Hazel Grace Lancaster, 16, believes that everything is a side effect of dying. Diagnosed with cancer, she goes through the motions of living, and among her frustrated efforts is attending a cancer support group for young survivors. It is there where she meets Augustus Waters, 17, who is charming and attractive and takes an instant liking to her. When Augustus offers her the opportunity of a lifetime – for Hazel and him to fly all the way to Amsterdam to meet the author of her favorite book – she agrees. Suffice to say, they fall in love. But they also fall apart.
When reading romance, I try to avoid two genres: tales that follow the star-crossed-lovers vein, and stories that deliberately induce ugly weeping. This book belongs to both. The fact that it’s a top pick among adolescents made me shy away from it until I joined a book club where this was the assigned reading. I bought the book and read the first half in November; I started reading the second half just yesterday and finished reading within 24 hours. As I’m writing this, my eyes are still heavy thanks to about an hour and fifty pages of crying. It’s true that I cry a lot, and a lot of people who’ve read this haven’t cried, but I have to say it’s a very good book. It’s a very sincere effort.
The trouble with it is that it’s hard to get into the groove of Hazel’s language. To paraphrase Honest Trailers, these teenagers talk like weird old people.
I had the feeling that the beginning of the book focused so much in trying to convince you that these characters were intelligent; therefore, they had to speak in complicated sentences about philosophical topics. Hazel Grace would argue that existential arguments are a side effect of dying, and I agree that they most probably are. But I will also insist that the beginning of the book could have been a little simpler. Simple works.
The second half of the book though is just moving and profound and sincere. You empathize with the characters because they’re not emo teenagers – they are young people who are dealing with cancer, and this struggle makes them jaded about life. John Green understands suffering and is able to express loss deeply without glamorizing or romanticizing it unnecessarily. If the first half of the book is rife with angst that seems too polished to be real, the second half is just honest and heartbreakingly so.
When Augustus hits late-stage cancer and Hazel Grace fears daily that it will be the Last Good Day of his life, it breaks you. The waiting is excruciating, and what makes it worse is the stoicism and practicality with which Hazel faces the inevitable. The book also closes with a half-promise that someday soon Hazel Grace – brave, jaded, and optimistic Hazel Grace – will die. Despite this, however, the book ends on a positive note. It ends with these beautiful words:
Chosen Quotable: You don’t get to choose if you get hurt in this world, old man, but you do have some say in who hurts you.
My copy is full of entire paragraphs highlighted in blue. I’m glad that I decided to read this book, because it really is quite worthy of the hype.
This blog gives The Fault in Our Stars 4 out of 5 stars.
Title: The Fault in Our Stars (2012).
Author: John Green.
Publisher: Dutton Books.
Genre: Teen, Drama, Romance.