I was initially not interested in reading John Green's latest young adult novel, The Fault in Our Stars. Although I've enjoyed several of his other books (An Abundance of Katherines, Paper Towns, Let It Snow: Three Holiday Romances), the notion of a book written from the perspective of a girl with terminal cancer did not immediately appeal. However, I kept running across The Fault in Our Stars listed as a favorite January read by people I trusted (like Franki Sibberson and Mary Lee Hahn), and I eventually decided to give it a look. And I was quite impressed. The Fault in Our Stars is without question the most quotable book that I've read in a long time. I agree with feedback that I've seen elsewhere that the ending is somewhat predictable. But it's still undeniably moving. And the book overall carries Green's trademark mix of witty, intellectual banter and humor.
The Fault in Our Stars is a love story. Sixteen-year-old Hazel started out with thyroid cancer when she was thirteen. The cancer migrated to her lungs, and she nearly died. Thanks to a miracle drug, she is hanging on. Struggling every day for breath, unable to go to school, and highly dependent on her mother, but hanging on.
Hazel's "third best friend" is Peter Van Houten, a reclusive author who she has never met, who wrote a book about dying of cancer that has become Hazel's Bible. Her limited circle expands, however, when Hazel meets Augustus Waters in support group. Augustus (sometimes called Gus), has lost a leg to osteosarcoma, but is doing well, positively vibrant with health and energy. Augustus and Hazel slowly become friends, and then more than friends. And (this is a John Green novel after all) they go on an expectation-confounding road trip. Health issues, however, overshadow all.
It's almost impossible to pick quotes to represent this book - there are so many. They range from casual little asides, like:
"I don't know why boys expect us to like boy movies. We don't expect them to like girl movies."
to deep thoughts, like:
"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."
"Most of the time, I could forget about it, but the inexorable truth is this: They might be glad to have me around, but I was the alpha and omega of my parents' suffering."
I do think that it's different to read The Fault in Our Stars as an adult, particularly as a parent, than it would be to read it as a teen. Hazel worries about the impact that her death will have on her parents. But the book is still (as it should be) about how she copes with that responsibility, rather than about how her parents cope with it. John Green writes in this book about incredibly bright teens, with improbably vocabularies and bookish interests. But they are still teens. Green has a real gift for keeping that aspect of the book real.
I don't know what else to say about this book that hasn't already been said. It's brilliant and heartbreaking. The Fault in Our Stars will make readers think about their own mortality, while encouraging them to seize the day, and take responsibility for their own choices. It's not an easy read, either emotionally or intellectually. But it is well worth the effort. Highly recommended, for teens and adults.
Publisher: Dutton Juvenile (@ThePenguinPeeps)
Publication Date: January 10, 2012
Source of Book: Bought it on Kindle
© 2012 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through Amazon links may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).