Sixteen year-old thyroid cancer patient Hazel is living on borrowed time, and the last thing she wants to do is spend it in Support Group, listening to the struggles of sick kids against the disease. But Support group is where she meets Augustus Waters, a osteocarcinoma survivor, who shares her acerbic humor and love for literature — a guy who gives her hope that her remaining days may not be so bleak after all. At first, Hazel tries to resist Augustus’s charms, to no avail as she continues to be intrigued and drawn to him the more she gets to know him. When they embark on a journey to Amsterdam to meet the reclusive writer Peter Van Houten, the author of their favorite book, their budding romance is faced with new challenges that are not so easily overcome.
I’ve seen this book in the bookshelves for quite some time but I’ve tried to steer clear of Nicholas Sparks types of novels (because someone always dies). The premise of this book, is a deadly disease after all. But after I found out that they were releasing a movie, I decided to bite the bullet and give it a chance. I didn’t even watch the trailer for fear of spoiling myself. Good call for me because I was able to appreciate the literature more.
The book talks about cancer and tackles the subject so matter of factly from the point of view of Hazel. Considering that this is part of the main plot, the book should have been depressing from the start. Surprisingly, Hazel’s first person narrative is done with so much honesty and candor that audiences will see beyond the disease and focus on her as a character. In so doing, readers see cancer patients with her eyes and understand their reality and that of their loved ones – their fears, their torments, their simple pleasures and their frustrations at being physically limited by their illness.
Unlike other books that tackle cancer, this book focuses not on the disease but rather the journey of people who are experiencing the disease – their attempts to live a normal life, their disgust against being coddled, their fear of becoming part of the statistic and their struggle to not let the disease take over who they really are.
The Fault in Our Stars trains the spotlight two teenagers, Hazel and Augustus, but their relationship is so much more than puppy love. What they share is sweet and innocent, and is grounded on something much deeper than the prose which they both share great passion for. There are times when the depth of the literature may seem overwhelming (especially when they share correspondence with Peter Van Houten) in contrast to their personal exchanges but this is quickly processed by their quick witted and ever entertaining banter.
Augustus is a charmer, as the book will repeatedly (but not tiresomely mention, whether from his own mouth or another character’s) and he has such a positive attitude. He will steal readers’ hearts from his very first appearance at the Literal Heart of Jesus. As his friend Isaac described, he had a heart as figuratively good as his literal one sucked. Its hard not to like him.
And Hazel, despite all her attempts to maintain a strong and tough façade, will inspire deep admiration among the readers. She is wise beyond her years, despite her addiction to reality shows like ANTM. Augustus’ description of his love for her pretty much sums up the depth of her character.
There were a lot of sweet moments in this book, a lot of humor, even despite the characters’ fragile mortality. Their interactions with each other, their families, their friends and the beauty of each dialogue, delivered with such simplicity brings tears to one’s eyes. I particularly loved how Hazel’s dad described his feelings for his daughter on page 278, but I wouldn’t want to spoil it for you.
All of the supporting characters are all so well written that readers will feel like they personally know these people. Hazel and Gus’s parents, Isaac, nutless Patrick, Peter van Houten and his assistant Lidewij. Heck, even the extras are interesting.
Logically, The Fault in Our Stars should have been a downer because its about cancer, not just cancer but kids with cancer. But somehow author John Greene manages to overcome the direness of the situation with excellent and entertaining writing technique. Instead of fearing who might die in the end, readers look forward to more encounters between Gus and Hazel. And this is what makes their story so great. The pureness and honesty of their relationships, even with their imperfections, the wonder of discovery and their acceptance of the inevitable.
The Fault in Our Stars is a love story, pure and simple. But it talks about love in its many forms, and what it all entails. It talks about endings, beginnings, and what lies beyond. It is about oblivion and the afterlife and a bunch of other philosophical questions.
Like Hazel and Gus, who felt cheated by the non-ending of An Imperial Affliction, I wanted to read more after reading the end to this book. But alas, it was not to be.
All in all, an awesome read. I wish I had Hazel, Gus or even Isaac’s sharpness to articulate how great an experience it was to spend hours reading this book but it’s a journey that one needs to experience on their own. Highly recommended for young adult readers and beyond.