There is life in cancer.
Age: Young Adult
First Published: 10th January 2012
Date Reviewed: 30th June 2014
Hazel has cancer. She’s not likely to ever be in remission but she’s able to live a fuller life than she had with illness so far. At the support group her mother insists she goes to she meets Augustus, someone who matches her in wit and thought. He’s lost a leg but is in remission, and although things will always be difficult, the two teens begin to fall in love.
The Fault In Our Stars is every bit as good as you’ve heard. Green’s writing is very unique and rather excellent, no matter that he has a few novels already under his belt. The book moves far away from the idea of pity, allowing you to see reality.
Green writes teenagers very well and the dialogue seems true to life. There has been no attempt to make the book beautiful – this is no literary feat and frankly it would suffer if it was. To be sure it’s a particular type of writing (this reviewer took a good few pages to get used to it even though she liked it), and it may not appeal to everyone. This is perhaps the only possible issue – where everything is so fresh and specific the book may put readers off by it’s technical nature.
Putting that aside, however, the characters are fantastic. These are teens of a particular personality. They use ‘big’ words, often to excess, and there are so many subjects covered as metaphors and evidence for otherwise simple conversations, it’s unlikely you will know all of them. The sheer life implied by the way the characters act just goes to emphasise how awful it is that we have these diseases that kill. They are simply two fictional people, but they represent a great many more, real, people.
The metaphors are many. A particularly prominent concept throughout is of cigarettes and the potential to kill. Augustus disgusts Hazel when he takes a cigarette from his pocket, but he explains the theory behind his action, that something that kills, stripped of the power to kill by his failure to light it, is not a threat. There are semi-subtextual ideas, such as Hazel’s naming transition, changing what she calls her boyfriend, and there is the controversial scene in Anne Frank’s house in which the teenagers cause a stir.
There is, as you may expect, a lot of humour. You are meant to laugh. You are meant to have a good time. You are not meant to pity, but you are of course meant to feel. There is the sadness – of course there is, you may say, but the point here is that because it’s balanced by the humour and normality, it is all the more powerful.
A special mention must be made of the novel Hazel loves, that she passes on to Augustus. It forms a big part of Green’s book and contains a great many concepts and metaphors. Does it signal what will later happen in the book? The scenes with the author of this book within a book remind you that sometimes life sucks, and it can continue to suck even when it’s already reached the lowest of lows.
Metaphors, concepts, themes. These, apart from the C word, are what The Fault In Our Stars is about. Green wants you to get to the heart of the matter and knows that often, subtlety is the best way. The book gets you thinking, analysing as though it is literature set for class discussion, and will leave you considering it for days.
Both a fast read and a slow burner, The Fault In Our Stars will change you by way of making you think. It’s not out to change the way you approach disease (or even, it could be said, disability). At least not obviously.
Think. Consider. Laugh. Cry. There is a fault in the stars, but it isn’t Green’s book.
July 7, 2014, 9:15 am
I bought this for the Teen a while back – and she told me it was rubbish! Expecting to disagree, I read it and … well… not quite agreed but I can’t see what’s supposed to be so great about it.
July 7, 2014, 10:29 am
Maryom: Good to hear your view. I really think, looking at it objectively, that it is quite surprising it has been so hyped (I know I had to be a little less objective in my review in order to discuss what I wanted to discuss). Obviously many, many people like it, but there is that definite… I said ‘specific’ but know that might not be the best word, flavour to it that I would have thought made it less likely to work for as many people as it did. I wonder how much hype and the film played a part, and wonder too if those who didn’t like the book so much might enjoy the film more (judging by the trailers I know I found the atmosphere didn’t match my take on the book). Hopefully that all made sense!
July 7, 2014, 1:07 pm
I have loved all of Green’s books, but this one the best. It does such a good job of separating out the person from the disease–one of my favorite parts is when Augustus asks Hazel to tell him about herself, and she starts in with the cancer diagnosis and he says no, tell me about what you like, do you have any hobbies?
July 7, 2014, 4:49 pm
I am glad you liked The Fault in Our Stars so much, Charlie. I liked it as well. I have read only one other John Green book, and liked it very much–I like Green’s style and his characters. I look forward to reading more by him.
July 7, 2014, 9:49 pm
I do not like to cry :/
July 8, 2014, 10:53 am
This must have been hard for you to read. *hug* It sounds as though the book does a good job of separating the person from the disease, which is always a good thing. I’ve seen the novel around but didn’t know what it was about. I might have to investigate it now.
July 8, 2014, 3:58 pm
A book that naturally enough lots of bloggers are discussing at the moment, thanks for sharing your thoughts with us. I’m hoping to read the book before the release of the film.
July 8, 2014, 4:56 pm
I know just what you mean about Green’s writing style. I felt that too the first time I read (or rather listened) to one of his books. I love his books and while this one wasn’t my favorite (I adored Looking for Alaska), there is something so raw and wonderful about his characters and their experiences. I’m glad you enjoyed this one Charlie!
July 8, 2014, 6:52 pm
I haven’t read any of Green’s books yet, but I think I’ll start with another one (they all sound good) before getting to this one – it’s just such a difficult subject matter for me to read.
July 8, 2014, 8:40 pm
I think I did some self-protective emotional disengaging from this book when I read it, because it didn’t hit me as hard as it seems to have hit a lot of people. But John Green is undoubtedly a really gifted writer, and I love his ability to write about dramatic situations without being melodramatic about them.
July 9, 2014, 3:08 pm
While I’ve heard of this book and have seen the trailers for the film yours is actually the first review I’ve read of it. While I’m pleased to hear you enjoyed and its interesting I don’t think the premise and style is grabbing me.
July 9, 2014, 8:36 pm
So far I’ve resisted the John Green hype , particularly for this book, because neither contemporary stories nor books on sad topics are really my thing. However, given the hype, I’m always curious to get another perspective on this book. Thanks for the thoughtful review!
July 15, 2014, 1:08 pm
I read this one recently, and even though I liked it, i found it only for young readers, as if it lacked something.
But it’s a good read anyway.
July 16, 2014, 11:45 pm
I finally bought this one recently & hope to read it soon — I guess the hype got to me after all! Glad to hear it was a 5 star for you though :)