“Late in the winter of my seventeenth year, my mother decided I was depressed, presumably because I rarely left the house, spent quite a lot of time in bed, read the same book over and over, ate infrequently, and devoted quite a bit of my abundant free time to thinking about death.” (The Fault in Our Stars, pg 3). That is how the book opens. I don’t read the backs of books most of the time, so I didn’t know what “The Fault in Our Stars” was really about when I picked it up. Since you find out in the first few pages, I won’t worry about spoilers for that part. The main character, Hazel, is living with cancer. She gets sent to a support group where all of her friends are living with cancer or have survived cancer. It’s not exactly a happy book, but it is a love story.
The story is told from the perspective of a seventeen-year-old girl and I quite admire the way that John Green was able to capture a teenage girl’s essence and voice in his book. There is also the morbid nature of the subject matter to which John Green finds a way to bring in comedic relief. You quickly get a sense of how Hazel thinks and feels. I like how Hazel reacts to certain things, you really hear a sarcastic seventeen year old, “Mom reached up to this shelf above my bed and grabbed Bluie, the blue stuffed bear I’d had since I was, like, one – back when it was socially acceptable to name one’s friends after their hue.” (The Fault in Our Stars, pg 40).
Despite the serious topics that the book covers, Hazel remains a fairly well grounded teenager. She has realized that the only way to deal with her living-with-cancer life is to find humor where it can be found and to not take anything too seriously. You see this especially with her interactions with the others at the support group. One of the guys at group is Isaac, her friend that she communicates with through various sighs. Then, one day, Isaac brings a friend with him to support group named Augustus and that is where everything changes for Hazel.
Augustus and Hazel quickly become friends and the flirty interactions that they have are just fun and reminiscence of high school in the beginning. They have great chemistry and their exchanges are a lot of fun.
“‘No,’ I said, ‘but I really appreciate your refusal to give in to breakfasty social conventions.’
He tilted his head at me, confused. ‘Hazel has developed an issue with the ghettoization of scrambled eggs,’ Mom said.
‘It’s embarrassing that we all just walk through life blindly accepting that scrambled eggs are fundamentally associated with mornings.’
‘I want to talk about this more,’ Augustus said. ‘But I am starving, I’ll be right back.’” (The Fault in Our Stars, pg 143).
When he returns, he rebuttals with: “‘The thing about eggs, though,’ he said, ‘is that breakfastization gives the scrambled egg a certain sacrality, right? You can get yourself some bacon or Cheddar cheese anywhere anytime, from tacos to breakfast sandwiches to grilled cheese, but scrambled eggs—they’re important.’” (The Fault in Our Stars, pg 145). The interactions between the two are so well done.
While I loved reading about Hazel and Augustus, I think what moved me most about this book was how Hazel reacted and thought about her parents. Whenever she would say offhandedly ‘dad cries a lot’ or ‘mom hangs around a lot’ I could just picture that her parents were mine. It got me to thinking about how my death at that age would have affected my parents. How amazingly difficult it must be to know that you have to one day bury your child.
Would I recommend this book? Yes, it was an amazing read and I devoured it. I think there are a couple things to keep in mind before picking up this book. For example, maybe don’t pick it up if you are looking for a happy book. I find it hard to believe that anyone could read this book without tearing up a few times. It’s the kind of book that you sob through. That being said, there were a lot of amazing aspects to the book: it was extremely well-written, the characters, especially Hazel, are easy to relate to and easy to care for, and you can’t help but want to keep turning the pages to find out what happens. I am definitely going to get my hands on John Green’s additional work, he is a talented writer – I just hope his other books don’t make me cry so much.