The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
Release Date: January 10, 2012
Publisher: Dutton Books
Source: BookExpo America (Publisher)
Diagnosed with Stage IV thyroid cancer at 13, Hazel was prepared to die until, at 14, a medical miracle shrunk the tumours in her lungs... for now.
Two years post-miracle, sixteen-year-old Hazel is post-everything else, too; post-high school, post-friends and post-normalcy. And even though she could live for a long time (whatever that means), Hazel lives tethered to an oxygen tank, the tumours tenuously kept at bay with a constant chemical assault. Enter Augustus Waters. A match made at cancer kid support group, Augustus is gorgeous, in remission, and shockingly to her, interested in Hazel. Being with Augustus is both an unexpected destination and a long-needed journey, pushing Hazel to re-examine how sickness and health, life and death, will define her and the legacy that everyone leaves behind.
The Fault in Our Stars was a stunning and textured read that made me both laugh and cry. It is definitely not the book to read in public because it plays with your emotions. While it is entertaining, it also is deeply personal. It seems like it would be the type of book that would affect each person differently.The story itself was heartbreaking but there were complex layers and stories beneath it that reflected upon human nature, love, and all the things that are most important. It wasn't the type of agonizing grief that I felt when I read Looking for Alaska but a more subtle version of the same feeling that went deeper. It made me sad for a lot of reasons, but it also left me feeling hopeful in the end.
This isn't like other books, and not just because of its topic. Even other books about cancer don't come close to this one. It deals with hard truths and relationships and other things that plunge you straight into the story and make it feel as authentic as possible. Hazel and Gus were such engrossing characters with tangled backgrounds behind them.
The thing is that I don't even know how to describe the effect that this book had on me. I read it on the plane home from BEA and I was sobbing almost the entire time. It makes you feel both incredibly sad and somehow hopeful. It made you wonder what the point of all of it was, what life means, what it truly means to live. It toys with your emotions and makes you feel raw and vulnerable. This book tore into me and tapped into all of my emotions. I'm always looking for the book that makes me feel alive, the book that makes me feel the most like I think I'm supposed to be. The Fault in Our Stars was one of those books and it left me thoughtful and refreshed.
The character development was stunning. The plot and romance were impeccably crafted. Everything was spot on. I definitely recommend this book to anybody looking for a fantastic and emotional read.
The best sorts of books are the ones that make you realize that instead of witnessing character transformations (which you still do), you've changed while reading them. John Green's books have a way of doing just that, and The Fault in Our Stars went a step further. I'm sorry if some of the ways that I'm phrasing things don't make sense because it gave me all the feelings that I just can't describe in words.
This book made me want to go do something to make my life have a point like Augustus kept talking about. He wanted his life to mean something, to accomplish some mission or supreme purpose. Isn't that what we all want anyways? I always want to read a book that inspires me and this one left me itching to go out and change the world or do something to have it all mean something.
Hazel and Augustus both have cancer. Hazel wishes that she could breathe without an oxygen tank, that she didn't feel as trapped and miserable as she did all the time. The only people who understand her are the ones in her support group, where they listen to their leader's boring retelling of how he survived cancer and trying to avoid being forced to talk to the group. Nobody else gets it, but each person suffers through their own trauma. Hazel is just trying to survive and to live.
Hazel dropped out of school a few years ago, pre-Miracle, when everybody thought that she was going to die. She got her GED, and now she's taking classes at her community college. She couldn't reach out to her school friends because nobody knew what to say or do and nobody knew what she was going through. Her parents are her best friends but when she meets Augustus, that changes.
But then Hazel meets Augustus, he's the one person who gets it and not just the cancer side of her, but her. He's witty and wry and fascinated with metaphors. He wants to leave a legacy behind, something that people will remember him by that shows that he changed the world or did something worthwhile. He read An Imperial Affliction (Hazel's favorite book) and got what she experienced from it. He's the boy who makes her feel like her life is finally beginning to turn around.
The official summary of this book in one line is "two teens with cancer fall in love" and that is the basic story of it all, but it's not so much "falling in love" as "realizing what it means to live" and falling in love falls under that category. Hazel and Gus wanted their lives to mean something. Their experiences, triumphs, and failures in this book were all mesmerizing to read about. I read this in one sitting and it captivated me.
