The Fault in Our Stars
Fault in Our Stars
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John Green
ISBN 9780525478812
Dutton/Penguin, 2012.
5 stars
Keywords: cancer family fault-our-stars friendship john-green literature mortality recovery romance

The Fault in Our Stars
by John Green

John Green (Paper Towns; Will Grayson, Will Grayson) has a gift for creating memorable heroes with intelligence and humor. In this novel, he imagines a trio of friends who connect through a support group of kids in various stages of suffering or recovering from cancer. This accomplished novel explores life and death, love and loss, and the fullness of experience when one knows it is finite.

Sixteen-year-old Hazel Grace Lancaster, who narrates, was originally diagnosed with thyroid cancer, but now has “mets” in her lungs. Pressured by her parents to attend this support group, she finds its one redeeming quality to be Isaac, who has lost one eye to cancer already, and a recurrence has placed his second eye “in mortal peril.” One day, a “hot guy” named Augustus Waters comes to the group at Isaac’s request. He is in remission after a bout with osteosarcoma that cost him a leg.

Although it deals with mortality, this book is not morbid. It overflows with wonderfully funny and poignant moments. These teens don’t waste time. Augustus tells Hazel she’s beautiful; she reminds him of “a millennial Natalie Portman.” He invites her home to see Portman in V for Vendetta. Hazel slows things down, suggests they wait to get together again until they’ve each read the other’s favorite book. Green shows how their shared literature becomes woven into their common experience. Then Gus takes Hazel on a quest that braids together literature, romance and self-discovery.

Hazel worries that her parents’ lives will be empty when she dies; Gus’s parents try to cut tensions with “encouragements” sewn onto throw pillows. Everything eventually gets aired, sometimes gracefully, sometimes hurtfully. Green proves through his characters that lasting love requires the risk of losing it. Hazel and Gus invite us to laugh and live life to the fullest for as long as we can.

This review first appeared in Shelf Awareness for Readers.

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