Monday, March 18, 2013

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

As with most of the books I read, I came late to the wildly enthusiastic The Fault in Our Stars party but better late than never. The novel, written by John Green, came out in January 2012 to pretty much universal acclaim, climbing the bestseller charts both here and in the United Kingdom as well as earning a New York Times Book Review Editor's Choice award.

Green is well-known for both his young adult books as well as his collaboration with his brother, Hank, the YouTube channel "Vlog Brothers," and the community that their online conversations have spawned, Nerd Fighters.

Anyways, back to the book. The Fault in Our Stars takes the trope of star-crossed lovers and transforms it into this astonishing lovely, heartbreaking piece of literature. It is Shakespearean in its execution, mixing romance, comedy, drama and philosophy into what is essentially a girl-meets-boy story. Except girl has Stage IV thyroid cancer and boy has already lost a leg to Osteosarcoma.

Yes, this is a book about kids with cancer. It's told through the eyes of the girl, 16-year-old Hazel Lancaster, who has to cart an oxygen tank with her wherever she goes. She meets the quick-witted, dashing Augustus Waters at cancer survivor support group. Their chemistry, apparent in their verbal exchanges (which are silly, sad and moving, sometimes all at the same time), is as certain as their diagnoses. As their friendship blossoms, we fall in love with the teenaged pair just as they fall in love with each other. They bond over Hazel's favorite book, An Imperial Affliction, which ultimately proves critical to how their own story plays out.

But let's face it. This is a book about kids with cancer. In our heart of hearts, we know, or at least suspect, what's coming. Green gives us an unflinching look at young love made all the more poignant by the vagaries of fate. This is a book for those ready for some intense feelings: Be ready to laugh, to cry, and to muse about mortality.

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