Monday, April 14, 2014

The Fault in Our Stars

The Fault in Our Stars – John Green

At the age of 16, Hazel Grace Lancaster has terminal cancer. Her parents pulled her out of school three years ago when things were looking bad, but she made a miraculous comeback with the help of a drug that rarely ever produced positive results. Now she attends class a few days as week at the community college and also goes to Support Group in the Literal Heart of Jesus. One day, her Support Group friend Isaac, who is now blind due to cancer, brings his friend Augustus Waters. Hazel Grace and Augustus quickly become the kind of friends that blur the boundaries of friendship. They have shared interests in metaphors, novels, and trips to Amsterdam to visit a reclusive author who wrote a life-altering novel and then turned into a jerk. Hazel resists Augustus all the while, trying not to put him in a situation to be hurt when her cancer wins the ultimate battle, but love fights to be noticed just as much as cancer does. Suddenly and without hesitation, both love and cancer enter Hazel’s life in a way she has never experienced before, and she accepts both as inevitable in her life story.

“The Fault in Our Stars” by John Green is a painfully honest novel of young love, young death, and the heartbreaking and inescapable consequences of poor timing. Green poignantly and humorously portrays the difficulties of terminal illness without emphasizing the associated hardships, problems, or pain. By turning insurmountable obstacles into daily routines, Green’s characters demonstrate how to accept reality without being defeated by it. Green alternates between writing with a youthful perspective and one full of wisdom gained through a lifetime of experience condensed into a few short years, emphasizing the tragic irony of the story. Moreover, Green gives life to his characters without being kitschy or relying too heavily on pop culture references so that the youthful perspective feels more nostalgic and wistful than contrived. Perhaps the most important aspect of the story is that Green challenges us to face our own mortality. Facing the incongruence of early death amid a life full of love forces us to reconsider our own priorities in life and how to incorporate them on a daily basis so that each moment counts for its presence and not just its passing.

This book is some combination of beautiful, sarcastic, cynical, inspirational, and eye-opening. As a young adult novel written from a young adult perspective, it makes for a very quick, but substantial, read. Green does not toss around characters, references, or situations designed to grab attention. Everything about his story is thoughtful and intentional. I felt challenged by how the characters wholeheartedly engaged with life and incredibly uncomfortable at being directly confronted with death and mortality, but these are important considerations that should be part of daily life for everyone and not just people with terminal illnesses. There were also quite a few tears shed on my part, so consider that your warning. Well worth the read.