22 February 2013
The Fault In Our Stars is a book that goes exactly how you expect it to, and yet breaks your heart in ways you never could have guessed. In that way, it’s a lot like life. These are the kind of deep-but-not-really-but-also-kind-of sentiments the book makes you have.
John Green’s highly publicized novel tells the story of Hazel, a witty, hyper-pop-culture-literate sixteen year old who also happens to have terminal cancer. She meets a boy, Augustus Waters, himself a cancer survivor with a quick wit, an appreciation for life’s ironies, and the omnipresent fear that when he dies he will have left no mark on the world. Theirs is not meant to be a long life or a long love, and Green’s novel makes no bones about delving into the intricacies of living with a serious illness, but mostly the book is just a lovely, heartfelt testament to being young and in love and believing that one book can really change your world, while also dealing with the crushing realization that it probably can’t.
Hazel and Augustus go on a quest to find the author of Hazel’s favorite book, “An Imperial Affliction”, and force him to tell her what happened to the characters. That plot synopsis makes it sound like this is a clear cut story, taking us through the steps of tracking down a famously reclusive author and hearing his secrets, but really it’s a thoughtful, meandering book. It spends its time luxuriating in Augustus and Hazel’s relationship, but not a way that feels gooey or like a particularly doomed Nicholas Sparks novel. It’s funny, and quick, and Hazel is like no other female protagonist I’ve ever lived with.
It’s also going to make you cry, probably a lot if you still have a soul. That’s just a given. Much as the story is predetermined, your future tear ducts are already doomed to overflow. But it’s a practically perfect young adult novel, perfectly capturing the moment when you realize just how unfair and imperfect the world around you is, while also giving you reason to hope that we don’t all fall into oblivion.
Side note: I listened to this on audiobook, and it had a perfect reader in Kate Reed. Sometimes I balk at female readers for love stories, because their boy voices tend to be distracting, but Reed manages to make you love Hazel and Augustus equally, and does an awesome job selling the more melodramatic moments.