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Sunday, April 22, 2012

The Fault in Our Stars, written by John Green. Dutton, Penguin. 2012. $19.00 ages 14 and up

"One might marvel at the insanity of the situation. A mother sends her sixteen-year-old daughter along with a seventeen-year-old boy out into a foreign city famous for its permissiveness. But this, too, was a side effect of dying: I could not run or dance or eat foods rich in nitrogen, but in the city of freedom, I was among the most liberated of its residents."

I wish Indianapolis, Indiana were two doors down the street from me. Then, I would walk right over and give John Green my best hug! To say that I have always admired his writing is an understatement when talking about The Fault in Our Stars. I finished reading it in the middle of the night last night; I woke this morning with Hazel Grace and Augustus in my heart and on my mind. I suspect they will be there for many days to come and I know they will live in my book memory always. They are two amazing and admirable teenagers who live their days as 'cancer kids'. Not a pretty place to be.

In John Green's deft hand, they find a path into our collective consciousness and our hearts within minutes of meeting each other at 'The Support Group'. It took only the first paragraph to hook me, despite my misgivings about reading a book narrated by a girl who feels this way:

"Late in the summer of my seventeenth year, my mother decided I was depressed, presumably because I rarely left the house, spent quite a lot of time in bed, read the same book over and over, ate infrequently, and devoted quite a bit of time to thinking about death."

Hazel Grace is sixteen and has terminal cancer. She lives on due to a new medication; but the future does not look much better because of it. Her cancer is only being held at bay for now. At group she meets Augustus, a handsome, outgoing young man who has lost a leg to cancer but is now living cancer-free because of that surgery. They have an instant connection. It is only due to Augustus' persistence that their relationship grows. Hazel has a strong opinion about what she wants:

"I wanted to know that he would be okay if I died. I wanted to not be a grenade, to not be a malevolent force in the lives of the people I loved."

They learn to share the ups and downs of being teenagers which can be pretty normal and awfully funny at times, despite their circumstances. Augustus manages to make Hazel's days adventurous, despite her constant companion...the oxygen tank Phillip she needs to keep her breathing. They live with joy and for each other. Despite their many differences they care deeply and try to live “forever within the numbered days.” They are as independent as they can be and remain strong, distinct characters from beginning to end of story.

I have read it twice and will read it again. Hazel's voice throughout is strong, personal, compelling, funny and unforgettable as she tells their story. Augustus' love for the person that she is needs to be shared:

"She is so beautiful. You don't get tired of looking at her. You never worry if she is smarter than you: You know she is. She is funny without ever being mean. I love her. I am so lucky to love her, Van Houten. 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 like my choices. I hope she likes hers."
You will not forget them, and you won't want to do that. I have my pick for Newbery Medal this year...and it's only April! I can't imagine a book that will impact my spirit more than this one did, and does.

1 comment:

  1. I have the book (couldn't pass up the autographed copy), but listened to the audio version because of how well his books translate to that format. It was phenomenal. Is there anyone else who can tastefully find humor in cancer? I found myself laughing one moment and sobbing the next. Great review!

    dwayne of Tony Lama Boots