Hazel Grace Lancaster is depressed. That’s what her mother has determined since she never goes out, rarely eats, watches too much television, reads the same book over and over again, and devotes a large share of her abundant free time thinking about death. So now Hazel is in a support group. She finds it even more depressing than the depressing life she’s meant to get over. Everyone there has cancer in it’s diverse forms, and the roster of attendees is always changing. People coming and going is a side affect of Cancer’s frequent outcome.
Just when she doesn’t think she can take another day of support group, someone new arrives. He’s tall, confident and as loquacious as Hazel is reticent. His greatest fear he says in answer to a question about it, is that he fears Oblivion. When Hazel answers him back with a soliloquy on the futility of his fear, the boy with short straight mahogany colored hair, deep blue eyes and one prosthetic leg is smitten by the girl with the page boy haircut and an oxygen tank at her side. Driving the story forward is Augustus Waters who will not take no for an answer from the girl named Hazel that he knows is just as smitten with him.
For lovers of Young Adult fiction who are growing weary of the usual love triangles between perfect looking teenagers out to save the world, John Green’s “The Fault in our Stars” gives the reader teenagers who are armies of one, all sharing the same battle field. There is refreshingly no self pity in this book though there is anger and hurt to go along with all of the humor. Cancer seems to be a high stakes video game played between the friends as they go about their lives determined to not let the disease define them. Video games are a strong metaphor in the book. To win the game there will be bullets to dodge and strategies to make. Who wins and who loses is anyone’s guess.
Central to the story is the character of Augustus Waters, a handsome ex basketball player who’s charismatic and unfailingly positive. He is the sun to the other characters’ planets. When his best friend Issac loses his girlfriend who can’t deal with the prospect of a blind boyfriend (Issac’s about to lose his remaining eye to surgery) it’s Augustus who hands over his own basketball trophies for a good smashing and stomping when puffing a pillow against the wall isn’t enough. And when he discovers that Clary spent her one wish from the Make A Wish Foundation on a ridiculous trip to Disney World when she was 13, he spends his own last wish to give her a gift well out of reach for her cash strapped family. Augustus and Hazel fall deeply in love and we discover the fault in their stars.
This book is sensitively written, ironic, humorous and sparkling in its language as it expresses the deep ruminations of its lead characters. If there is any fault in this book it may be in the one dimensional handling of the teens’ parents who make June and Ward Clever look like harsh autocrats. Mr. Green is not at his best when dealing with the relationships between the parents and their ill children. This even handed niceness cheats the younger characters of another dimension in their personalities that would have added more depth to them and the story. Kids love to complain about their parents and these characters are no different. But their complaints, though not dealt with often, seem shallow and petty.
This story establishes itself as a winner from the very first paragraph, and keeps the reader going to the very end, where perhaps it’s most beautiful lines are written. They are written in a letter to a writer who has written Hazel and Augustus’ favorite book, asking that the man write a eulogy. The lines written by one of the teens is nearly as beautiful as a Shakespeare sonnet. In “The Fault In Our Stars” you will laugh a lot and wipe away a few tears and close the book with your chest left wide open. We give this book 4.5 stars out of Five and recommend it to you as one of the best books we’ve read in 2012.