The Fault in Our Stars
by John Green
January 10, 2012
Source: bought from Barnes and Noble
Mature content: CommonSense media discussion here
How do I love John Green books? Let me count the ways...
1. I love the somewhat awkward, whip-smart guy characters.
2. I love the slightly madcap, larger-than-life girl characters who are worshipped from afar by #1.
3. I love the witty, whiplash-inducing dialogue that takes place between #1 and #2.
4. I love that there's usually a quest involved in his books: finding Margo, proving the Theory of Underlying Katherine Predictability, making sense of Alaska's actions.
The Fault in Our Stars puts a bit of a twist on the usual John Green elements. Hazel, the narrator, takes the role of worshiper. Augustus, who shows up in her Cancer Support group, is the worshipee. Or maybe you could argue that there's mutual worship. He insists she looks like Natalie Portman. She cracks jokes about her cancer meds induced cankles. He holds cigarettes between his teeth, but doesn't light them. That way he "doesn't give the killing thing the power to do its killing."
When Gus asks Hazel what her story is, she thinks he means her cancer story. (She's thyroid with mets. He's osteosrcoma, NEC.) To the rest of the world, Hazel is Cancer Girl. But Gus wants to know her.
They trade books. (Why can't every courtship include this tradition?) He gives her The Price of Dawn, a book with a "sentence to corpse ratio of nearly one to one." She gives him An Imperial Affliction, a book written by an obscure Dutch author. But the book, about a fictional girl with cancer, ends abruptly, and Hazel is desperate to know how things come out. And so begins this book's quest.
I loved the story of Hazel and Augustus. I love the way Green allows them to transcend their disease and just be regular teenagers, filled with rebellion and snark. I loved the way the quest was incorporated: their transatlantic stalking of eccentric, reclusive Dutch author Peter Van Houten. I loved the literary allusions, from Frost ("nothing gold can stay") to Shakespeare ("the fault, dear Brutus, is not in out stars but in ourselves.")
The quote from Julius Caesar, from which the book draws its title, is an important one. Cassius tries to convince Brutus that our fate does not define us, that we have free will.
The Fault In Our Stars is a sad book, but also a book that celebrates the strength of the human spirit. Sometimes all we can control is how we choose to face our fate.