You don’t need me to tell you that The Fault In Our Stars is a famous tear-jerker, like all of John Green’s books.
This book is the love story of Hazel Grace and Augustus Waters. 16-year-old Grace is diagnosed with cancer and doesn’t remember a time in her life she wasn’t sick. Waters is an amputee and has an 85% chance of survival (SPOILER: He falls in the unfortunate 15%).
Grace and Gus meet in their remission group and connect almost instantly. Augustus fears oblivion and Hazel tells him beautifully why he shouldn’t. It’s the whole soulmate thing. It also takes a heart-melting turn later when Gus expresses his love to Grace:
“I’m in love with you, and I know that love is just a shout into the void, and that oblivion is inevitable, and that we’re all doomed and that there will come a day when all our labor has been returned to dust, and I know the sun will swallow the only earth we’ll ever have, and I am in love with you.”
They get along further by watching V for Vendetta together but mostly because they connect on the love of the book An Imperial Affliction by Peter Van Houten. This book is about a 12-year-old cancer-stricken girl who narrates her own story. The story ends on a cliffhanger (implying the character dies) and drives readers of it (Grace and Gus) mad. Houten has only ever written one book and is unresponsive to all of Hazel’s letters to know “What the fuck happens?”
Augustus gets through him and even brings them to Housten’s home in Amsterdam to find out how the story ends and what happens to the other characters. At this point, you feel Peter Van Houten is a douchebag (but later in the story, you kind of feel sympathetic for him too).
Anyway, Gus and Grace have the time of their life in Amsterdam, and then comes the unanticipated-anticipated ending of The Fault In Our Stars (SPOILER ahead): Augustus Waters dies.
The best part about this book is that it would be a fantastic read for parents, too, an audience the book didn’t really intend to have. You can feel Grace’s mother’s strength, her father’s pain, and how cancer doesn’t just affect the victim but also those they love. In fact, my favorite passage in the whole novel is what Hazel’s father says about the universe is biased towards consciousness:
“I believe the universe wants to be noticed. I think the universe is improbably biased toward consciousness, that it rewards intelligence in part because the universe enjoys its elegance being observed. And who am I, living in the middle of history, to tell the universe that it—or my observation of it—is temporary?”
Another thing that I loved in The Fault In Our Stars is how it is no-graceful-nonsense-bullshit. Take Grace’s “my lungs suck at being lungs” or how frequently the remission group members talk about “cancer perks.” It is a punch of authenticity. The book’s whole energy keeps you on a roller coaster of laughter, sorrow, suffering, and philosophy: You feel Grace’s struggle to breathe, you swoon at Gus’ charm, and you cry with Hazel’s dad.
Lastly, may I say, this book has just the right length! It doesn’t go on to drab for too long or ends too soon. It is so tough to keep the story’s pace just right, and yet, John Green does it.
The Fault In Our Stars made me look at things from a different perspective – how good is it? How bad is it? I don’t know. I am still figuring it out.
Shortcomings of “The Fault In Our Stars”
I write shortcomings of this book to acknowledge that I am biased (Green fangirl) and to help readers figure out why if they will enjoy this book:
1. The quotes can come across as sappy and the characters as pretentious. Take one where Augustus doesn’t light a cigarette but just keeps it in his mouth to “not give the power to its killing” or when Grace wants to know “why curry is not eaten for breakfast.” But these can be acceptable because Grace and Gus are ultimately 16/17 year-olds who want to sound smart.
2. I don’t know why “Okay? Okay.” is so famous because it is hardly used in the book as a recurring dialogue.
3. When Hazel sees Augustus Waters for the first time, and he is staring at her already, she says a mighty problematic quote:
“Look, let me just say it: He was hot. A nonhot boy stares at you relentlessly and it is, at best, awkward and, at worst, a form of assault. But a hot boy… well.”
4. The book is primarily a love story. It doesn’t go into too much depth about cancer, the pain its sufferers endure, or how the world works differently for a cancer patient.
This book has enough fame to make you want to pick it up. But if you are a John Green virgin, I’d suggest reading Looking For Alaska first.
The Fault In Our Stars is worth it, though. Gus and Grace’s little infinity won’t leave your head or your heart.
Find this book on Amazon here.