Book Reviews

The Fault in Our Stars by: John Green


Despite the tumor-shrinking medical miracle that has bought her a few years, Hazel has never been anything but terminal, her final chapter inscribed upon diagnosis. But when a gorgeous plot twist named Augustus Waters suddenly appears at Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazel’s story is about to be completely rewritten.  (Goodreads)

The Fault in Our Stars was published in January 2012 and my neighbor raved about it every chance she could. Along with being neighbors and talking daily at the bus stop, we shared a personal connection of both losing loved ones in our twenties-at a time when you finally feel like an adult and invincible as you venture out into the world. She must have known this book would affect me deeply and I sensed it, so I did the most reasonable thing. I avoided it at every turn.

Then this year in February, I decided to pick it up and give it a try. As soon as I was finished, I texted her (she has since moved away) and well, the texts were just as emotional as our conversations. I became an instant John Green fan. More like a fanatic. I Googled him and made a list of all of his books that I would now have to read. Hours were spent on You Tube watching “The Vlog Brothers”, following him on Facebook, Twitter, his personal blog, you name it. I wanted inside his head and to hear how he wrote this story. Not only regarding the subject matter but his sense of humor and humanity intrigued me.

This blog was not in existence at that time so I talked to my friends and family about it constantly. More like I scared them away. They didn’t want to read about teens with Cancer and the way I reacted to the story, they knew it was a gut-wrencher.  They didn’t want “to go there” and I understood. So here we are and I am finally ready to revisit this amazing story. Hopefully the review will do the book justice.

Oh, John Green. I only wish I could write that well. Put my thoughts down on paper to express my feelings about something so tragic with such honesty, humor and sincerity. I have not read a book in a long time that had me laughing like a fool to sobbing uncontrollably with despair. And I mean literally sobbing. (<–“misuse of literality”?) It’s okay that other readers did not feel the same way. Not everyone comes away from a story with the same reaction. But for me, personally, I have never read a story that spoke such truth about getting dealt a horrific fate and being gutted because there is no fight to be had. The disease won’t allow it and the fear of not leaving your mark in the world is overwhelming. There might be other books out there that are deemed “better” on this topic. But, for me, TFiOS was “the one/the story” that struck a nerve. You know you’ve read something special when numerous lines are highlighted and you want to quote all the poignant parts to anyone who will listen.

“The real heroes anyway aren’t the people doing things; the real heroes are the people NOTICING things, paying attention.”

And it’s not all sadness, dear readers. There is such delicious dialogue and banter between Hazel and Gus. They are witty, passionate, kind, loving and intelligent. The scenes at Support Group and being in Hazel’s snarky mind were inappropriately funny. Nothing she said or did was rude or hurtful, but sometimes getting into the “kumbaya” mentality is too much to bear. I appreciated the honesty.

It didn’t bother me that Hazel and Gus spoke like adults with so much maturity and insight. It only added to the appeal of the story. They have Cancer, damn it! They could have spoken in tongues for all I care. It was the beautiful story of friendship, first love and navigating through devastation that left a lasting impression. 

“As he read, I fell in love the way you fall asleep: slowly, and then all at once.”

The characters? Every single one of them was developed so well even if they had a very small role. Every. Single. One. Patrick, Isaac, Kaitlyn, Peter Van Houten and their parents didn’t need starring roles to jump off the page. (Great writing, again). Gus and Hazel’s parents’ strength, honesty and fear in dealing with their “teenagery” antics was another touch of reality, that as a parent myself, created another layer of emotion.

Hazel’s favorite fictitious book, An Imperial Affliction, was a clever addition with so many parallels to TFiOS. The strong bond that Hazel and Gus felt over the book instead of only having Cancer to talk about was moving. As a book snob myself, I understand the feeling of handing over a beloved book to someone and filled with trepidation that they will not feel the same way.

“Sometimes, you read a book and it fills you with this weird evangelical zeal, and you become convinced that the shattered world will never be put back together unless and until all living humans read the book.”

TFiOS finally made me appreciate the scars in life that are worth getting even though the experiences might break you apart. The scars left are worth it. Knowing the people you’ve lost were worth it. Every heartbreaking moment was worth it. Every joke told, tear shed, kiss stolen…worth it.

“You don’t get to choose if you get hurt in this world…but you do have some say in who hurts you. I like my choices.” 

I love my choices, too.

**Exciting News: TFiOS movie is slated to begin filming in August 2013 with Shailene Woodley as Hazel and Ansel Elgort at Gus.

About the author: John Green’s first novel, Looking for Alaska, won the 2006 Michael L. Printz Award presented by the American Library Association.  His second novel, An Abundance of Katherines, was a 2007 Michael L. Printz Award Honor Book and a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. His next novel, Paper Towns, is a New York Times bestseller and won the Edgar Allen Poe Award for Best YA Mystery. In January 2012, his most recent novel, The Fault in Our Stars, was met with wide critical acclaim, unprecedented in Green’s career.  The praise included rave reviews in Time Magazine and The New York Times, on NPR, and from award-winning author Markus Zusak.  The book also topped the New York Times Children’s Paperback Bestseller list for several weeks.  Green has also coauthored a book with David Levithan called Will Grayson, Will Grayson, published in 2010.  The film rights for all his books, with the exception of Will Grayson Will Grayson, have been optioned to major Hollywood Studios.

In 2007, John and his brother Hank were the hosts of a popular internet blog, “Brotherhood 2.0,” where they discussed their lives, books and current events every day for a year except for weekends and holidays. They still keep a video blog, now called “The Vlog Brothers,” which can be found on the Nerdfighters website, or a direct link here.  (Goodreads)

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