Just so you know, there will be some spoilers in this post!
John Green’s book The Fault In Our Stars is beautifully sad. I’m still coming down from all of the emotions I felt during this book and trying to process it all.
Hazel Grace Lancaster was diagnosed with thyroid cancer at the age of 13, which spread to her lungs, and she now carries an oxygen tank and a closed-off heart with her wherever she goes. She’s now 16, and after being encouraged by her mother, she attends a support group for “Cancer Kids,” as Hazel calls them, and meets Augustus Waters, a 17-year-old who lost his leg to osteosarcoma and walks around on a prosthetic with an unlit cigarette dangling from his mouth, his attempt at controlling his own life and death — he puts the thing that will kill him to his mouth, but doesn’t give it the power to kill him by lighting it.
Augustus is charismatic and joyful in spite of his circumstances, and he shows Hazel how to really live. While Hazel is constantly worried about leaving her parents behind when she dies, Augustus is worried about leaving behind a legacy.
Of course, they fall in love, but it’s not as typical as other young-adult fiction, because unlike other healthy teenagers getting to know each other, Hazel and Gus don’t have the luxury of time. Hazel and Augustus have been through more in their short years than most people experience in a lifetime, and while Augustus isn’t afraid to do anything (even when he should be), Hazel constantly calls herself a “grenade” and is afraid to let anyone get too close in fear of her pending explosion. “Cancer Kids” can’t count on the years ahead, they only count time by the days they live through, and Augustus helps Hazel see that there is no reason to sit back and mope during the days you do have on the earth.
There were so many foreshadowing details that should have led me to the plot twist, but for whatever reason, I didn’t see it coming until Augustus was telling Hazel that he was sick again. Because Augustus had a form of cancer that had a high recovery rate, Hazel (or anyone really) was ever worried about losing him. She was busy closing herself off because she had been terminally ill since a young age. But in the end, Gus would be the grenade. Hazel had to watch him get sicker and sicker, which was her fear all along that he would have to experience that with her. Even though you know what’s coming the whole time, even though you know one of them will die, it is still heartbreaking.
While I am a (relatively) young adult, I realize that young-adult books are a very different thing. However, Green’s book didn’t feel like it was about teenagers, really. It’s a style of writing that sort of crosses over the categories.
Green made the dialogue pretty teenager-y — lots of “likes” and “awesomes” — but at the same time, the characters seemed quite intelligent and mature for their age. I’ve read others’ comments on this, and while yes, it can seem a bit confusing to go back and forth between “teenager talk” and “fancy literary talk,” I think Green was trying to make a point here. These teenagers are not only living with their hormones and angst, they are also living with cancer. They are forever stuck between being able to be normal teenagers and death. Should they play video games and say “like” a lot, or should they try to be more grown up and talk about things that really matter? The internal struggle with this came out in the use of language, and I think that was the point.
Of course, when there is sickness and talk of death, there will almost always be talk of the afterlife. Add that in with teenage love and angst and it could be a lot to handle; however, Green does this fluidly. When a book is dealing with childhood cancer, I think the question “what happens when we die?” is going to have to be asked. To me, it’s almost an innocent, child-like question, which makes sense in this story. It reminds you that these intelligent, wise-beyond-their-years characters are indeed just teenagers, but they are dealing with one of the scariest things a person can go through. Again, it shows you that paradox between being young and being sick.
I knew about halfway through this book that it was going to wreck me, and I was right. I also knew I should read the last parts alone because I was going to cry, and I was right about that, too. It was one of those books that I didn’t know how to feel once it was over — do I need a nap or a drink? — and while it was filled with talk of death and sickness, it was still full of life. If you ever need something to inspire you to really live your life and not waste it, this book will do that for you.
I mentioned in my post about Shaileen Woodley, who will play Hazel, that the film version of The Fault In Our Stars will be in theaters June 6, according to IMDB. Also, if you want to know what I’m reading for next time, follow me on Goodreads!
Did you enjoy this book, even though it was so heartbreaking? Will you read it before the film hits theaters? Let me know your thoughts!