In the last few weeks, I have been busy, finishing homework and studying for exams. At the same time, I have started to read two rather large books, A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin and Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand. For these reasons, I decided that I would start my reviews with books I may not be reading right now, but have finished in recent months. This would allow me to cover books that deserve attention, despite the fact that I read them before the site existed.
One of the best novels I have read so far this year is The Fault In Our Stars by John Green. Green is known not only as an author of young-adult books, but also as an Internet personality. On the popular YouTube channel VlogBrothers, he and his brother Hank use humour and intellect to address a variety of topics each week. Green has a similar approach in his writing, using a style that is both insightful and entertaining, even when describing the darkest of circumstances.
The Fault In Our Stars is a coming-of-age novel about Hazel Grace Lancaster, a teenage girl damaged by cancer. In the opening chapters, Hazel attends a meeting with her support group and meets Augustus Waters, a boy whose cancer is in remission. I recommend reading the book without learning very much about the overall plot, so I’m going to stop there. However, I will mention that while the relationship between Hazel and Augustus drives the narrative, the story is not as simple as a straightforward romance. Those who dislike sappy love scenes will not have a problem with the novel.
In fact, because of John Green’s light writing style, he is able to write about serious topics like cancer without going overboard with emotion. Whether a scene is humourous or serious (or both, in some cases), Green never pressures the audience to feel a certain way. The end result is a clear and direct novel, complex in subject matter but simple in execution. I have heard people say that they rarely read books, but started to read more once they came across John Green’s books. It is easy to see why: his writing is so funny and accessible that it is difficult to put The Fault In Our Stars down before it is completed.
Cancer is an enemy that casts a shadow over the entire story, but Green never dwells too much on the mortality of the characters, to his benefit. He does include moments where Hazel ponders about death, but what is remarkable is how normal the characters seem otherwise. They spend almost as much time talking about video games or movies as they do thinking about disease. They are all looking for happiness and trying to figure out the world, in the same way other teenagers do.
Ultimately, that is the impression The Fault In Our Stars left on me: the young men and women with cancer are not wise beyond their years, but are simply searching for truth like the rest of us. At the centre of that search is Green’s idea of heroism, which does not involve grand gestures before death, but the ongoing, everyday struggle to find meaning in the face of death.
4.5 out of 5