Disclaimer: This review may contain a few spoilers. The biggest spoiler is acknowledged as “SPOILER ALERT.”
Hazel is a sixteen year old girl who has terminal cancer. Even though she is sick, and has to walk around with an oxygen tank, she tries not to let the cancer define her, although it’s easier said than done. Since she was homeschooled, Hazel has already taken, and passed, the GED and is enrolled in college literature classes. Hazel’s favorite book is An Imperial Affliction, by Peter Van Houten, and loves to read poetry, but not write it.
Lacking a social life, besides attending college classes, Hazel’s parents urge her to go to a cancer support group held at a local church. At the support group, she meets Augustus, former high school basketball player whose cancer is in remission. Gus, as he is so often called, is attending a meeting with his friend, Isaac, who is about to have eye surgery, which will result in blindness.
Hazel and Augustus form a bond that can only be found within a true friendship. They read each other’s favorite books, play video games together, and speak to each other in metaphors. Although Hazel has more than friendship feelings for Gus, she is scared to get close to him because she doesn’t want to hurt him with her illness. Gus, on the other hand, has been hurt before and is willing to take the risk because he cares so deeply about Hazel. Together, they laugh, cry, and fill each other’s lives with companionship.
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green is devastatingly beautiful and I absolutely loved it. Even though cancer is as far from a funny subject as it can get, John Green makes it seem as if it’s just another fact of life, and makes jokes that don’t seem awkward or insensitive. The true love and friendship found within the characters of this novel are a rare find. I have read many fictional books about cancer, but this one is different, this one is special. Cancer is scary: for those who have it, had it, or watched someone struggle through it. John Green paints a real picture, he doesn’t sugar-coat it. Not only was he able to create such an exceptional story-line for Hazel and Augustus, he was also able to put a story within a story by incorporating An Imperial Affliction, by Peter Van Houten, into so many aspects of this book.
An Imperial Affliction, Hazel’s favorite book, is not a real book; I know this because I googled it. In the made-up novel, Anna, the main character, is diagnosed with a rare blood disease. Her mother meets a Dutch man who says that he can help Anna with a special cancer treatment. Not only does he promise to help Anna, but her mother also falls in love with him. The novel ends in the middle of the sentence, leaving the reader (especially Hazel) angry and confused.
Hazel considers Peter Van Houten one of her best friends, even though they have never met, because she thinks he knows what death is like, even though he hasn’t died yet. I love how Hazel is so invested in this story and its characters. I also love that Augustus begins to share her passion for the story and together they try to find out what happens to Anna’s mother, the man her mother loves, and Anna’s hamster. I’m not going to lie, I am kind of disappointed that I can’t read this novel, it sounds so inspirational.
SPOILER ALERT: My favorite part of The Fault in Our Stars is when Hazel and Gus go to Amsterdam together, with the use of his wish, to meet Peter Van Houten, but I hate that he is a rude, old man. I love that they go on a date and drink champagne and are able to experience young love the way it’s meant to be experienced. I also love that they visit the Anne Frank House, a place on my bucket list, where they share their first kiss.
Just as Hazel was upset with the ending of the An Imperial Affliction, I was also upset with the ending of The Fault in Our Stars. I don’t know what it is with me lately, but books have been pissing me off when they end. Just like Hazel, I want more. I was also (and still am) upset about the ending of The Diary of Anne Frank (yes, I knew she was going to die, but I didn’t know it was going to just END.) But, as I have come to learn, if a book leaves you wanting more, then the author must have done a good job (except in Anne Frank’s case, it just wasn’t her fault, and I’m sure she wishes she could have given us more.) John Green did better than good when he wrote The Fault in Our Stars, he did great.
If you enjoyed My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult, then you will also enjoy The Fault in Our Stars. If you cried for at least ten minutes at the end of My Sister’s Keeper, like I did, then you will also cry during The Fault in Our Stars. (I became so emotionally invested in Hazel and Gus’s life; I wanted them to have what everyone in love deserves to have, a long and happy life together. Even before I opened this book, though, I assumed that happily ever after was not going to make an appearance.)
Cancer is a hard, depressing subject. I hope this book brings more awareness to Childhood Cancer and I hope that children with cancer can benifit from reading this book. I would recomend this book to anyone over the age of 12. In the past, I have had the opportunity to spend time with some amazing children who have beat cancer or who are still fighting the battle of cancer at Camp Boggy Creek, volunteering as a camp counselor. Camp Boggy Creek is a year-round camp for seriously ill children in Florida. Learn more about Camp Boggy Creek, a non-profit organization, founded by the late Paul Neumann and see what you can do to help!