Thursday, August 23, 2012

Review: The Fault In Our Stars

The Fault In Our Stars
By John Green
Penguin 2012
313 pages
From the library

The Fault in Our Stars

The Fault in Our Stars is the story of Hazel, a teen surviving thyroid cancer. While attending her lame support group, she meets a boy. Augustus is quirky and sarcastic, just as she is. Hazel and Augustus start to hang out, and then to fall in love. But this is a book about kids with cancer. It is full of oxygen tanks, hospital visits, and the uncertainty that any of them will see tomorrow. This is an amazing novel, an examination of the way we must laugh in times of grief and live boldly in spite of our inability to escape death.

This is my first book by John Green and I was completely impressed. Amidst hundreds of young adult books about apocalyptic battles, vampires, and witches, it’s refreshing to read a book about teens dealing with real problems.  His characters are wonderful – they feel real, like people you might know and hang out with. They are sarcastic but heartfelt, wrong and wronged, smart but not obnoxious, and alternatingly heartbroken and optimistic. I also loved that these teens had real relationships with their parents. They fought and they got on each other’s nerves, but it’s refreshing to see parents and children who actually seem to like each other most of the time.  

John Green also takes time within this book to pay tribute to the things that get us through our darkest days – the book we read again and again or the video game we play until we feel better able to deal with awful situations. A good portion of the plot deals with the determination of Hazel (and subsequently Gus) trying to find out what happens to the characters in a beloved novel. Mr. Green subtly slips in questions about what makes the book you read – is  it the author’s intention or what you have in your heart and mind as you turn the pages?

The Fault in Our Stars does not shy away from the emotion of living with a terminal disease, but it never becomes mawkish. It’s interesting to read from the point of view of the sick person. So often we read from the perspective of someone watching a loved one suffer but, with Hazel as our narrator, we understand the terrible knowledge that comes with illness. There is a current of fear running throughout the story– worry that you are the one who will break the hearts of everyone you love, worry that you can’t get too close because you won’t be here for long.

This is a sad book. Books about kids with cancer are inherently tragic. But it’s also a book that affirms our collective will to live, to live well in however many days we are given on this earth. It’s a book about first love and forever love, the love between friends and the love of family. This is a book I can see myself going back to time after time for its wit, for its characters, and for its heart. The Fault in Our Stars reminds me of everything that young adult literature can be. 


  1. I have time for any YA book that is a bit different from the trend and doesn't include paranormal creatures. I think this one might be a bit too emotional for me though.

    1. Agreed - I tried a few of the popular ones and felt let down in most cases. I thought Green struck a good chord with this one. The characters have dealt with sickness for a long time and so they have both a sarcasm to keep distance and the ability to deal with it honestly.

  2. Thank you for your review. I've been wondering about this one too.