The Fault in Our Stars

The Fault in Our Stars
| Reviews > Books

The Fault in Our Stars, a YA romance by respected Nerdfighter John Green, is about a girl with cancer experiencing love and life with one foot in the grave.

Amazon hardcover: The Fault in Our Stars

The Fault in Our Stars is about a young girl named Hazel who has Stage IV thyroid cancer and is forced to go to cancer support meetings in a church basement… Where she meets a young man with osteoacroma named Augustus Waters. This sounds as though it could be Chuck Palahniuk’s Fight Club, but it is not Fight Club. Nor is it about cancer. It’s a book about triumph and self-realisation in adversity. It’s a book about wanderlust, finding love and experiencing the transition of teenagehood while living life with one foot in the grave.

Shakespeare appreciaters will notice the reference in the title (“The Fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars but in ourselves”) and his works are mentioned periodically throughout. I really liked this approach. While totally immersed in Hazel’s story, it lifted me out of the experiences of one person and into a human experience that we can all share in, regardless of what our personal life challenges are.

To be honest, in my young life of reading I’ve never yet exposed myself to YA fiction that made me think so much and so often. It constantly confounded my expectations and to experience the shock of having my assumptions broken was in itself a learning experience. My feelings towards Hazel were in constant flux, and occasionally contradicting. At times I found her annoying because she always assumed that everyone was concerned and feeling a strong sense of pity, even strangers. When Hazel and Augustus, met Peter Van Houten, the drunken recluse author whose books Hazel loves because she finds books less easy to disappoint than people, I was refreshed when he told her how sick kids demand attention and pity – but I was also offended. I constantly had to piece together my emotions while reading, thinking “Why do I feel that? What is the author trying to say? If I feel this way, what does it say about me?”

In his Nerdfighter vlog, author John Green explains that he named the main character Hazel “because it’s an in-between color and she has an in-between personality.” The contradictions in her personality made me warm to her even more. She can be laugh-out-loud funny. She’s very intelligent, and when she cusses she still sounds smart. She’s a mixture of light and dark, which makes her more believable.

The book turned, for me, after a major event. I had invested so heavily in the romance of the main characters that when this romance was deeply affected I found it hard to focus on the rest of the novel with the same depth of attachment. Having said that, when a particular eulogy is read out, I felt the way I could imagine Hazel felt after reading An Imperial Affliction, the fictional book by Peter Van Houten. I really wanted to know what happened to Hazel, her parents, Issac, Augustus’s parents… but I suspect the ending was intentional. I guess John Green (perhaps best-known for his provoking YA fiction Looking For Alaska) wanted to make you want to do the same as Hazel Grace Lancaster and Augustus Waters.

Markus Zusak (award-winning author of The Book Thief) was right in his estimation: I did laugh, I almost cried and I know I will be coming back for more!

Amazon hardcover: The Fault in Our Stars

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