Review: The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

December 31, 2012 / 19 Comments / Review, Uncategorized

Author: John Green
Publisher: Dutton Books for Young Readers, Penguin Teen
Format: Bought

The Fault in Our Stars
Author: John Green
Publisher: Dutton Books
Format: Hardcover, 313 pages
Source: Belated birthday present from my soon-to-be sister/brother-in-law
My rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Goodreads synopsis:
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.


I must admit here that I was a teeny bit suspicious of this book. EVERYONE had told me that it was amazing, the best book of 2012, blah blah. And it’s a book about kids with cancer. Written by John Green. I knew it would be something special, but I wondered if it might be too self-consciously special, in that way that makes you think, “OMG, this author KNOWS he did something awesome, and he’s telling me that it’s the best book ever so much that I don’t want to believe him.” And indeed, at the very beginning, Gus kind of rubbed me that way. He was trying SO hard to say these grand things that Meant Something. And I called him on it. But then, I kept reading…

The Fault in Our Stars is so much more than that “special book” about a “cancer” or even a “special book about kids with cancer.” It’s a book that makes you think about living and how to live.

Every once in awhile, you come across a book that makes you think, that makes you dream about possibilities, and that really has you questioning your own worldviews. The Fault in Our Stars did that for me. For that reason, this review will be a lot more personal than my usual reviews are – and rightly so, because I believe that TFIOS is a deeply personal book, both for the author and the reader. I really believe that what resonated for me in this book may not be what resonated for others, and vice-versa.

Hazel and Gus are two of the most precocious, imaginative, beautiful teenagers I’ve had the pleasure of meeting in fiction. They are smart, sarcastic, funny, witty…everything I longed to be as a teenager. And they are shockingly secure in themselves, I think, in large part, because the horrors of cancer and terminal illness strip you down to your barest self, and make you care less about the things that used to matter.
Within the first few pages of the book, I’d fallen in love with Hazel and Gus, and I knew their romance was going to be beautiful and fragile and brief. You can’t walk into a book where kids have terminal illnesses without realizing that nothing is going to last. I knew from the beginning what was going to happen, and it didn’t even matter, because the characters were so wonderful. 
I love the fact that Hazel loves literature as much as I do, and I love the fact that she can shut Gus down with her smarts and her sass. I love the fact that she doesn’t love the Gus who makes the grand romantic gestures, but the true him. And despite my initial “srsly?” at Gus’ dialogue and behaviour, I fell in love Gus’ cigarette and basketball metaphors and his grand gestures, and his amazing love for Hazel. I love the things they learn about life together, and how literature plays into that. 
I’ve read that John Green took twelve years to write this novel, and he wanted it to be as realistic as possible about the horridness of terminal illness. If that’s the case, he both succeeded and failed. Because as much as I was disgusted and ripped apart by the descriptions of what Hazel, Gus, and Isaac had to go through, I think I was also fascinated and awed by how it shaped the way they lived their lives. I’m not saying I want to be Hazel or Gus or Isaac. God knows I don’t. But more than any other characters I’ve ever read, this is a book where people loved living and never took it for granted. And that was beautiful and special and wonderful to behold. 
There are a few things I would love to debate with John Green, such as the characters’ opposing ideas of how to live a fulfilling life – whether it matters that you died a noble death or you just noticed and appreciated things…but I can’t, so I’m writing this review instead. And hoping that you’ll be able to get something from this babbling. And thinking a lot about how I want to live my life, and what matters to me.



Heart-squeezing romance: At one point, I actually yelled, “Just kiss, already!” It’s a slow burn…but man, does Hazel and Gus’ love deliver. (Photo: katerha)

Travel: I’ve been to Amsterdam once, but I never experienced the magic that Hazel and Gus got, so I want to go back now.

Secondary character FTW: Isaac was the best. I want to play blind video games with him and help him egg a car. 

Literary references/devices: There are so many. And they’re all awesome. And there’s a fake literary reference that’s just as awesome. And there are letters. And Venn diagrams. And illustrative pictures.

The giggles: There are very few books where I laugh out loud for real. I did in this one. Several times.

The tears: At one point, I was crying so hard that I had to pause for a second. Then I started reading again, and sobbing again. This was also in the car, by the way, and my fiance wanted to pull over to comfort me, but we were getting onto the highway, so he couldn’t…so I just kept crying and reading. But it was good. Cathartic. I swear! (Photo: @Fips)

The Final Word: 

Read this novel. Marvel at Hazel Grace and Gus and their beautiful romance. And take what you can from it, because this is a book to learn from and to think about and to read again and again.

Have you read The Fault in Our Stars? Did you have epic revelations like I did? And epic tears and unputdownable-ness?

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19 responses to “Review: The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

  1. I have not yet gotten the courage to read The Fault in Our Stars yet, but I want to. I really do. I struggle with reading books with cancer as thir center, because it was something that I dealt with on a very personal level when I was a teenager. it is one of those things that has to be done right or it just makes me mad. I don't think that I need to worry about that with this one though. I think I need to just check it out already!

  2. Ah, LOVE your review. I reviewed this a couple weeks ago and could not resist adding in all the wonderful quotes. It's such a GREAT book. I was hesitant about reading it too because I saw so many good things about it, but did I want a really sad book? Yes. But gosh, I laughed out loud a few times. Loved the pictures also ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. Hey Tiff,
    Great review to a great book. Thanks for recommending it to me and I promise I'll return your copy asap. I think you are absolutely right that this book was even more about these beautiful characters than terminal illness. And they were certainly heroic, the way that Hazel worried so much about her parents well-being after she was gone and the way that Gus jumped right into loving Hazel when he knew it would be so brief. I never really thought about the fact that disease is repulsive to people and that was certainly a theme in this book. Great read, thanks for sharing it. Steph

  4. Wow. 12 years in the making. This really must be an amazing book. I should really get a copy though I prefer dark and creepy novels. This is one book I should not fail to read. I've been reading a lot good reviews for this for months!

  5. I finish The Fault of Our Stars a few weeks ago and thought it was a wonderful book. I cried, I laughed, I felt great after reading it. He really did a great job. Great review.

  6. I cannot decide if I want to read this or not yet but I am glad you enjoyed it. (By the way a lot of links to your reviews have not been working lately. Tried on 2 different computers, and on IE,Chrome and Firefox and still cannot view several.)

  7. One of the best books ever written. I agree with everything you said!! This book was emotional and beautiful and the characters felt very real. The romance was a very beautiful one to witness ๐Ÿ™‚

  8. This was such a beautiful book- have you watched the movie yet? I see that you fell in love with Hazel and Gus as fast as I did!

  9. I skimmed you review. I'm seeing a lot of good things. I am diving in the book & movie blind . . . I only know a character has cancer.

  10. I'm so glad you enjoyed this one! I agree, it's a book that really makes you reflect and think about life. The romance was cute; and I too loved the characters. The secondary characters were just as wonderful. I loved the jokes and literary references and travel as well! Lovely review ๐Ÿ™‚

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