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Review: The Fault in Our Stars by John Green (Spoilers)

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Before I begin, I would like to make several comments regarding the nature of this novel. First of all, The Fault in Our Stars, despite the fact that the narrator disdains upon such titles, is in truth a ‘cancer book.’ To be fair, it’s not an up-ending, inspiring tale of dreams achieved and goals met, wishes come true and everlasting exuberance found – but nonetheless it is a standard-bearer for the fast-emerging genre of teen fiction the Daily Mail has dubbed “sick lit.” The title character, Hazel Grace Lancaster, is introduced as a suffering victim yet pities herself not; she endures the trials that define her existence as a cancer patient – namely the deaths and sacrifices of her friends, as well as her own unstable condition – and emerges from the ordeal sadder but wiser, and potentially more hopeful about her wretched existence. Thus some reviewers might afford it more praise than it is due purely because it details the suffering of the terminally ill and does not attempt to gloss over the gory details for the sake of a glittering, felicitous end. I shall attempt not to allow such precepts to cloud my objectivity, though neither shall I endeavor to present this book in an unduly negative light.

I would also like to point out that The Fault in Our Stars is a deeply moving, poignant novel. So much so, in fact, that immediately after reading it I was compelled to flip the TV on to watch dazedly as the heroes of Torchwood shot at some aliens for forty-five senseless minutes. It’s that kind of book – one that presents ideas in such a way that we readers must take cover in mindlessness to shield ourselves.

The Fault in Our Stars fills me with a sense of uncertainty. Upon finishing it, I wondered if I should try to capture my thoughts about it right away, or wait and let them percolate. Would it be less meaningful on a re-read? Is it a book to re-read? Or one to preserve forevermore as a series of first impressions?

The last letter from Augustus Waters to Van Houten, though intended to place a small glow of optimism where the eloquent young man once lived within the heart, only amplified the hopelessness of the entire situation. ‘You don’t get to choose if you get hurt in this world, old man, but you do have some say in who hurts you. I like my choices. I hope she likes hers.’ To which the femme mourant, as it were, responds with a resounding and overtly wedding-referential ‘I do, Augustus. I do.’ I leave wondering how long it will be till Hazel kicks the bucket. Will she go out with dignity?

I’d rather not end this review on a negative, snarky note, because it is possible that I have been stubbornly cynical to deflect the wave of insight that this book has set upon me. Let me say this: The Fault in Our Stars is a well-written, earnest novel that never felt slow. Even the lengthier scenes had energy, and that is a difficult endeavor to skillfully accomplish as a writer. Upon completion, I felt honestly moved. That is not a statement I make often with regards to teen fiction. So, all in all, I applaud John Green for writing an accessible novel not only concerning cancer, but people. Thank you.

Neek about it!