“Like, I realize that this is irrational, but when they tell you that you have, say, a 20 percent chance of living five years, the math kicks in and you figure that’s one in five… so you look around and think, as any healthy person would: I gotta outlast four of these bastards.”
John Green’s The Fault in our Stars is the quintessential cancer book – and it’s written for young adults. The language is clear and concise, but infused with every bit of the depth of meaning that you’d expect in a book on the subject of life and death. And it’s one of the few books that I think will be even better as a movie.
Hazel Grace Lancaster is relatable on paper. She’s not an insipid Bella-esque teen; she’s a quirky, cynical, real sort of girl that says things like “There is only one thing in this world shittier than biting it from cancer when you’re sixteen, and that’s having a kid who bites it from cancer,” and, “A nonhot boy stares at you relentlessly and it is, at best, awkward and, at worst, a form of assault. But a hot boy… well.” But on paper, she’s still paper. You have to fill her in with that girl you knew that had cancer, who wasn’t as this-or-that as Hazel is. On screen, Hazel will be free to finally be her own paradoxical person: both brave and scared, vulnerable and guarded, young and old at the same time. On paper, she won’t be a caricature of cancer.
The book is full of philosophical references, making it one of the smartest young adult novels I’ve seen on the market in a long time.
The best bits of the book are the soliloquizing, and being a fan of Tom Robbins I can certainly appreciate that. This book would have had more depth without the plot, as a simpler writing on the emotions and thoughts involved with cancer – however, without the love story, the masses wouldn’t have bought it. Well played, Mr. Green.
The most fascinating plot element was (at least for me) that of Peter Van Houten and his novel An Imperial Affliction. Hazel writes him, “…you got everything right in An Imperial Afflication. Or at least you got me right. Your book has a way of telling me what I’m feeling before I even feel it, and I’ve reread it dozens of times… Frankly, I’d read your grocery lists.”
Here’s what I didn’t love about it: I didn’t love the ending- and not for the reason you’d think. I anticipated more Peter van Houten and less John Green, I suppose. Que sera.
There is beauty in the simple choice of words that John Green uses; lofty words, simply profound meanings. Fun lines:
“Television is a passivity.”
“…the existence of broccoli does not in any way affect the taste of chocolate.”
You can get your copy here.