November 21, 2012

Review: The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
Published: 2012, Dutton Books
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
Source: Hardcover won in contest hosted by Allison

You don't get to choose if you get hurt in this world...but you do have some say in who hurts you. I like my choices. I hope she likes hers.

After reading An Abundance of Katherines and not being its biggest fan, I wasn't sure what would happen with my second attempt to read a John Green book, or even which of his books I should read next. Fortunately my choice was made for me when I received a copy of The Fault in Our Stars via a contest. And honestly this book should probably have been my introduction to Green's works. It provided a reading experience I was able to enjoy and savor. Although I've now had a more positive (or, at least, moving) experience, I am not sure what expectations I should have towards Green's remaining books.

Hazel Grace Lancaster was diagnosed with terminal thyroid cancer years ago. Although modern treatments have caused her tumors to miraculously shrink, her doctor appointments and hospital visits are not focused on curing her, but rather finding ways to extend her remaining years. Hazel thinks she has accepted her prognosis, preferring to spend her time at home with her parents; she does not reach out to many people outside of her parents, afraid to become a ticking time bomb for others. But once she meets Augustus Waters at a cancer support group, she begins to question what she wants out of life and how she should live her remaining years.

Hazel is not quite depressed, but she has also become rather complacent with her mostly isolated life and doesn't make many efforts to do things outside of the ordinary (and really, who can blame her?). She's been told she's dying for years. A few years ago she actually was all set to die, only to have a miracle cure buy her some extra time. In the midst of such a struggle, it would be very easy for Hazel to become selfish, to think of all the things she's missing, those she'll never experience. But that's not Hazel. Caring and compassionate, she puts others first and is very much aware of the potential she has to affect others. Hazel also appreciates the arts, especially poetry and prose. I loved that she not only appreciated literature, but how she was able to understand it and adapt it to her own life.

Although Hazel is technically the protagonist and the story is actually told through her first-person perspective, I'd argue that Augustus is just as much a leading character. This is Hazel and Augustus' story. August Waters is atypical in every way imaginable. A former basketball star who lost a leg to osteoscarcoma. Philosophical, appreciative of poetry, and incredibly friendly and charismatic. His greatest fear is to disappear into oblivion. Perhaps he doesn't sound like a normal teenage boy, but then again he's not, not really. He and Hazel both have had to deal with so many unfortunate circumstances throughout their young lives and have had so much time for self-reflection and self-teaching. If neither of them acts too much like a teenager, I can actually accept that.

In this very character-driven novel, even the secondary characters are given their chance to shine. Augustus and Hazel's friend Isaac from cancer support group is wonderful. In many ways his story is just as tragic as theirs, but he infuses the story with more wit and humor. And it was nice to see Hazel and Augustus interact with another person their age. Hazel and Augustus' families are both amazing support systems, which was so nice to see. And I'd be remiss without mentioning Hazel's literary idol, Peter Von Hauten. I was torn between rolling my eyes in annoyance and laughing in each scene where Hazel encountered him.

And as for the romance? It's a huge part of this book. And for once I really enjoyed it and how fitting it was to the story. Hazel and Augustus have already lost control over so many aspects of their lives, but at least they're able to make the choice to love one another. Their romance is poignant, tender, and so, so bittersweet. It also functions as a system of hope within the novel, which was definitely necessary. Their romance is a perfect meeting of souls and it made me so happy to see this piece of happiness in the midst of so much struggle and pain.

Yes, The Fault in Our Stars is a cancer book. But it's also so much more than that. It's about human behavior in extreme situations, and also about choices, hope, first love, and moving forward with one's life. Green brings up so many heartwarming messages that I'm sure the book will continue to resonate with me for quite some time to come. And yes, I did cry quite a few times.
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Amanda loves few things better than sitting down with a cup of tea and a book. She frequently stays up far too late, telling herself she just needs to finish one more page. When she's not wrapped up in the stories of others, Amanda works as a children's librarian in a public library.


  1. Omg I've been meaning to read this one for SO LONG! I obviously have seen all the incredible reviews for it and it would be my first Green book, too! I love how much it seems like a character driven novel. When even the side characters shine through that's a great sign! Fab review, Amanda!

    1. I do hope you manage to read it soon, Giselle! It's definitely worth the hype. Thank you and I look forward to your review! :)

  2. YAY! I'm so glad you enjoyed it, Amanda! It was my introduction to Green's works and I LOVED it. It was amazing. It made me cry. Still does actually. Fantastic review! :D

    1. I am jealous this was how you were introduced to Green. It definitely is an amazing work. Now if only I can figure out which other works of his can evoke similar feelings for me. Thanks, Keertana!

  3. In this very character-driven novel, even the secondary characters are given their chance to shine.

    THIS makes me want to read this more than anything else I've read in other reviews. I love well-fleshed out characters, especially when that can happen with secondary characters!

    1. Yay! And I do know what you mean. I'll always care more for the protagonists and making sure that they are well-defined, but it adds something extra to the novel when the secondary characters also seem very real. I hope that you're able to read this in the near future, Kelly, I'd love to read your thoughts on it!

  4. This is the first (and only) John Green book I've read. I was a bit let down at first because of the hype, but there are lots of things to love about it.

    I loved Isaac's subplot, and I agree that he added humour but also a lot of depth. I think something the book did well was show that death isn't the only fear with cancer, that it can damage your life in other ways - like Gus' leg and Isaac's eyes. The eyes thing killed me, though. I can't imagine being blind.


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