February 08, 2012

The Fault in Our Stars, by John Green

When I was 16, I was living a life that revolved around doctor and hospital visits, experimental drug trials, IVs, numerous medications and many missed days of high school. I will not even remotely begin to say that I have any idea what it’s like to have cancer, but, I do know what it’s like to be so sick that the hospital is your second home. I know what it’s like to be poked and prodded, to feel alienated from your peers, to have nothing in common with your best friend anymore, to be a part of depressing support groups, to resist falling in love.  John Green did an amazing job conveying all these ideas and issues in this book. He made my heart cry for these characters. He got it spot-on.

In The Fault in Our Stars, we meet Hazel and Augustus, ages 16 and 17 respectively, who meet at a support group for teenagers with cancer. Hazel has Stage IV thyroid cancer that has metastasized to her lungs. She has always been Terminal, but an experimental drug has added a few more years to her life. Augustus, with a diagnosis of osteosarcoma, appears to be in a state of remission. Their attraction is instant, their banter contagious and their friendship just seems meant to be. But Hazel resists falling in love:
“I’m like. Like. I’m like a grenade, Mom. I’m a grenade and at some point I’m going to blow up and I would like to minimize the casualties, okay?” 
They are both witty and clever beyond their years. You root for them throughout the book, both independently and as a couple, the whole time wishing they had never been diagnosed with cancer in the first place. (But then I guess I never would have met either of them as there would be no book).  
 “What a slut time is. She screws everybody.” (p. 112)
Ohhh, time. There’s never enough of it.  And as I get older, it feels like it’s passing too quickly. We’ve all wished, at one time or another, that we could change time: “If I could only go back in time...”, “If I had more time...”, “...I would change this...” etc, etc. There’s no escaping it though. Time passes us whether we want it to or not. For some, it’s a death sentence. Hazel and Augustus know they are running out of time. Literally. But this doesn’t stop them from being teenagers, from flirting, and loving each other with all their hearts. 

This is not a cancer book even though the pages are dominated with cancer. The main characters just happen to have cancer, “a side effect of dying," as Hazel would say. Hazel and Augustus do not let the cancer define them. Sure, it adds ammo to their never-ending witty banter, but this book is void of self-pity and “woe is me” fluff. Instead, we are reminded of true love, a love so strong that it doesn’t matter if someone is sick, or has to be on oxygen 24/7, or accidentally pees the bed one time. It’s about making the most of the time you do have. It doesn’t matter that you might only get another year to be in love with this person, all that matters is that you got to love another person and be loved in return. Life is short and every minute should count. 

John Green has a video blog (vlog) and so I've included the vlog of him reading the first chapter of The Fault in Our Stars:

Now go give someone a hug and tell them you love them.  Oh, and then go read this book.


  1. What an experience it must have been to read this as someone who lived through major illness as a teen! It's not something I can identify with, at all, but his writing feels really authentic... even with the overwrought dialog... yes I'm mostly over my issues with that.

    In my background reading I found out John Green was a chaplain at a children's hospital, so it kind of makes sense.

    I love how in some ways, this is a super romantic love story, and in some ways, Hazel and Augustus are regular teens. I struggled with Augustus being so "perfect" and wordy and whatnot, but when he slept with Hazel BEFORE telling her about his condition, well, that was a seriously shitty, selfish thing to do. In other words - spot on for a teenage boy. And doesn't make him a bad person or anything, but it makes him human... I don't know, I don't feel like other people are reading it that way, but I was kind of shocked!

    I was also kind of disappointed that the sex scene was all "fade to black"... but I guess that's the limitation of the genre :)

  2. I loved this book too. I also participated in pb fingers book club. I'm now going to get more of John Greens books to read as they are all well written.

    1. Yes, I plan to read them all too! I already own An Abundance of Katherine's...I just need to make time to read it! :) Thanks for stopping by.