How do you deal with death when you have barely begun to live? That is the question that John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars tackles as readers experience a small glimpse into the life a teenage cancer patient. The book is the story of a girl battling terminal cancer and her daily struggles and joys. Readers grow fond of Hazel Grace as she meets her true love (another teenage cancer patient) and attempts to come to terms with death and the lives of those left behind.
While some may narrowly view this work as a Young Adult “cancer kid” book, I believe it offers something for older readers as well. The themes of life (and a life well lived) as well as death (its impact on us as well as our loved ones) are issues that are not unique to “cancer kids”. They are the universal issue of being human. How do we make peace with the universe? How do we define ourselves in our space in the universe? Addressing these issues from the POV of a teenage girl with cancer makes the reader pay more attention and offers a more intense emotion connection (both b/c of the “unfairness” of a short life and the emotional vibrancy of the teenage years and first love). Still, as I read (or rather listened) to The Fault in Our Stars I found myself relating Hazel Grace and caring about where her journey would end.
Hazel Grace’s voice is masterfully written by Green. But he also crafts fully realistic character’s with their own emotional challenges to surround her: Her friend Isaac– who looses his sight but keeps his life: Her mother– who “think” is defined by the cancer and her role as caregiver; and of course, Augustus–the boyfriend who is dealing with his own cancer issues.
Green weaves these characters together around the center, Hazel, without making it all about Hazel. He also uses literature and symbolism and dialog that are very engaging.
I would recommend this to old and young alike.
PS. As a mom, I am not s big fan of teenage sex in books for teens. But, I get it in this case.