As the second of John Green’s books that I have had a chance to read, The Fault in Our Stars did not disappoint. Written from the perspective of the 16 year old Hazel Lancaster who is diagnosed with a type of terminal thyroid cancer, it recounts her experiences in falling in love with the 17 year old Augustus Waters, an amputee who is recovering from osteosarcoma, after their chance meeting at a Cancer Kid Support Group.
Although this book is about cancer and the two main character’s experiences with it, it is not a “cancer book.” It is not a book of just tragedy, or a book of just recovery or regret. Instead, The Fault in Our Stars holds valuable insight to the perspectives one would not usually attribute with those who are fighting cancer or another terminal disease. In stark realism to other stories of its type, Green portrays Hazel and Augustus struggling together with observations about the fragility of life, the importance of humor, and the wisdom of death (or the looming threat of it); finally in the end, each reaching their own conclusions about what these subjects signify within their lives.
Green has lived up to every expectation, and has even surpassed some of those I held while beginning to read this book. Even with just two paragraphs into the book, it delivers an incredibly insightful observation cloaked within Green’s down-to-earth writing style:
“Whenever you read a cancer booklet or website or whatever, they always list depression among the side effects of cancer. But, in fact, depression is not a side effect of cancer. Depression is a side effect of dying. (Cancer is also a side effect of dying. Almost everything is, really.)”
Green writes with an incredible tenacity creating characters that are intensely fleshed out, vividly real, complex, and beautifully illustrated, transporting the reader into the shoes of both Hazel and Augustus, allowing for empathizing and connection with them on all levels. His ability of description also lends itself to create beautiful illustrations of the locations that play important roles within the story line making it easy for the reader to imagine themselves in the both the far reaches of where their favorite writer resides in Amsterdam, and in the closer homes or even bedrooms of the characters.
Despite the somewhat distant subject matter of these two teens fighting against cancer, Green manages to pull in the readers with the incredible points of realism and relatedness that they can hold with the characters. He also provides the perfect balance of humor and tragedy, the intense humor within the first half of the novel only serving to make the luminous final pages even more beautiful and heartbreaking. Ranging from the parts of incredible insight, to the intense humor and comic relief, to the final parts of tears and heartbreak, Green continues his winning streak, making this book one of my new favorites. Through the experiences of the characters you will learn a lot about yourself, and also be able to face topics that may have never shown up on your radar before, and in the end leave with a humbling story of love, friendship, and loss.
-Sophia U., 11th grade