The Fault in Our Stars (released January 10th 2012) is author John Green’s fifth addition to his acclaimed line of young adult novels; much like his previous works young love is a major theme in The Fault in Our Stars, this time around the love is shared between two young Cancer survivors. Seventeen year old, lung cancer sort-of-survivor Hazel Grace is the novels narrative voice, detailing how living with Cancer sculpted her personality as it dealt out some of the worst, and surprisingly best experiences of her life time such as when she bumps into the one legged charmer Augustus Waters at a Cancer kid support group. Although I’ve thoroughly enjoyed John Green’s previous works I was hesitant to believe this would be of a similar quality, because as Hazel Grace so delicately puts it ‘Cancer books suck.’ While this isn’t always the case, it is safe to say a fair amount of Cancer books do fall into this terribly sucky category due to their corny predictability and somewhat unrealistic representations of cancer sufferers; would The Fault in Our Stars add to the pile of literary casualties or strive through the clichés it so frequently mocked?
Warning: Spoilers Throughout!
The Fault in Our Stars unmistakably achieves the latter. Hazel-Grace’s tale dispenses with the sappy emotional baiting and misrepresentation to accommodate for harsh realities, accurate representations and above all a love story that feels refreshingly alive. I quickly found myself getting emotionally invested into the lives of the novel’s sublime characters, and much to my surprise it wasn’t just the polar opposites of happiness and sadness that were drawn from their stories. On Hazel and Augustus’s long awaited first meeting with their favourite author, the belligerently pretentious alcoholic Peter Van Houten, I found myself positively infuriated by his callous behavior to a point where I actually felt the fist clenching tension I can only imagine Augustus’s character would have felt. Green also managed to set aside the space for some unexpected, yet welcome humor that did a brilliant job of not only providing entertainment but also humanizing Hazel, Augustus and Isaac’s characters through their often witty and self-mocking line deliveries. However on a few occasions the intended comedy felt frankly cringe worthy, for instance when Isaac describes Augustus as ‘The Mayor of Cancervania’ in his eulogy I felt the emotional weight was torn out of the eulogies latter parts.
Another related criticism I would make of The Fault in Our Stars is that Augustus Waters death had next to no emotional impact on me because I feel it was simply too easily anticipated. The short, sharp plot pacing in the chapters before Augustus kicked the bucket were clearly intended to build a sort of ‘surely he wont die’ tension in the reader’s head, but it had a totally reverse effect on me that ended up making the supposedly tear jerking and sudden death of Augustus nothing more than a wholly disappointing and anti climactic experience. Thankfully the chapters proceeding Gus’s death were incredibly satisfying to read, providing the two greatest highlights of the novel including Hazel’s bad-ass ‘go fuck yourself’ speech to the pest Van Houten as he fails to redeem himself, and the contents of Augustus’s final letter to the author.
It is this passionate final letter that reveals John Green’s challenging opinions on how we perceive the idea of being successful and whether or not leaving a grand legacy is a wholly negative and selfish thing to do. Through the clever metaphor of a scar, Augustus criticizes his own selfish ambition to leave behind a world of people that would miss him for the sake of his reputation after his death and praises Hazel’s determination to leave behind as small a scar on the world as she possibly can, finally going on to say ‘you have some say in who hurts you. I like my choices. I hope she likes hers.’ John Green demonstrates for a fifth time his thoroughly outstanding ability to inspire readers into contemplating the veracity of their base ideals.
Final Thoughts: Despite the issues of what I feel to be poor plot pacing and snippets of questionable humor, The Fault in Our Stars is an involving and thought provoking roller coaster of a novel that will have any reader thoroughly engrossed in the superb story it has to tell with its encapsulating realism and endearing characters. If you have any thoughts on The Fault in Our Stars feel free to leave them in the comment section below!