Some infinities are bigger than other infinities
Full disclosure: I’m a huge John Green fan. His first novel, Looking for Alaska, is one of my favorite books of all time. So he can pretty much do no wrong in my opinion. I do, however, have some pretty high expectations when I read his work.
That being said, The Fault in Our Stars not only met my expectations but exceeded them tenfold.
Here is the plot summary from Goodreads:
Diagnosed with Stage IV thyroid cancer at 13, Hazel was prepared to die until, at 14, a medical miracle shrunk the tumors 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.
I know at first glance a story about teens with cancer sounds terribly maudlin and depressing, but this one is so far from that. Don’t get me wrong, there are definitely those moments and I didn’t get through this book without a few tears (ok, maybe more than a few). But there is humor that offsets the darkness. The characters aren’t just “Cancer Kids.” They’re incredibly complex in a way that you don’t usually see in books from this genre.
I’ve heard some critics say that the characters aren’t believable because they launch into these long, beautiful soliloquies about life and death that actual teens could never come up with on their own. I suppose that would bother me if I expected everything I read to be an accurate portrayal of real life, but I’m not one of those readers. This book is just so beautifully written that I can forgive those sorts of inconsistencies. John Green is so good at creating these little golden nuggets of sentences that you want to keep in your pocket and carry with you, like this one:
Sometimes, you read a book and it fills you with this weird evangelical zeal, and you become convinced that the shattered world will never be put back together unless and until all living humans read the book. And then there are books . . . which you can’t tell people about, books so special and rare and yours that advertising your affection feels like betrayal
Or maybe that’s just me.
Either way, I loved the writing and the characters. While the dialogue may come across as inauthentic to some, Green’s exploration of illness, death, and loss feels extremely truthful. Rather than putting a Lifetime movie spin on things and tying up all loose ends in a neat, palatable package), he leaves the reader with more questions than answers. We don’t know what the future holds for Hazel, but we’re definitely left with a lot to think about. This is a story that sticks with you in the best way possible.