The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
Read: February 3rd, 2014
Release Date: January 10th, 2012
Publisher: Dutton Books
“The world is not a wish-granting factory.”
“That’s the thing about pain,” Augustus said, and then glanced back at me. “It demands to be felt”
Reading a book about two teenagers with cancer who fall in love isn’t my idea of a great time. For one thing, cancer is scary, no matter the situation, and it becomes especially frightening when talking about children. Despite this, I laughed several times throughout the book. Oh, don’t worry; the tears came shortly after, in thick droplets and heavy wracking sobs that caused me physical pain. The emotional pain of this book, however, trumps all of my physical pain by leaps and bounds. But enough about me, Augustus Waters and Hazel Grace Lancaster demand to be discussed.
Sixteen year old Hazel Grace Lancaster happens to have cancer. At the age of thirteen, she was diagnosed with Stage four Thyroid cancer with metastasis forming in her lungs. A miracle drug, Phalanxifor, along with an oxygen tank on wheels, allows Hazel to live somewhat comfortably, with the occasional hospitalization when her lungs fill with fluid. Despite this, Hazel graduated high school early and is pursuing a college degree in between flare-ups with her disease. Socialization is not her top priority, especially not in the support group that her mother forces her to attend in ‘the Heart of Jesus’. Nothing about sob stories, death, and remissions interests Hazel. After all, she has a one in five chance of survival and in the interest of not wasting time feeling sorry for herself, Hazel would prefer to avoid these gatherings all together—until Augustus Waters enters the picture.
Augustus attends the support group upon request from his friend Isaac, who has already lost one eye from his cancer. Augustus, however, is the healthiest of everyone in the room, in remission from Osteosarcoma that already claimed one of his legs. Tall, lean, and muscular Augustus charms Hazel with his humor. He doesn’t sugar coat things or treat Hazel like she’s breakable, instead he uses his wit to pursue her. After their first encounter, the two trade off books that the other enjoys. Hazel reads Augustus’ pick, The Price of Dawn and quickly buys up the next book in the series. Hazel’s pick for Augustus is An Imperial Affliction, a book about a young girl with cancer that ends abruptly, leaving questions unanswered for both Hazel and Augustus.
Over time, the friendship/flirtation between Augustus and Hazel grows. Augustus is clear on his admiration for Hazel, but Hazel is a little more wary about giving her heart away because when she dies she doesn’t want to leave any more casualties. Augustus enjoys pursuing her anyway, sending a letter to Peter Van Houten, the reclusive author of An Imperial Affliction on Hazel’s behalf. He is met with a reply instructing them that he would answer their questions about the book, but only in person. With no money to make the trip happen, Augustus reveals that he never used his Wish, and would be honored to use it for Hazel so she could visit Van Houten. Cancer perks. With everything ready to go, Hazel’s health throws a wrench in their plans when her lungs fill with fluid, landing her in the ICU. Sucky lungs. With the trip to Amsterdam on the horizon, Hazel is afraid that her doctors won’t clear her to fly. With an extra push from her main doctor, Hazel is given the clearance she needs, sending her and Augustus on a trip that will alter their lives in good ways and bad.
As I previously mentioned, this book is painful. As it should be. We aren’t dealing with a happy topic, we’re talking about cancer—more specifically kids with cancer. Right away, we have to assume that pain is in our near future. But we are also talking about John Green, who writes with sincerity and purpose. I could say rather easily that I hate John Green for making me feel all of the emotions that go along with what happens in this book. However, hate is a strong word, and I would imagine that John Green is a pretty decent human being on top of being an amazing writer. Blinded by my emotions, I could express hatred for Mr. Green, but it would be wrongly placed. I only dislike him for telling me the truth, that the world doesn’t produce wishes, moreover it produces whatever it desires, despite what we may want. This book is a testament to what real literature is about—making readers feel. Often our humanity is stripped from us on a daily basis as we ignore what we cannot handle. John Green forced me to handle this book. Not literally speaking, as he didn’t force the book into my hands and tape my eyes open to read it, but you get the idea. I was supposed to be upset. If I wasn’t at some level moved by this book and the amazing characters, then what kind of human being would I be that I felt nothing at the end of the story? “Pain demands to be felt.” And believe me, I felt it in every piece of my body and every crevice of my soul. Somewhere out there John Green must keep a box of souls he has snatched from this book, and if he doesn’t then he should start.
That’s the thing about literature, if you don’t feel anything then what’s the point?