This summer I became somewhat obsessed with an author named John Green. He has only written five novels and I only have two left, so I know I’ll be devastated when I’ve finished his entire body of work. And this obsession started with one book: ‘The Fault in Our Stars’, Green’s masterpiece.
TFiOS (as it is known to its Internet fan-base) is about a Hazel Grace Lancaster, a 16-year-old girl with cancer (“Thyroid originally but with an impressive and long-settled satellite colony in my lungs”). She meets Augustus Waters at a youth’s cancer support group and they strike up a friendship. And then a courtship. And then love.
You know from the first page that this is a book about children with cancer. You know that Hazel is terminal. You know that the story of these two young lovers cannot have a happy ending. So why do I pick this book up over everything else in my collection when I need a pick-me-up? It might be because I fall a little bit in love with Augustus on page 17, but more likely it’s because of John Green.
Green writes for a young adult audience, but his voice is so unique and accessible that I didn’t feel that TFiOS was dumbed down. I felt like it was written from the perspective of a smart, snarky 16-year-old, which, since the book is told from Hazel’s perspective, makes sense. Because I was a smart, snarky 16-year-old not too long ago, I relate to her. I know what young love feels like and anyone can relate to disappointment and loss.
Even though these kids have cancer, this isn’t a cancer book. Hazel has a penchant for thinking that she’s sicker than she is and watches a lot of America’s Next Top Model when she isn’t rereading her favorite book. Augustus deals in metaphors and plays a lot of video games with his best friend (and fellow cancer kid) Isaac. Sound like regular teenagers? That’s because that’s what Green makes them. He doesn’t want the reader to feel sorry for his characters. There’s no teary conversation about donors and who can be saved. There are hardly any tears at all, actually. The characters are incredibly strong. No one is weakened by his or her own mind, and if they become weaker because of their bodies, then they fight until fighting is no longer an option.
The characterization is pretty incredible too. Yes, it focuses on Hazel and Augustus, but I get excited when other characters get in on the action too. Sometimes Hazel hangs out with Isaac. Sometimes she’s just home with her parents. All of the characters are so well fleshed out that they become real people. You want to get to know them better, and luckily, Green lets you by injecting them into the story in natural ways.
Green also deals in quotes. Anyone who has read this book has a favorite quote. Personally, mine is “You don’t get to choose if you get hurt in this world, old man, but you do have some say in who hurts you. I like my choices. I hope she likes hers,” followed closely by “Okay.” Seems like an insignificant little word, but Green forces you to reconsider just who you say it to.
As I write this I’m just sitting in my room flipping through this book, and tears are welling in my eyes. I’ve barely even read any of it in my browsing, but it’s one of those books that decides it needs to seep into your emotions. It’s so witty and so smart, but so sad. I cry every time I read it, and I couldn’t ask for a better reaction.