I tend to focus on the most recent books for my reviews, but The Fault in Our Stars is one with timeless themes that should be read by any teen (or adult, for that matter). First published in January of 2012, it is one of the most popular YA novels of the last two years and has enjoyed widespread critical acclaim. Without spoiling anything, it is the story of two teenage cancer patients, Hazel and Augustus, who meet at a support group.
The primary charm of the story lies in the themes of alienation and isolation. While not every teen has to deal with a terminal illness, the struggle of finding one’s place in the world is near universal and the inner thoughts of the characters are very relatable. The specific struggles with cancer are not relatable to most, but this is a strength since a reader who is feeling frustrated by their lack of recognition, or who feels as though they don’t belong, can realize that their problems aren’t as dire as they may believe. Keep in mind, however, that this is not simply a sad story that will make you feel guilty about being down in the dumps. The Fault in our Stars is quite funny and will make you smile more often than you would expect. The flirting between Hazel and Augustus, the hilarious interaction between their parents and the oddball antics of Isaac are all examples of how John Green took serious themes and turned them into an uplifting story. In addition, the story is not predictable and I found myself shocked at certain points by unexpected plot twists.
My main criticism with Green’s writing is the dialogue. Much of the verbal interaction is funny and very clever, but this is what makes the characters lack in believability and, in turn, makes them less relatable at times. The dialogue is witty to the point of being unrealistic and takes away from the authenticity of the characters. This story deals with the hard truths of life, which is why I feel the style of writing sometimes clashes with the thematic elements.
I would recommend this book to any reader, regardless of age. It has a fantastical love story and tackles serious existential questions, such as confronting one’s mortality. Once you’ve got this book, find a comfortable seat because you will not be able to put it down.
Review by Mark Hamilton