Book Review: The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

2014 Green - The Fault In Our Stars CoverHazel Grace Lancaster, sixteen, has thyroid cancer. The drug Phalanxifor is “miraculously” holding back the tumors that spread to her lungs, and the cylindrical green oxygen tank she hauls behind her is helping to keep her lungs operational. But Hazel’s life has narrowed. She’s been out of school for three years. Convinced that her daughter is depressed, because she lingers in bed, reads the same book over and over again, rarely leaves the house, barely eats, and is fixated on the topic of death, Hazel’s mother insists that she attend a weekly support group. Hazel resists at first, “Please just let me watch America’s Next Top Model.” But wanting to make her parents happy, as happy as parents who have a kid with cancer can be, Hazel reluctantly gives in. Support Group Wednesday is now on the calendar. Hazel finds the whole thing depressing, except for Isaac, who has eye cancer and feels the same way, and also Augustus, a beautiful boy with translucent blue eyes and a prosthetic leg who’d had cancer a year and a half earlier and was at the support group to keep Isaac company. When Hazel and Augustus meet they are intrigued. After Hazel quotes a long passage about the inevitability of human oblivion from her favorite book, An Imperial Affliction, Augustus is smitten. The book plays a key role in this love story as the two teens traverse friendship, family strife, life, death, and cancer. John Green’s poignant book about these two teenagers, funny at times and bleak at others, gives readers a glimpse of what it is like to live with cancer as an adolescent. With Hazel as the narrator, we see first-hand what her daily experiences are like and how other people react to her illness, including members of the support group. We witness how Hazel’s condition impacts her parents, and the burden of responsibility she feels toward them. As Hazel’s relationship with Augustus progresses, cancer and teenage life intersect. For the first time since her diagnosis Hazel feels attractive, wanted, and needed. Yet she knows that the ‘imperial afflictions’ they both face mean that, unlike many healthy teens their age, they do not have their whole lives ahead of them. This tension threads through the entire book, along with a resounding beat of life. Green by no means minimizes the gut-wrenching influence of cancer, but he celebrates the moments, special and ordinary, that make life worth living. A film adaptation of “The Fault in Our Stars” is scheduled for release this summer (June 6, 2014).

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. Dutton Books, 2012. 318pp. ISBN: 978-0147513731.

Jennifer Tirrell, Upper School Librarian, Greenhill School (Publications) Jennifer Tirrell has been a school librarian for 10 years. She earned her Masters in Library and Information Science from the University of California, Los Angeles and her Bachelors degree in History from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, which is where she first met Gayle Sulik. She has experience teaching middle school History and English in Massachusetts and in California. She has also worked in the retail book business and in public libraries. Jenn is looking forward to working with BCC to develop a special collection resource library. She also serves as co-editor of the BCC Quarterly e-newsletter and other publications.

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