Plot Introduction: Hazel Grace Lancaster has terminal cancer. She's accepted the fact that death is inevitable, but even so, her mom makes her go to a support group for teens with cancer. At a meeting for the support group, she meets Augustus Waters, who's in remission. The two instantly connect and bond over their mutual love for An Imperial Affliction, and in the process, they learn how to deal with the challenges of both life and death.
An Interview with John Green
The first time that I read this book, I didn't really appreciate it. I found Hazel to be snarky and whiny, Gus just struck me as way too unrealistic (think Edward Cullen of Twilight without all the smoldering eyes), and to top it all off, this book just wasn't "up my alley," so to speak. Like Hazel, I hate "cancer books," and while this is no typical cancer book, I stubbornly refused to like it.
Thankfully, I gave it a second chance and re-read it the week before my young adult literature class discussed it. This time around, I appreciated the book much better than I had the first time. Green tackles the subject of cancer with humor and charm, and he does so in a masterful way that never takes the subject lightly.
My favorite aspect of the book was Green's writing style/the language that he used. Hazel and Gus are remarkably intelligent and their witty banter appealed to me. I wish that I had their cleverness! While it's true that most teenagers (and even adults) do not speak like Hazel and Gus do, and one could argue that as a result their conversations are unrealistic, I personally found them to be a refreshing change from the typical humdrum style of YA lit. Also, while I still think that Hazel has an attitude problem, the fact is, many teenagers do have attitude problems and Hazel of all people has good reason to - she's suffering from a terminal illness! So maybe this is one aspect of the book that I just need to get over and accept.
This book addresses the issue of death and fear of death with poignancy, intelligence, and humor. Hazel claims to have accepted the inevitability of her approaching death, but even if she denies it, it's clear that she's terrified of it. Her experiences with Gus help her to come to terms with it, especially when we learn that his cancer has returned, and she finally accepts it when she learns that her family is going to be able to be happy even when she's gone. This lesson is one that's important not only for terminally ill patients to learn, but also for people who have experienced the death of a family member. The Fault in Our Stars teaches us that life goes on and we must learn to cope with its challenges, always making the best of whatever situation we experience.
First of all, I'd like to emphasize that I would recommend this book to just about anyone who's looking for a recently published young adult novel. It's well-written in a way that many YA novels are not and I think that it's much deeper than many others that I've read. This is a book that stays with you, that makes you think, and makes you appreciate life a little bit more. And, best of all, even though it's devastating in more ways than one, it'll also put a smile on your face and at some parts, it'll even make you laugh! This book is definitely worth trying.
More specifically, this is a great book to introduce to patrons who are struggling with the recent death or illness of a loved one. I believe that it will help them cope with the challenges they face in these times of darkness, and I think it will help them find the light in any situation. From what I recall, it lacks vulgar language, and while it does reference sex, it's not graphic or in-depth in any way - it's there, it's acknowledged, but that's it, and I think that for the age group for whom this book is intended, the subject is handled very well. I think the ideal age group for this book would be 14-18-year-olds, but depending on the maturity of the reader, younger teens would probably do fine with this book, and I think that adults would enjoy this book as well.