John Green’s latest book, The Fault in Our Stars, is his best. Don’t believe me? You probably haven’t read it. And you should probably go check out the New York Times bestseller list or some more prestigious book reviewers.
The story is essentially about teenagers with cancer. Depressing, right? You probably don’t want to torture yourself with reading it, because you know you’ll cry at least once. Read it anyway.
It’s a beautiful story about the struggle to survive, or simply deal with, a terminal illness while still being young, wild, and free.
The narrator, 16-year-old, oxygen tank-carrying Hazel, is dragged to a cancer support group every week by her parents, who hope she will not become a “homebody” and will instead embrace the short life she has. She hates going, until she meets the gorgeous amputee, Augustus.
Cue immediate friendship, flirtation, and young love.
Note: the narrator of this book is a teenaged girl. The author of this book is a 30-year-old man. Keep this in mind when the adolescent relationship is discussed. It adds a bit of humor, if you’re in to that sort of thing.
Anyway, the adventure of their love and shortened life is full of hilarity and uncertainty, joy and agony.
They stalk an author who wrote a book that speaks to their spirits. They harass him, thinking he holds the secret to life and death. While the two have opposing views on the matter, they both need to know what happens after death. Not to the dead, but to the ones left behind.
These are the kinds of things these characters think about. Deep, philosophical ideas that most teenagers don’t have to bother themselves with. These characters know they are not invincible.
Green is notorious for making his characters extravagantly intelligent, spewing off profound statements like it’s their job. In this novel, it works. Hazel and Augustus have come terrifyingly close to death and deserve to be profound.
Part of Augustus’s introduction at his first support group session is, “I’m on a roller coaster that only goes up, my friend.” What kind of teenager says this, without a second thought?
Despite their cancerous wisdom, they’re still just teenagers. They do stupid things, they go on adventures, they have fun. They’re lovable and realistic characters.
One review I read said the ratio of laughing to sobbing is about one-to-one, which I think is a perfect way to describe the book.
I finished reading about 30 hours after I found the Amazon box propped against my door. It was a struggle to have to put it down to sleep. My immediate review of the book was simply, “I have no words –– only infinite tears.”
It took a while to process the novel and figure out how to portray it in a way that encourages people to read it. Instead, I spent a few weeks trying to get out of writing this review, because I feel like nothing I say can do the book any justice. Just read it.
This review was originally written for the Feb. 3, 2012, issue of The Verge, the weekly arts and entertainment section of The Daily Eastern News.