boy who likes her, Hazel distances herself from Augustus because she doesn't want to hurt him when she passes away. While flirting via text she says, "I pictured him at my funeral, and that helped me text properly." Images such as these really helped me as a reader, who has virtually been unaffected by cancer, get straight into Hazel's mindset, anticipating the end of her short life at any time. Augustus especially struggles with leaving a mark on the world, a task highlighted by the ticking clock of cancer. The idea of leaving a mark on the world is universal; however, viewed amongst the backdrop of cancer, the mortality of every person is brought more clearly into view.

On the other end of the spectrum, John Green's writing is also hilarious and poignant that it makes up for the amount of tears you may cry while reading. One of my favorite lines in the novel is, "What a slut time is. She screws everybody". Similarly, Augustus beautifully tells Hazel, "You are so busy being you that you have no idea how utterly unprecedented you are." Without Green's emotionally affecting writing, I think this novel would have fallen flat; however, it's his carefully crafted words that allow readers to identify so strongly with Hazel and Augustus, no matter where they are or have been in relation to cancer.

Bottom Line: A must read for anybody, just keep a box of tissues nearby! 5/5 Stars.

P.S. I can't wait for the movie next year!!


  1. i've been considering to buy this book but not sure if i would like this one. i think i will, now

  2. I didn't really love this one, but I'm really glad you loved it! I think I gave it 3 stars, so I didn't hate it either, but I'm not fond of his writing in general. It did make me sob like crazy though!

  3. I loved this book! The relationship was so tender and the dialogue was very believable. I found it to be a really emotional read, and when I read it, it was just what I needed to shake me out of my reading doldrums. I hope the movie is good…


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