“What’s your story?”
“I was diagnosed when I was thirteen…”
“No no no, your real story.”
The Fault in Our Stars, by John Green, is a beautifully real and touching story about two young cancer patients, Hazel Grace Lancaster and Augustus Waters. Narrated by Hazel, the story begins at the support group that she attends (at her mothers behest) for fellow cancer patients. It is there that she meets Augustus, a vibrant and acerbic former athlete and amputee. Though Hazel has Stage Four Thyroid cancer with metastasis forming in her lungs, and Augustus has remitting osteosarcoma (the reason behind his amputated leg), they engage in a remarkable whirlwind romance that crosses boundaries they never believed possible. Through Hazels honest and witty observations, we are swept along with them on their journey.
There is so much to love about The Fault in our Stars; I suppose that is why it has received such critical acclaim. What I enjoyed most is that, although the two main characters both have cancer, this isn’t the focus of the book; it focuses, instead, on their ‘real’ stories. Their illness does play a role, of course – it is a very real part of their story – but in a capacity that makes it clear it is in the backseat: it illustrates its effect it on every day life without taking away from the true focus of Hazel and Augustus’ journey.
The characters were vividly and brightly written into existence, and Green created a clear idea of their personalities right from the get go. Both Augustus and Hazel were very deeply analytical about everything around them: I would describe them as the opposite of Oscar Wilde’s quote “a pessimist sees the price of everything and the value of nothing”. These were characters who took nothing for granted, least of all their time and love together.
The love story between the Hazel and Augustus is beautiful, hard hitting, and the type of romance that everyone dreams of, but amplified in intensity by a huge margin. I had pre-concieved worries that it would be too clichéd, but I was pleasantly surprised that the out-of-the-box, not-your-everyday-romance I found myself reading was so engaging.
The one thing I didn’t enjoy so much about The Fault in our Stars was that some of the observational and analytical passages I found hard to swallow; there is a lot of archaic language, and a large amount of metaphors. Many discussion points between Hazel and Augustus also border on the existential, creating some reasonably hard to understand phrases and quotes. Although thought-provoking, this sometimes made it an eyeful, and might not appeal to all readers.
The Fault in Our Stars is a beautiful novel. It was hard-hitting and humorous in equal measures, and made me really root for the characters. This refreshingly unconventional book (both the cancer and romance themes) is definitely worth a read, for any one of any age who likes a thought-provoking, ‘real’ story.