The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
Posted by: Cindy Dobrez and Lynn Rutan
Cindy: Months behind the rest of the book-reading world, I finally read The Fault in Our Stars (Dutton 2012). I did not preorder the book–like the thousands of other true nerdfighter fans–because I could not trust myself to have the new John Green book in my house and stay focused on my 2011 L.A. Times Book Prize jury reading. (Perhaps my unsigned 2nd printing will be worth more than the 150,000 autographed first printings! The full story about that project and the ensuing repetitive stress injury is available in Ilene Cooper’s interview with John for Booklist.) But let’s not linger on John’s sore wrist…after all, this is a book about teens who are terminal cancer patients. We have bigger worries.
Hazel and Augustus meet at Cancer Kid Support Group and life, short though it may be, will never be the same for either of them. Gus has a prosthetic, having lost one of his lower legs to his osteosarcoma, now in remission. Hazel hauls an oxygen tank on wheels with her everywhere to help her struggling lungs, a side effect of her terminal thyroid cancer condition. The two find comfort in each other…in friendship and laughter and intelligent repartee. Gus is falling in love, but Hazel resists. She sees herself as a grenade. She is doomed to cause heartbreak with her short remaining life span. She knows that she has no choice in causing harm to her parents when she dies, she just wants to minimize the collateral damage. But life is to be lived.
You’ll want your tissues handy, as I’m sure you’ve guessed, but you will be laughing through your tears. This is not your typical Dying Kids With Cancer Book. As Augustus says:
You don’t get to choose if you get hurt in this world, old man, but you do have some say in who hurts you.
I’ll risk crying over losing characters I care about when the pain is delivered with lines I will be thinking about for a long time.
“Some infinities are bigger than other infinities.”
To celebrate my 50th birthday, and in solidarity with a friend with cancer, I recently got a tattoo on my foot that reads “Carpe Diem.” It’s a philosophy I believe in, to pluck or seize the day, not knowing how many of them any of us have. But Augustus and Hazel point out the subtlety that it’s not enough to seize the day, “the real heroes anyway aren’t the people doing things; the real heroes are the people NOTICING things, paying attention.” It’s a point worth thinking about. And there are many more of them within the pages of The Fault in Our Stars, as is the case with John’s books. He does not underestimate his teen audience and gives them material to chew on.
There’s a lot more to this book than this feeble post covers, but you know that, since everyone else in the living world has already read this book. And besides, it’s 57 degrees out in Michigan in early March. Carpe diem! I have things to notice waiting for me.