Author: John Green Publisher: Dutton Books for Young Readers
, Penguin Teen Source: Amazon.caFormat: 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
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.
THERE ARE SO MANY.
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.
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.
There are very few books where I laugh out loud for real. I did in this one. Several times.
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?