Debbie from Yulpa Reads has reviewed The Fault in Our Stars for us. As a cancer survivor herself, she shares a unique perspective.
Sixteen year old Hazel Grace Lancaster has terminal cancer, but because of a “Cancer Miracle,” has purchased for herself an unknown bit of time. She wishes to minimize the damage her death will cause by staying close to home, spending her time taking classes at the junior college, reading, and watching reality TV. To please her parents, who are, as she says, the only ones in a worse position than she is, she attends a Cancer Kids Support Group. There she meets Augustus Waters who had “a little touch of osteosarcoma a year and a half ago…but is on a roller coaster that only goes up”. As their relationship slowly develops, Hazel shares her favorite book, An Imperial Affliction, with Augustus. The author, Peter Van Houten, is the only person Hazel has come across who seems to understand what it was like to be dying but not have died. An Imperial Affliction ends in mid-sentence. Hazel accepts that the main character, Anna, has died but wants to know what happens to everyone else in the novel. She has written to the author many times without an answer. Augustus makes it possible for the two of them (and Hazel’s mother) to go to Amsterdam to meet the reclusive author.
Does this sound like a book that is sweet, funny and life affirming? Well, it is. The dialogue is witty and intelligent. It is wonderful to watch these two young people fall in love despite their circumstances. And it is particularly delightful to watch Hazel bloom and become stronger in spite of her frail body.
Very mild violence that involves the smashing of Augustus’ baseball trophies (with his permission) by their friend Isaac when he finds out his “forever” girlfriend dumped him because he was going to be blind.
I remember a few mild appropriately descriptive words.
Normally, I’d be disturbed about a sexual encounter between sixteen and seventeen year old kids, but in this case it felt life affirming. Others may disagree. Most of the explicit language was about her oxygen and his artificial leg.
Hazel and Augustus and Hazel and her Dad have some discussions about what they think happens after death. And the Dutch Tulip Man, a character in Imperial Affliction, is a metaphor for God.
As a cancer survivor, I identified with Hazel. There is not even a hint of sentimentality in the book, no brave sacrifice, no heroic messages, just reality. Her story felt true, so I was not surprised to find at the end of the book an acknowledgement to Esther Grace Earl and her family.
Even a successful fight against cancer involves loss. Hazel’s lungs can no longer do their job alone and their friend, Isaac, must pay a price for survival that would horrify most of us, the loss of his eyes. Even without such side effects, the body that you are left with is not the same one you had before. John Green respects his readers enough to tell them the truth and believes they can handle it.
Hazel loved An Imperial Affliction because it was her story and an honest story. She wanted to know what happened to the other characters because if they were doing well, maybe her parents would be OK, too. I love The Fault In Our Stars because it is an authentic story of hope and the daring to risk love in the face of death.
To find out more about the foundation created in Esther Earl’s honor go to tswgo.org .
Unlike Peter van Houten, John Green answers questions about his books. You can read some of them at johngreenbooks.com
End note from Laura Catherine – I LOVED the book. It was funny and clever and profound. But I have to give my “mom of two young girls” disclaimer. The sexual encounter between Augustus and Hazel is not graphic or steamy, but it would be the thing that would prevent me from recommending this for middle schoolers and younger teens.