The Fault in Our Stars continues the phenomenon of successful young adult novels which have been embraced by a broader audience. The novel has shot to the top of the New York Times bestsellers list and was received with glowing reviews. John Green is also the author of three other bestselling young adult novels.
The Fault in Our Stars is a love story about two teenagers with cancer. With a setup like that, you will probably guess that your chances of a happy ending are not good. Sixteen-year-old Hazel and her boyfriend Augustus bond over a book called An Imperial Affliction, which is about a teenage girl with cancer. Unhappy about the way the book ends in mid-story, they set off to Amsterdam to confront its author and ask him to disclose the ending. While the author is less than obliging, the pair find that Amsterdam is a wonderful city in which to fall in love.
The novel is beautifully written and, on the whole, unsentimental. Hazel and Augustus joke about their ‘cancer perks’, such as being served champagne on the plane even though they are underage. It subtly mocks the stereotypical view of the brave and stoic cancer sufferer. When their friend Isaac’s girlfriend dumps him just before he has an operation that will leave him blind, they head over to her place and throw eggs at her car. The teenagers have a fine line in witty dialogue, which may not be realistic, but does make for good reading, ‘”Ma’am,” Augustus said, nodding towards her, “your daughter’s car has just been deservedly egged by a blind man.”’
Hazel is a sensitive soul whose main wish is to minimise the suffering she causes to others. She is a vegetarian and initially resists involvement with Augustus because she is terminally ill. She doesn’t want to be a ‘grenade’, wrecking his life.
Be warned, John Green is not afraid to break your heart. I cried bucket-loads by the end of this book and did end up feeling a little emotionally manipulated as a result, but that is a petty quibble. The Fault in our Stars is a thoughtful, original and engaging love story. My teenage son also enjoyed it and you can’t ask for more than that. A movie is on the way so keep the tissues handy for that one.
I’ll be at Literati on the Gold Coast on the 17 – 18 May which promises to be an action-packed couple of days, and at Carindale Library in Brisbane on the 19 May. Never a dull moment, hope to see you there!