The Fault in Our Stars – A Review
I am an avid book nerd, if you didn’t already know that about me (in which case, hi, I’m Tim; I don’t believe we’ve met), and when I read a book that I really love I usually let the whole world know about it. Somehow, though, I let one slip by that I really should have recommended. I mean, I pre-ordered it, waited for months for it to come in the mail, read it in one sitting, and almost read it again later that same day, but for some reason I never blogged about it except for a small mention in another post months later. This is a crime against great fiction and it’s up to me to set things right, so I present to you this short review/recommendation of one of my favorite novels of all time: The Fault in Our Stars by John Green.
For those of you who don’t know, John Green is a New York Times bestselling author already with three and a half young adult novels under his belt: Looking for Alaska (his first and most famous), An Abundance of Katherines (his only third-person novel), Paper Towns (which was my favorite John Green book until TFiOS), and the co-authored-with-David-Levithan Will Grayson, Will Grayson (which, while I disagree with its stance on homosexuality, is definitely a worthwhile read). He’s also one half of the Vlogbrothers YouTube channel, the most gloriously nerdy and entertaining vlog series of all time, which he runs with his brother Hank.
The Fault in Our Stars is the story of Hazel Grace Lancaster (Ansen, if you’re reading this, I will pay you to name your daughter Hazel Grace), a sixteen-year-old girl with lung cancer and a snarky sense of humor, which doesn’t stop her mom from worrying that she might be growing depressed (“presumably because I rarely left the house, spent quite a lot of time in bed, read the same book over and over, ate infrequently, and devoted quite a bit of my abundant free time to thinking about death” as she notes in the opening paragraph). So Hazel’s mom sends her to Cancer Support Group where she meets an ever-changing host of mostly-uninteresting fellow cancer patients – and, one fateful day, a boy with a prosthetic leg and an indelible smirk named Augustus Waters. The story of their time together is full of unexpected turns, both joyous and heart-wrenching, and told with all of the trademark quirky eloquence and striking insight that makes John Green my favorite author. Especially insight – the observations that The Fault in Our Stars contains on life and death and who we are and why we matter will move you and stick with you, but best of all they will make you think.
All of John Green’s previous works are spectacularly well-written and insightful stories, but in my opinion, The Fault in Our Stars is his greatest, almost as if it’s the novel that he’s been working towards through his whole career so far. Perhaps it is; after all, before he was a novelist John Green was a chaplain in a children’s hospital, and it was those experiences that inspired him to write The Fault in Our Stars. The Fault in Our Stars also deals with many of the same themes upon which John Green has touched before – death and mortality, salvation, love – in a more complete, direct, and compelling way than he ever has. Even the minutiae, such as the lower frequency of foul language, lends the book a feeling of greater eloquence and maturity. The amount of swearing in his earlier books seems unnecessary to me, a stylistic choice that really adds nothing to the characters, the tone, or the story itself and just tends to grate on me. In The Fault in Our Stars, however, the characters swear less strongly and less often, and on the few occasions that characters do use really strong language, it serves to intensify the emotion of the scene. Over all, The Fault in Our Stars feels like the culmination of John Green’s work so far, like his storytelling has truly come into its own and the result is a more mature, thoughtful, and powerful book than any that came before it. I strongly encourage you to buy it, but even if you just borrow it from a friend or the library (or a friend who works at the library, if you know one) you need to read The Fault in Our Stars. You certainly won’t regret it, and if you’re anything like me then there’s no way that you’ll ever forget it.