Book Review: The Fault In Our Stars

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Author: John Green
ISBN: 978-0-14-356759-2
RRP: $19.95

The Fault In Our Stars was first released in 2012, and I totally missed it. Earlier this year the hype got huge with the approach of the movie adaptation and I remained on the periphery, I heard snippets but still wasn’t sure what it was all about. Someone from outside the book blogging circle told me that I HAD to read it, and I hadn’t heard any bad reviews, so I put in a request from my library and waited patiently for a highly sought after copy to become available.

John Green has written the story of sixteen year old Hazel, who is battling terminal cancer. Going in I wasn’t sure whether this was true, based on true, inspired by true or complete work of fiction. I still seem to remember something about an actual person but the Author’s Note states that this is a complete work of fiction.

Hazel’s mum is worried she’s depressed, which I would think is pretty understandable in the circumstances, and convinces her to attend a support group to get her out of the house and spending time with people. Support group is not something that Hazel really enjoys until the day the gorgeous Augustus Waters is seated across the room.

Augustus Waters is the great pot twist according to the cover blurb, he totally rewrites Hazel’s story. Taking that into consideration, and reading the first few chapters I made some predictions and thought I knew where the story was heading – I thought wrong. I was quite surprised at how things played out.

Hazel is quite upfront and blunt about her situation, right from the beginning her diagnosis has meant one thing and though she is taking a medical miracle drug to shrink the tumours it won’t change the outcome.

The Fault In Our Stars tackles all the big ones – life, death, love, legacy, family and our sense of self. To me, these issues are still largely theoretical because I tend not to spend too much time thinking about my mortality. I don’t know how long I’ve got, no-one does, because you can never tell what’s just around the corner. But when you are carrying around cells that cut your number of days dramatically that would have to change your view of your mortality.

The more I learned about Hazel the more it seems to me that she withdrew from her pre-diagnosis life, not because she needed to but so that she could retain her identity. Hazel often talks about how she is perceived as her disease, people tend to forget that she is more than just her cancer. I hope that I would never do that to someone I was close to, but at the same time I have never been in that position.

Support Group offers an outlet for Hazel and a cast of secondary characters to spend time together in a setting where it’s okay to talk about all those things that are heartbreaking for your family and you are surrounded by people in a similar position to your own. A setting that is quite difficult to find outside of group.

Support Group is anything up to ten teens who have or have had cancer, we only really get to spend time with three of them – Hazel, Augustus and Isaac. The three have very different cancer experiences but all have kept a sense of black humour and are often found laughing in the face of their disease. This is something they can do with one another, but it doesn’t work so well with others.

the fault in our stars

An Imperial Affliction by Peter Van Houten is Hazel’s favourite book, it is a book about a cancer patient that ends abruptly, VERY abruptly, and I am with Hazel totally in not being able to let go of that. I don’t like things that just stop, they have to have an ending and there has to be some sort of resolution.

Personally, I think Hazel got so invested in An Imperial Affliction because of the way it resonated with her. She needed to know what came next for some sort of assurance that life would go on for her family. The whole An Imperial Affliction storyline highlighted the way that we as readers look for that something that speaks to us in books, that we can really relate to, and allow it to help us through in our lives. Knowing how things worked out in fiction can offer us reassurance that it can be like that for us too.

So what happens when a book that resonates in your soul just stops and doesn’t offer that ending, that reassurance. In the case of Hazel it sparks an obsession that is enabled by Augustus and doesn’t necessarily go the way she hoped. I can totally understand her actions, and admire her tenacity, but would hope that I never find myself in that much need of an ending.

The Fault In Our Stars allows us an insight into the characters that goes far beyond their diagnosis and allows us to see the teen behind the cancer with all of their teenage issues, insecurities and coming of age moments. They are fighting what is often a losing battle, or losing battles to win the war at the same time as falling in love, dealing with being dumped and trying to make the most of what they’ve got.

I think The Fault In Our Stars is definitely going to be a book that holds different things for different people, I think there is probably a great divide in opinions and a lot may depend on whether you have experienced cancer yourself or through a loved one.

I enjoyed the book and I think there is a definite message of hope, and of making the most of everything you have. I also found it to be an important reminder to always remember the patient, they are still there regardless of their diagnosis and the best thing you can do for them is to remember that.

The Fault In Our Stars movie was released in cinemas in June so it shouldn’t be too long before the DVD releases, I look forward to checking it out to see how they handled the adaptation.

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