By Welmoed van Ens
“I told Augustus the broad outline of my miracle: diagnosed with Stage IV thyroid cancer when I was thirteen. (I didn’t tell him that the diagnosis came three months after I got my first period. Like: Congratulations! You’re a woman. Now die.)”
Hazel Grace Lancaster is 16 and suffering from “the side effects of dying”. Her mum, concerned about her resignation-slash-depression, signs her up for a cancer support group. Reluctantly, Hazel joins this “rotating cast […] in various states of tumor-driven unwellness,” under supervision of a cancer survivor who endlessly recounts his ball-lessness. John Green has managed to take this bleak starting point and create one of the most touching and hilarious young adult books to date.
Unlike many cancer stories, The Fault in our Stars doesn’t revolve around disease. Hazel has accepted the reality of death a long time ago and has no interest in worrying about her imminent oblivion. Instead, she embarks on a journey to discover life while she’s dying. Instead of a pompous testimony to Hazel’s suffering, the book is dominated by witty dialogues and fascinating insights into life and the universe itself.
“Without pain, how could we know joy?’ This is an old argument in the field of thinking about suffering and its stupidity and lack of sophistication could be plumbed for centuries but suffice it to say that the existence of broccoli does not, in any way, affect the taste of chocolate.”
Hazel and love-interest Augustus spend much of their time talking. The difficulties of dying, star-crossed love, loss, fear and the universe – everything is discussed. The dialogues are funny, intelligent, and beautifully written. So much so that they seem almost too perfect to have come from the mouths of two teens. However, that’s a fault I’m willing to accept for the sake of literary quality.
The Fault in Our Stars is a touching story about life and love in the face of death. It offers a well-balanced mix of humor and life lessons. This is a true page-turner that I can heartily recommend as a break from struggling through those academic texts.