Review of The Fault in Our Stars

As it’s only twenty-one days into 2012, it’s easy to say that John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars has been my most anticipated book of the year, but it’s still true. Green’s books are some that took me awhile to get into; at first I disliked his writing, but even when his style didn’t suit me, his approach to writing an absolutely true story did. I respected him before I liked him because of his unflinchingly honest portrayal of grief in his first book, Looking for Alaska. Now that I am a fan of his books, I look forward to his new releases, and The Fault in Our Stars is the most recent.

The book revolves around Hazel Grace Lancaster, a sixteen-year-old cancer survivor who is still only doing just that: surviving. As she says towards the middle of the book, she has never been anything but terminal. When she is forced to attend a cancer support group, she meets Augustus Waters, a handsome and well-spoken survivor of osteosarcoma. The day they meet, Augustus tells Hazel that he thinks she looks like Natalie Portman in V for Vendetta and when Hazel says she’s never seen it,  insists that she come over to his house right then to watch it. From that day on, the two are nearly inseparable, their friendship sprinkled with undeniable attraction exhibited by verbal sparring and a mutual understanding that life is fragile and suckish.

Like any book that features a main character battling a real-world illness, sometimes the story is hard to read, especially when it is written by John Green. Green knows well what a child goes through when they are ill (he was a chaplain in a children’s hospital about a decade ago), and even if he didn’t, Green is unafraid to take the reader by the shoulders and make them look at what life is really like. The best parts about his books are the painful parts; they’re difficult to get through, but the reader comes out on the other side thankful that, finally, someone has thought enough of them to give them that journey.
But the book is not all about illness. As  Hazel observes, she has the full-time job of Having Cancer, but having cancer is also part of her life, which she lives as much as she can. Though we do feel her worry about what the results of her PET scan will be, we also feel the warmth of Augustus’ hand on her arm and her frustration that her parents aren’t living their lives so much as catering to hers.

Just as in his other books, Green tackles serious issues with real, smart characters. The author writes teens as very intelligent people, and that is probably why he is such a star in the YA community. With witty, provocative dialogue, Hazel and Augustus fight not only their illnesses but grief for those that are lost; the reality that they will probably soon be the lost; love for each other, their friends, and their families; frustration with those same people and themselves; and the disappointment that someone held on a pedestal might not live up to that standard in real life.

This is also Green’s first time writing from the female perspective. As with his fellow YA author, Libba Bray, I marveled at his skill at writing from the perspective of the opposite sex. Of course, what both of these authors demonstrate is that writing good characters is writing good characters; the gender of said characters is unimportant.

The best part about Green’s books in general are that you think you know what you’re getting, and then he pulls the rug from under your feet. In The Fault in Our Stars, he uses jarring single sentences that cause your stomach to drop and you to dread turning the page, sentences like “I never took another picture of him.” Green is brave enough to see past the happy ending the reader thinks is coming and give them the reality they probably didn’t want. So if you’d like a good literary wringing of the heart, you should read The Fault in Our Stars!

Choice quotes:

Look, let me just say it: He was hot. A non-hot boy stares at you relentlessly and it is, at best, awkward and, at worst, a form of assault. But a hot boy… well.

…The diagnosis came three months after I got my first period. Like: Congratulations! You’re a woman. Now die.

I think my school friends wanted to help me through my cancer, but they eventually found out that they couldn’t. For one thing, there was no through.

“I had a few good kisses with my ex-girlfriend, Caroline Mathers.”
“Years ago?”
“The last one was just less than a year ago.”
“What happened?”
“During the kiss?”
“No, with you and Caroline.”
“Oh,” he said. And then after a second, “Caroline is no longer suffering from personhood.”

“You are so busy being you that you have no idea how utterly unprecedented you are.”

“I think forever is an incorrect concept,” I answered.
He smirked. “You’re an incorrect concept.”
“I know. That’s why I’m being taken out of the rotation.”

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Posted on January 21, 2012, in Books, Rachel, Reviews, Young Adult Fiction. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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