The Fault in Our Stars: Cancer Kids in Love
I actually haven't seen many of the vlogbrothers' videos, and of the ones I have seen most of them have been by Hank Green, rather than his brother John. Nevertheless, enough people on the internets seemed to think this book was really cool to encourage me to check it out-- plus I realized that John Green wrote "An Abundance of Katherines," another book I'm interested in. When I saw it offered at my local library, I was snatched it up and was glad to get a chance to read it. It did not disappoint.
The main character is Hazel Grace Lancaster, a sixteen year old girl currently in remission from thyroid cancer which spread to her lungs. At a support meeting for teens with cancer, she meets the handsome and charming Augustus Waters, whose cancer is also in remission (although he lost his leg to it). The two grow close, much to Hazel's discomfort, as she is extremely aware of her own mortality and she worries about letting anyone near her who could be hurt by her death. However, Augustus is persistent, and Hazel soon finds herself falling in love with him, as the two work to track down the mysterious author of Hazel's favorite novel, which ends inconclusively, in order to ask about the fate of the characters. But cancer is a terrible disease, and tragedy is inevitable in the story of teens whose life expectancy can be measured in only a handful of years (if that).
Hazel is a fun main character. At first she seems a bit gruff, overly sarcastic and a bit alienating. As you get to know her better it becomes clear this is a calculated act on her part, as Hazel is extremely aware that she is not likely to live much longer thanks to her shredded lungs, and she wants to limit the amount of people who will be distraught when she dies. This also manifests in a concern that her parents, especially her mother, have basically sacrificed the lives they lived in order to take care of her, something she can't help but feel guilty about. The payoff for this particular subplot is particularly good. Another refreshing thing about her is that she is distinctly aware of the tropes surrounding kids with cancer--in particular the saintly and uncomplaining child bravely fighting the disease that inevitably and sadly kills her--and she is even more tired of them than the reader is. Reading her withering scorn for such things cuts the maudlin right out of the story with a delightfully sharp scalpel of snark.
Augustus is one of those kids who is a bit too clever for his own good. He frequently comments on the symbolic meaning of everything, from eating a sandwich to going to the bathroom, and is always ready with the sarcastic quip. I was a little worried he'd end up a bit of a Marty Stu, but his uncertainties and flaws of his own manifest as the book goes along, making him seem a bit more rounded and a bit less of a perfect character.
John Green's writing is very good. He is surprisingly good at sounding believably like a 16 year old girl (albeit one with the vocabulary and sophisticated thought processes of someone easily five to ten years older--justified in Hazel having little to do in her life besides watch TV and read books), and I liked the snappy dialogue (even if at some times Augustus and Hazel may have been a bit too quippy). The plot twists in the novel are for the most part unexpected, and on more than one occasion I didn't know where the story was going, which is a fairly rare thing.Finally, I especially liked the use of Peter Van Houten, the hermit-like writer whose novel Hazel is obsessed with, who Green gives the most balls-out crazy dialogue and uses in some of the most surprising story developments. His sheer oddness makes the story interesting enough to check out.
All in all, I'm definitely going to check out more John Green, both his books and vlogs. The book was witty, fast paced, and gave us two interesting characters to follow. If you haven't read this book yet, you should most definitely check it out if you can get your hands on it.