What a wonderful book!
Hazel Grace is a 17 year old dying of cancer. This is not romance cancer which will miraculously get cured by the final act, by the way. Nope, this is terminal from the moment the book opens. She did have a miracle slowing of the cancer at one point about three years before the book starts, but at this point, she’s just waiting for her time to come. She’s pretty much resigned to it and lives her life accordingly.
Until she meets Augustus, a one-legged, former basketball player who is a cancer survivor.
I’d like to say “Now she has something to live for!” and she does, but this isn’t that kind of book. Yes, she wants to make the most of her time with Augustus (“Gus” is reserved for special occasions and people who don’t know him well) but just because she’s falling in love doesn’t mean her cancer gives a rat’s ass. It’s not going to suddenly go into remission so she can live out her days in peace and happiness. Nope, this is a book about living with what you’ve got and making the most of it. This is a book about the impact we have on other people and that they have on us. It’s also a book about the power of literature, the ability of a work of fiction to do what fiction is supposed to do, to connect with us in ways even the author isn’t capable of understanding, and how it’s almost never worthwhile to meet your heroes. It’s also about first love and parental responsibility and growing up and dying. Not bad for a book which will take you just a long evening to read.
Are there a couple of missteps? Sure. This book isn’t perfect (and honestly, i have yet to read one that is) but it’s good and worth reading. The leads are a bit pretentious, speaking in overwrought phrases and having “deep” thoughts and this has led to some complaints, that this is not how teenagers talk. Except it is. Some teenagers do indeed talk like this. These teenagers do. And it works. As a reader I buy into almost all of it (there’s some bits about international travel which stretch credibility a bit, but it’s a forgivable offense).
In the end, some things are tied up neatly while others are left to fray and people are left to pick up the pieces when loved ones die or become so sick they cannot function on their own. “The Fault in our Stars” doesn’t shy away from the tough questions, even if there are no answers, let alone easy ones. It’s also very funny and heart-breakingly sad. It’s a book everyone should read at least once… some people maybe more.