Published by Penguin Books in 2012
Genres: Fiction (General), Romance, Young Adult
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This is the kind of book that I wouldn’t voluntarily read, because a book about kids with cancer is bound to be horribly depressing. However, I was in a car full of friends on my way home from a funeral, and with a nine hour drive ahead of us, it was a story that seemed to suit all of our moods. The Fault in Our Stars is full of so many feels, and by the end of the book, all of us were in tears.
And the thing is, I normally can’t get into audiobooks. I unintentionally tune them out and miss things. That didn’t happen with The Fault in Our Stars. Aside from the half hour near the beginning of the book, I clung to every single word of the story. Even Mike was invested in the book, and he’s very anti YA novels as a whole.
So, there’s this girl named Hazel Grace, and she’s got terminal cancer. She’s sixteen, and despite the fact that she’s dying, she’s a typical angsty teenager. Her parents worry about her, so they sign her up for a cancer support group, where she meets a cute boy named Augustus Waters. Hazel doesn’t want to fall in love with him or start a relationship because she knows she’s gonna die and doesn’t want to break his heart, and yet despite her inhibitions, the two begin to develop an adorably tragic relationship.
The strength of the story lies in the fact that the characters go through all of the annoying/funny/angsty/emotional/ridiculous teenage bullshit that we all experience. The author humanizes them and lets us see them as individuals rather than their diseases. And yet, throughout everything, the fact of their illnesses is inescapable. These kids are facing their first kiss at the same time as they confront their own mortality.
I found myself loving the characters so much that I was crying in anticipation of the somewhat predictable ending of the book. Let’s face it, a YA novel about kids with cancer who fall in love isn’t gonna end well. Just sayin’. Hazel and Augustus are just so damn good for each other. They start out awkwardly but as their time together becomes shorter they learn to embrace every moment that they have, especially the ordinary ones where they just sit and play video games or talk about life.
My only complaint about the book (aside from the fact that it’s horribly depressing and emotional) is that John Green gives Hazel and Augustus an unrealistically large vocabulary. I’ve got a master’s degree and there were words spoken *by teenagers* in the book that I’d never even heard before, which is impressive. That’s not to say that there’s no room for advanced vocabulary in young adult literature, but its place is in narration rather than dialogue. I have nothing against genius kids in literature (hence my criticism of the Ender’s Game movie), but I thought that in this case it detracted from the story.
All in all, a very good book, and yet a very sad one. It isn’t something I’d have picked up on my own, but I’m glad that I was able to read it (is that the right verb with an audiobook?).