If you follow any book blogs that are not my book blog, you’ve probably heard that John Green is the best thing to happen in the world of books since Gutenberg. At least that’s the way I understood it. And I wasn’t sure what all the fuss was about, since I’d never read a John Green book.
So I decided to remedy this problem by checking out his newest book, The Fault in Our Stars. All I knew was that it was about kids with cancer, and it was supposedly heartbreaking and life-changing.
The Fault in Our Stars is the story of Hazel, a 16-year-old 3-year survivor of Stage IV thyroid cancer. Hazel’s diagnosis has never been anything but terminal, but she still tries her best to live a normal life and stay positive for her parents. And one of the things that helps her parents is for her to attend a support group of other kids with cancer.
One day, Hazel arrives at support group to see a new boy in the circle. His name is Augustus “Gus” Waters, and although he has lost a leg to osteosarcoma, he says he’s mostly there as moral support for a friend. Gus takes an immediate interest in Hazel, who is initially reluctant to open up to anyone new. But eventually, Gus and Hazel decide to take the plunge, even though their future is uncertain.
First of all, this book wrecked me. Wrecked. Me. I was a sniffling, sobbing mess starting about 2/3 of the way through the book. My husband came in and was like, “Hey, got something in your eye?” (Because he is a heckler and has a heart like a STONE), and I choked out between ugly-cries, “It’s about KIDS with CANCER! LEAVE ME ALONE!” And he skedaddled out of there.
So if you want a book to make you cry, I’d suggest this one.
But this book is not all tears and angst. It’s actually full of humor and sweetness. Considering it’s a book about KIDS with CANCER, I was not expecting to laugh so much. But laugh I did.
The highlight of the book for me was the characters of Hazel and Gus. It’s funny, because I was reading along and thinking “Wow, Hazel and Gus remind me of some of my friends from high school. Especially Gus, who is pretty much EXACTLY like this guy I knew, except for the cancer thing.” And then I went online and read some reviews, and the first ones I read were complaining that Hazel and Gus were unrealistic, and no teens act or talk like them. Just goes to show that how we perceive things is heavily dependent on our own life experiences.
So just for the record, yes, some teens act and talk like Hazel and Gus. Some teens have large vocabularies and use SAT words in everyday conversation. If you take out all the cancer references, I swear I had some of the Hazel-Gus conversations when I was in high school.
Yes, I was a nerd. But that’s neither here nor there.
On top of the great characterizations and dialogue, the storytelling was excellent. I was riveted by the first page, and couldn’t find a good place to put the book down, so I wound up reading the whole thing in a day. Which is no small feat when you have to also be parenting and cleaning and cooking and all those other things responsible adults do. But it was just one of those books that you have to keep reading, even when you realize it’s going to rip out your heart and stomp on your soul.
I loved the friendships in the book; I loved the sweet and sad way that Gus and Hazel’s relationship developed;I loved the glimpses into their friend Isaac, Hazel’s and Gus’ parents, and the members of their support group. I loved how real and raw and honest Hazel and Gus were about what they were going through. Basically, I loved everything about this book, except for the way it utterly ruined me. And I even kind of loved that.
Some people say this book has a twist. I didn’t really think of it as a twist — nothing in the book surprised me — and I think if you go into it expecting it to shock and amaze you, you may come out disappointed.
However, if you read this book for the great characters, fantastic dialogue, and gut-wrenching levels of emotion, you will be satisfied. At least I hope you will be. I was.
Even though it wrecked me.
Content Guide: Contains sex, profanity, and difficult situations dealing with cancer and death.