Title: The Fault in Our Stars
Author: John Green
Genre/Themes: Young Adult Contemporary, Falling in Love, Terminal Diagnosis, Cancer, Illness
Blurb from Goodreads
Despite the tumour-shrinking medical miracle that has bought her a few years, Hazel has never been anything but terminal, her final chapter inscribed upon diagnosis. But when a gorgeous plot twist named Augustus Waters suddenly appears at Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazel’s story is about to be completely rewritten.
Insightful, bold, irreverent, and raw, The Fault in Our Stars is award-winning author John Green’s most ambitious and heartbreaking work yet, brilliantly exploring the funny, thrilling, and tragic business of being alive and in love.
“But it is the nature of stars to cross, and never was Shakespeare more wrong than when he has Cassius note ‘The fault dear Brutus, is not in our stars but in ourselves”
John Green and I have a tumultuous love affair. One sided obviously. I mean he doesn’t exactly know I exist!!!
I first read ‘Looking for Alaska‘ at least eight years ago (the years are getting blurry so please forgive the inaccuracies…) and fell in love with his words. He writes words that I feel are carved on my soul. Call me schmaltzy or ridiculously romantic but his words move me deep within my core.
Next up was TFiOS… But before I get on to that I guess I should briefly explain the tumultuous nature of my love affair with Mr Green because since reading TFiOS I’ve read ‘Papertowns‘ which made me want to tear out my eyeballs because it felt formulaic, I liked ‘An Abundance of Katherines‘ because it made me laugh but it didn’t feel that memorable and then I’ve read Turtles All the Way Down in 2017 which was at times wonderful but also at times distinctly average. ‘Will Grayson, Will Grayson‘ is my most recent read of his and that made me laugh so much more than I was expecting.
But back to The Fault in Our Stars.
Much has been made of the love story between Hazel and Augustus and how it’s all a bit twee and really the film version of this book went to town on the cringey romance. I hate the film with a blinding passion because to me it misses the heart and soul of the book and that’s a portrayal of what it feels like and means to be a young teenager suffering with an unending illness. What is it like to see everyone else your age go through the typical teen experiences while you attend doctor after doctor and slowly begin to find yourself adrift from a recognisable teenager. How you grow up in a very different fashion.
It’s this paragraph that made me fall utterly in love with this book. It’s this paragraph that left me sobbing. It may not mean anything to anyone else. But to me it was my whole world encapsulated in a few lines. I felt like John Green must have been inside my head and had written down my thoughts; although a lot more eloquently than I ever could.
“I liked Kaitlyn. I really did. But three years removed from proper full-time schoolic exposure to my peers, I felt a certain unbridgeable distance between us. 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’. So I excused myself on the grounds of pain and fatigue as I often had over the years when seeing Kaitlyn or any of my other friends. In truth it always hurt … so I wasn’t lying exactly. I was just choosing among truths”
I don’t know if that passage has ever resonated with anyone else like it did with me but I got it. I felt it. It deeply affected me. It made sense of my teen years which were painted by my illness. It felt like someone else just got what it felt like to be sick. Because I know what that ‘unbridgeable distance’ is.
But here is my problem. One passage does not equate to a five star rating does it? The rest of the story is very beautifully written. And it is incredibly moving and very funny at times.
But the love story grates on me. I find it too perfect at times. Unless I tell myself that this book isn’t a contemporary romance but a book filled with magical realism.
Because Hazel and Augustus together are magic.
Yes he’s much too perfect but it’s in that perfection that the harshness of his and Hazel’s realities are revealed.
And I know that many people have issue with the almost hyperbolic nature of the dialogue between the characters but this never bothered me. Because it was a way of showing the separation of life as a sick teenager from that of a typically healthy one. A life spent conversing with adults, making difficult life changing decisions, living through books read…
There’s an intangible difference that I don’t quite know how to explain to you but it’s there. And yes you can say that many if not all teenagers experience that feeling of not belonging but being ill changes you in ways that forever scar your interactions with the world in a very wistful manner.
So to me The Fault in Our Stars will always be my book. It’s that special book that I don’t think I ever want to read again because I know that I could dig holes in the plot and find more cringeworthy aspects to complain about…
But it’s still my book.
I urge everyone to read The Fault in Our Stars with an open heart. Or if you have already read it and think it’s just a cheap teen romance to think again about some of what might appear to be the more minor aspects of the story. Hear how it feels to be these characters. They speak the truth of those who live with an illness every day and have no one to speak for them.
As Augustus says “The marks humans leave are too often scars”.
Well so too has this book left its scars; The Fault in Our Stars has forever carved itself into my heart and made me feel as if it was written just for me.
five perfectly imperfect stars
Other Works by John Green I’ve Reviewed
- The Anthropocene Reviewed
- Looking for Alaska
- Turtles All the Way Down
- Will Grayson, Will Grayson (with David Levithan)