I'm probably reading way into this but this book had that effect on me that makes me question the things around me and things that I thought I knew. This book jumbled my thoughts and screwed with my emotions in the best possible way.
Another thing that I love about John Green is that he has the best quotes. My favorite from this one (and a quote that has been tossed around the blogosphere since TFiOS was released) was "I fell in love the way you fall asleep: slowly then all at once". He has this way of putting the feelings that you don't know how to describe into words and having it make perfect sense.
I felt the same way about this book that Hazel felt about her favorite book, An Imperial Affliction. Hazel said that there were some books that you loved and wanted to share with everyone and some that were so good that she felt she had to keep to herself because they were personal. I feel almost the same way about The Fault in Our Stars.
One thing that I really liked about Hazel and Augustus's romance was that even though there were perfect storybook moments tucked away in the book, even when things were perfect, Hazel felt that they were slightly forced. Augustus tried too hard sometimes and it was very honest. I always want things to be perfect but there has to be imperfections somewhere or it isn't realistic or it doesn't feel perfect. When Augustus took her on a picnic date, she thought that he was trying too hard to be metaphorical. I loved that because that was true and it was a part of his character.
Another thing that I really liked was how in the beginning, Hazel was looking for something to hate about him because he was everything. Every time that she thought a guy was perfect, he ended up doing something wrong or being a jerk or not living up to his potential. She thought Augustus would turn out the same way. This was slightly personal for me because a lot of the time I feel the same way. I think that something is going to be wrong in the end or I'm going to regret it or he's going to end up being awful or something. It takes a lot for me to put my guard down and put myself out there, which is what Hazel was struggling with in the beginning.
Augustus was a huge fan of metaphors. He always had to have some sort of metaphor or inside joke around him. He was ironic and wry and he tried too hard to be what Hazel wanted, but in the end, he was perfect. He was confused and thoughtful and perfect while also being real. He cracked jokes and talked with Hazel about things that nobody else would understand and was the whole package.
The saddest part for me was that for people like Augustus and Hazel, it wasn't a question of living out their lives and growing old. They only kept extending their life spans. They knew that they weren't going to live out their lives and grow old. They stole minutes and hours and days, staving off death for a little while longer.
That mostly plunged them into deciding what they wanted to leave behind and what they wanted their legacy to be. Everybody wants to be remembered and they had to figure that out. It was heartbreaking but so emotional and inspiring at the same time. It made me grateful for everything I have and take for granted like my health and happiness. Hazel and Augustus had to work so much harder than anybody else and they both wanted to figure out who they were before they died.
Then there were some lines that just cut into me. There was one specifically when Hazel is flashing back to when she almost died that just broke my heart again and again when I read it. This book isn't the type of one where I go around sobbing for the rest of the day in agony. I was crying but it wasn't the kind of hopeful despair that I normally get while reading books like these but instead they were a bit happy and a bit sad. This book makes you feel both emotions at the same time if that's possible. I experienced emotions that I wasn't even sure that I was capable of feeling.
The relationship between Hazel and Augustus started out as more of a friendship with romantic tension. Towards the end of the book, it slowly builds and gets more passionate while still being friendly. They have awkward moments and crazy moments and lovely moments together and I ended up really loving their relationship. It built realistically while still having that perfect feel that we all want to experience while reading books like these. There were a few scenes that I absolutely adored and their relationship was only part of the book. Augustus changes Hazel and their relationship impacts other parts of her life which is how a relationship should be, but it wasn't the sole focus of the book.
Overall, The Fault in Our Stars was a book that I had a lot to say about (and not all of it was coherent!) and one that I'm glad that I read. I wouldn't go as far as saying that it was John Green's best work, but it is very very close. The character development was beautiful, hard truths were explored, the romance was dynamic, and reading it made me not only discover things about the characters but about myself. John Green does not disappoint.
Recommended for anybody who loves: John Green; Saving June; Alice series; emotional reads; self-discovery reads; etc,.
Possible book club questions:There's a quote in another John Green book, "maybe our favorite quotations tell more about us than about the stories and people we're quoting". What's your favorite quote from The Fault in Our Stars. Why?Why do you think Augustus was so interested in metaphors?How did Hazel and Augustus (and their relationship) change throughout the book?etc,.