“As he read, I fell in love the way you fall asleep: slowly, and then all at once.”
“I fell in love the way you fall asleep: slowly, then all at once.”
Despite the tumor-shrinking medical miracle that has bought her a few years, Hazel has never been anything but terminal, her final chapter inscribed upon diagnosis. But when a gorgeous plot twist named Augustus Waters suddenly appears at Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazel’s story is about to be completely rewritten.
Insightful, bold, irreverent, and raw, The Fault in Our Stars is award-winning author John Green’s most ambitious and heartbreaking work yet, brilliantly exploring the funny, thrilling, and tragic business of being alive and in love.
At age twenty-two, John Green worked as a student chaplain in a children’s hospital.
Let’s take a moment and consider all the implications of that, and why he is making a colossal understatement when he described the experience as “devastating.” That was about twelve years ago, and Green has said in interviews that because of this experience, he’s spent twelve years trying to write a book about kids with cancer – not poster children of strength and courage and illness-granted wisdom, but real kids and their families and friends who have to cope with the fact that they will die young.
All novels are personal, but Green’s novels seem, to me, to be especially so. But this one is personal in a different way. With this novel, Green isn’t trying to exorcize the memory of the girl who stomped on his heart in high school. This is about life, death, illness, love, heroism, and how a sixteen-year-old is supposed to deal with the fact that she will die and leave everyone she loves behind. Maybe it’s just because I’ve been watching vlogbrothers videos for two years and feel like I’m actually acquainted with John Green, but this is the most deeply personal novel I’ve ever read.
This is not, as Hazel Lancaster might say, a Cancer Book. None of the cancer patients in this story have a wisdom beyond their years, and they do not stoically accept the fact that they will die or fight heroically. Hazel Lancaster, a terminal sixteen-year-old who has to carry an oxygen tank everywhere because “my lungs suck at being lungs” is refreshingly real – not manic, not a pixie, not a dream girl. She reads Great Books and watches America’s Next Top Model marathons. Augustus Waters, her amputee friend, wants desperately to leave a lasting impression on the world and philosophizes about heroism, and his favorite book is a novelization of a video game. Everything here is real, especially the diseases. There isn’t anything about dying gracefully here, because cancer is ugly and unpleasant, and Green makes you feel Hazel’s lungs struggling to breathe and the pain, and see the vomit and urine. Most importantly, Hazel and Augustus are not defined by their cancer. It consumes their lives, but it doesn’t define them. On every page, it’s clear: this is a story told by someone who hasn’t known just one person with cancer, but has seen a multitude of children with terminal diseases, and has tried to find some way to comfort them and their families.
It’s for that reason that I don’t feel like I can review this like a normal book. John Green didn’t write this story for me, and so I don’t feel like I have any place saying that it’s amazing and beautiful and heartbreaking. And I certainly can’t criticize any of its minor faults. All I can say, really, is that you have to read this for yourself, and go from there.
“My thoughts are stars I cannot fathom into constellations.”
“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.”
“I’m in love with you,” he said quietly.
“Augustus,” I said.
“I am,” he said. He was staring at me, and I could see the corners of his eyes crinkling. “I’m in love with you, and I’m not in the business of denying myself the simple pleasure of saying true things. 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.”
“You don’t get to choose if you get hurt in this world…but you do have some say in who hurts you. I like my choices.”
“Some infinities are bigger than other infinities.”
“There are infinite numbers between 0 and 1. There’s .1 and .12 and .112 and an infinite collection of others. Of course, there is a bigger infinite set of numbers between 0 and 2, or between 0 and a million. Some infinities are bigger than other infinities. A writer we used to like taught us that. There are days, many of them, when I resent the size of my unbounded set. I want more numbers than I’m likely to get, and God, I want more numbers for Augustus Waters than he got. But, Gus, my love, I cannot tell you how thankful I am for our little infinity. I wouldn’t trade it for the world. You gave me a forever within the numbered days, and I’m grateful.”
“Oh, I wouldn’t mind, Hazel Grace. It would be a privilege to have my heart broken by you.”
“Some people don’t understand the promises they’re making when they make them,” I said.
“Right, of course. But you keep the promise anyway. That’s what love is. Love is keeping the promise anyway.”
“May I see you again?” he asked. There was an endearing nervousness in his voice.
I smiled. “Sure.”
“Tomorrow?” he asked.
“Patience, grasshopper,” I counseled. “You don’t want to seem overeager.
“Right, that’s why I said tomorrow,” he said. “I want to see you again tonight. But I’m willing to wait all night and much of tomorrow.” I rolled my eyes. “I’m serious,” he said.
“You don’t even know me,” I said. I grabbed the book from the center console. “How about I call you when I finish this?”
“But you don’t even have my phone number,” he said.
“I strongly suspect you wrote it in this book.”
He broke out into that goofy smile. “And you say we don’t know each other.”
“The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves.” – William Shakespeare
“Without pain, how could we know joy?’ This is an old argument in the field of thinking about suffering and its stupidity and lack of sophistication could be plumbed for centuries but suffice it to say that the existence of broccoli does not, in any way, affect the taste of chocolate.”
Where to find The Fault in our Stars?
*If you are unaware, I have a video on how to use Indie Bound as a resource on how to find books
**Also, if you have a Windows Phone, there is a really good EPUB reader app called Bookviser Reader. You can check out their website here.
Happy Reading . . .