To say that The Fault in Our Stars by John Green is unlike any other book on cancer I’ve read to date would be an understatement at best. While the protagonist has a terminal case of cancer, the book is truly not about the dying process itself — it’s about the legacy we leave behind based upon how we chose to live. And yes, while other books that deal with terminal illness could be summed up in similar fashion, there is something to the humor and wit Green lends to his characters that sets this particular novel apart.
And yet, it took me quite a while to finally pick up a copy. While this book was garnering a great deal of praise, I admit, I was hesitant to join the growing audience of devotees. For one, the concept of reading a book about a young teenage woman dying of cancer seemed to be a bit more devastating than what I had been searching for as of late (stress at work means most of my reads lately have been of the comedic variety). But I have to say, this is by far one of my favorite reads of the year.
Hesitant yourself? Let me start by mentioning that this book has been named a #1 New York Times bestseller, a #1 Wall Street Journal bestseller, a #9 The Bookseller (UK) bestseller, a #1 Indiebound bestseller, and was selected as a New York Times Book Review Editor’s Choice.
But beyond garnering the praise of critics, this book has resonated with readers. A simple search of the title alone will proffer a great deal of images of book-inspired artwork that have been crafted and published by Green’s fans. Buzz has already been generated over the movie rights (they’ve been optioned by Fox 2000), and I can tell you that if the film is anything like the book, it’s going to be pretty phenomenal.
Here are a few to give you an idea:
Now — if you’ve read any of my reviews before, you know I don’t like to publish many (or any) spoilers. The truth is that it’s hard to provide a review of this book without doing just that, so instead, I’m going to touch on why I would advocate for you to purchase a copy.
1. In my opinion, the heroine Hazel (or Hazel Grace, depending upon which character is speaking) is a modern-day Josephine March (minus the writing, plus the cancer). She’s feisty and intelligent and literary and doesn’t allow anyone else to define who she is as a young woman.
2. The writing is good. And when I say good, I mean great. The dialogue itself is spot-on. The way these characters speak to one another was charming and realistic. For example: “‘You are fairly smart,’ I said after a while. ‘You are fairly good at compliments,’ he answered.”
And the prose? I found myself highlighting throughout the book. Green caught me off guard with beautifully crafted syntax, such as the following:
“I worked hard to look at his eyes, even though they were the kind of pretty that’s hard to look at.”
“You may not find young Hazel’s logic persuasive, but I have trod through this vale of tears longer than you, and from where I’m sitting, she’s not the lunatic.”
“It occurred to me that the voracious ambition of humans is never sated by dreams coming true, because there is always the thought that everything might be done better and again.”
“You could hear the wind in the leaves, and on that wind traveled the screams of the kids on the playground in the distance, the little kids figuring out how to be alive, how to navigate a world that was not built for them by navigating a playground that was.”
3. While this book is certainly meant to be read with a box of tissues — I actually had to put the book down at one point and make a cup of tea just to calm down before returning — it’s the kind of book you will prolong as long as possible, because you cannot bear to say goodbye to the characters.