Heartwrenching, beautiful, genuine, moving, sarcastic, witty, meaningful. All these words come to mind when I think about The Fault in Our Stars. However, they seem so inadequate. I knew going into this book what to expect. You don’t read a book about teenagers with cancer expecting happily ever afters and picture perfect memories. In that way, I anticipated a strong emotional reaction and the need for my trusty box of tissues; however, I wasn’t prepared for the depth of my response and the realism Mr. Green portrayed. I was transfixed by this novel. In fact, I listened to it in one sitting, totally unable to stop listening.
The plot is straightforward and simple. There aren’t a lot of twists and turns. Not much in the way of mystery or surprises. It’s real. In my life I’ve watched two dearly loved individuals die from cancer. Both young. One slowly, excruciatingly so. And one incredibly quickly (3 weeks from the day of diagnosis). It’s an ugly process, literally and emotionally. Your body is not your body anymore. You are not even you anymore in many ways. The Fault in Our Stars deals with this both respectfully and realistically.
One of the most amazing parts of this novel were Mr. Green’s characters. Teenagers with cancer are going to have a certain amount of maturity combined with a bit of awkwardness compared to their healthy peers. They have an “elephant in the room” with them at all times leading to a feeling of “otherness.” They also are forced to consider the likelihood of an early death while their peers have more of an invinsibility complex. This leads to characters who are grappling with life or death issues in a time of life that is awkward and frustrating enough on it’s own. Green does an amazing job introducing us to very real, exquisite characters who are placed in these circumstances.
Hazel, the main character, has cancer and knows it will most likely kill her one day. For now though, the cancer has been held at bay by medications. Hazel is alive but she’s not really living. She’s a realist, rather sarcastic, and rather depressed.
Augustus/Gus is a vibrant, handsome, incredibly sacrificial individual who had cancer which took one of his legs. He’s in remission and lives life to the fullest. He’s a romantic and a philosopher. When he sees what he wants, he goes for it.
Hazel and Augustus are characters you can feel and see and hear. There were moments I had to remind myself they aren’t real people. I adored their banter and their frankness. They weren’t romanticized or perfect. Hazel and Gus have a realistic relationship. They are opposite personalities in many ways, so they disagree and sometimes get very frustrated with one another. Their reasons for living and being and doing are very different; yet, they are two teenagers who fall in love, and through their quasi-mature yet awkward personalities, they make it work and find something beautiful. Augustus and Hazel are exactly what each other need in order to live fully in their story and become better people.
To sum things up, The Fault in our Stars is gritty and compelling, sarcastic and delightful, heartwrenching and romantic. It is not for the faint-hearted. You will cry ridiculous amounts of tears. John Green’s novel is captivatingly beautiful; full of love, life and loss; and delivered with a hefty dose of reality. Highly recommended.