BOOK REVIEW: ‘The Fault in Our Stars’ is a unique and moving depiction of teens living with cancer
“The Fault in Our Stars” by John Green is one of the best books I’ve ever come across. I had been a big fan of Green’s YouTube channel — vlogbrothers, which he co-runs with his brother, Hank — for several years, and I had to give his latest book a try when I heard about it.
I wasn’t disappointed. “The Fault in Our Stars” is told from the point of view of Hazel Grace Lancaster, a 16 year old cancer patient. When the story begins, her thyroid cancer has spread to her lungs. She was given a new drug called Phalanxifor, which shrinks her tumors, but she still needs to wheel around an oxygen tank to breathe.
Her parents decide she should attend a cancer support group to help with her growing depression, and Hazel is extremely unenthusiastic until she meets Augustus Waters, who lost his leg to osteosarcoma and is now in remission.
They instantly hit it off, and it’s practically love at first sight. Augustus is impressed and fascinated by Hazel, and they bond further over their favorite books. Hazel’s is “An Imperial Affliction,” a book about a girl with cancer that ends in the middle of a sentence. It’s Hazel’s dream to finally get in touch with the author and learn how the story ends.
“The Fault in Our Stars” is an exceptionally powerful story. It is told completely from Hazel’s point of view, and her unconventional thoughts on her disease and experiences are surprising and refreshing.
Augustus is also a fascinating character, perhaps partially because the readers aren’t in his head, and he’s therefore more of a mystery than Hazel. He’s definitely eccentric, and he proves this early in the book when he puts a cigarette in his mouth. He explains he never smokes, but says it’s a metaphor: “You put the killing thing right between your teeth, but you don’t give it the power to do its killing.”
But, considering Hazel first attracts Augustus’s attention when he announces his fear of oblivion and she answers with an impressively profound response about how there was a time before life and there will be a time after, their eccentricities make them perfect for each other.
Besides the believable and endearing interactions between these main characters, the book also demonstrates a deep understanding of living with cancer. Green was first inspired to write “The Fault in Our Stars” when he worked at a children’s hospital and realized just how human the children were.
“The stories that I was reading sort of oversimplified and sometimes even dehumanized them,” said Green. “And I think generally we have a habit of imagining the very sick or the dying as being kind of fundamentally other. I guess I wanted to argue for their humanity, their complete humanity.”
But no one influenced Green more than Esther Earl, a girl who died at age 16 from thyroid cancer. Earl inspired Green to finally write his book, and he eventually dedicated it to her. It is also partially based on her life. No doubt his interactions with her helped him write such an accurate depiction of cancer without having experienced it himself.
While “The Fault in Our Stars” is excellent in nearly all aspects, Hazel’s internal monologue can at times be too harsh and critical. This wouldn’t be a problem if it weren’t for the fact that the story is told from her point of view, but because the reader is always in her head, it can become frustrating. But she improves as she develops, so this problem is only truly present at the beginning.
Overall, “The Fault in Our Stars” is a unique and moving book that greatly affected me. The twist at the end left me shocked and heartbroken, but Green’s witty and sharp humor, his realistic and complicated characters and his shockingly profound insight left me wanting to immediately read it again to search for anything I might have missed the first time.
“The Fault in Our Stars” will also be released as a film June 6. Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort will star as Hazel and Augustus, respectively.
McGinniss is a senior at Red River High School. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The “This Star Won’t Go Out Foundation” was established in 2011 in Esther Earl’s memory. It’s a nonprofit foundation dedicated to providing financial gifts for families with children who have cancer. To get involved or to donate, visit tswgo.org.