Title: The Fault in Our Stars
Author: John Green
Buy it: On Amazon
Hazel is a 17 year old girl suffering from "thyroid cancer with mets in the lungs". When she is forced to attend a support group for children with cancer by her parents, it is everything she expected it to be; full of Hollywood hope and buzzword cancer phrases "fight", "strong" and the like. Fully accepting of her remaining time, Hazel just wants to curl up in her bed and re-read her favourite book over and over: An Imperial Affliction.
However, the support group gives her more than just a reason to "get out of the house" one day when she meets Augustus. As they share their worlds and embark on a journey to discover the true ending of An Imperial Affliction together, they make an unbreakable bond that is star-crossed from the start.
The Fault in Our Stars is an almost-perfect YA story. I know that if I had read this book when I was 15, I would have simply adored it. John Green has taken the teenage psyche and given it exactly what it needs: ballsy characters, pull-quotes aplenty, the constant quest for meaning, the feeling of not being understood - all of it. And, even better, he presents it in a brilliantly written style.
This is the first John Green book I have read, but it certainly wont be the last. He has the wonderful ability to plant a character deep into your head. Hazel, Augustus and Isaac, Augustus' best friend who has lost his sight to cancer, were brilliantly individual and each had their own distinct traits. The three of them together gave some brilliant moments in the book as they bounced off of each other - in particular, during Isaacs "meltdown".
I also adored the adult characters in the book. It always pleases me to see parent characters included in a YA novel, and for them not to be lazily added in as "the oppressing overseers of teenage existence". I really felt for Hazel's mum, and the way Hazel herself felt about her parents heightened the presence of their characters further. Peter Van Houten was also a delight to read, no matter the fact he was a - to quote the book - "Douchebag". He was the perfect counter to the "cancer kid" perception, and although it was a shock to them both, he was exactly what Hazel and Augustus were searching for. He was the true embodiment of the metaphor they had idealised.
The narrative was expertly paced, and the fact that a novel lies at the heart of the action was very reminiscent of The Shadow of the Wind for me. In all the good ways!
I truely feel that a teenage reader would have nothing bad to say about this book. There is laughter, tears and greatly paced plotting. I have seen comments online that the teenage characters don't speak in the way teenagers would in real life - but I would disagree. These characters are ones with a lot of time on their hands. They are the characters who can do nothing but wait for an end and perhaps stop to notice what others with destinations fail to see. They are avid readers caught up in their own frail existences. They are existential in the truest form. When faced with this, and the opportunity of exploration only available to you in the realms of thought, would you too not explore language, theory, philosophy and literature? They speak in the way their experiences allow. I had absolutely no problem with it, and as a teenager, I would have taken some of their beautiful sentences and copied them out into my own diary ;)
The Fault in Our Stars is a wonderful, heartfelt portrayal of kids caught in a terrible situation and living an infinity of happiness within it. Truly inspiring - though, I feel the characters would hate me saying that ;)