“The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars/ But in ourselves, that we are underlings.”
-William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar
The Fault in Our Stars, the latest novel by John Green, is an astounding novel that makes readers, as Green said in a recent YouTube video, “feel all of the things.”
After much anticipation from avid readers and members of Nerdfighteria, the online community that sprouted in reaction to John and brother Hank’s video blog, “Vlogbrothers,” TFiOS did not disappoint, as shown in the book’s current first place standing on the New York Times’ Best Seller List.
If you’re like me, you may at first be a bit weary of the novel’s inherently tragic premise—although, unlike me, you probably haven’t vowed to read anything Mr. Green publishes out of adoration for the man.
TFiOS gives a glimpse into the life of Hazel, a teen living with a rare form of cancer. Forced by her well-meaning parents to attend a support group, she meets Augustus Waters, a cancer survivor with only a prosthetic leg to show for his childhood battles.
A short summary, I know, but rest assured the remainder of the novel contains such pleasures as the eccentric Peter van Houten, the wonderful spring landscape of Amsterdam, and Green’s humor to counterbalance his honest account of such a heartbreaking disease.
In fact, that’s one of the reasons why I loved all of John Green’s novels, including Looking for Alaska, An Abundance of Katherines, and Paper Towns, and keep coming back for more. His style, as displayed in each of his books, is consistently hilarious with witty remarks and clever observations on the seemingly monotonous details of everyday life at all the right moments. At the same time, his writing can be hauntingly beautiful and eye opening, with tragic elements and very human emotions seeping off the pages from each one of his characters.
As Rachel Syme wrote in an article posted online for nprbooks on January 17, “Green writes books for young adults, but his voice is so compulsively readable that it defies categorization. He writes for youth, rather than to them, and the difference is palpable. He doesn’t dumb anything down. His language is complex, his syntax adult.”
A prime example of Green’s humor, one of my favorite quotes from the entire novel is part of Hazel’s narration on page 137.
“Mom insisted that we eat breakfast with Dad, although I had a moral opposition to eating before dawn on the grounds that I was not a nineteenth-century Russian peasant fortifying myself for a day in the fields.”
The cast of characters and their clever dialogue is just another aspect that makes readers love TFiOS. Describing her feelings for Augustus on page 31, Hazel admits that “I liked the way his story ended with someone else. I liked his voice. I liked that he took existentially fraught free throws. I liked that he was a tenured professor in the Department of Slightly Crooked Smiles with a dual appointment the Department of Having a Voice that Made my Skin Feel More Like Skin.” Indeed, Gus’ charm and wit shine through, even in the novel’s darkest moments.
And then, there’s Hazel. Hazel Grace Lancaster is many things: sixteen, witty, insightful, intelligent, and quite ill. But there’s one thing that Hazel is not: defined by her disease. If you want a novel filled with self-loathing and preoccupation with how the heroine is restricted by her physical well being, I can’t say you will find that here.
However, if you’re looking for a book with a strong female lead, who, despite her illness, defends her beliefs and opinions, you’ve come to the right place. Whether you’re a healthy college freshman or a fellow cancer patient, Hazel is entirely relatable—who doesn’t indulge in Tyra Banks’ hour of narcissism, cleverly disguised in America’s Next Top Model, every so often?
Between the humor, honesty, tragedy, array of characters, and John Green’s unique writing style, The Fault in Our Stars is truly a masterpiece that deserves a space on everyone’s book shelf, whether you consider yourself to be a young adult or not.
I could go on for several pages more, but I’ll spare you the time and what will ultimately become fan girl squealing.
I’m sure my account of this work has not done it the justice it deserves—not by a long shot. There aren’t too many fantastic novels in this world that captivate readers in its beauty while and weeks after reading it.
John Green, thank you for writing such a wonderful book—your work never fails to impress me and the levels of world suck can only decrease with the publication of books like this one.
If you haven’t read it yet, get your hands on a copy ASAP! You never know—you might be able to find one of the few signed copies left in stores.
P.S.- Here’s a link to John’s video about The Fault in Our Stars! http://dft.ba/-1EeN