Is there any point in me writing a review of The Fault in Our Stars by John Green? It’s a fantastic book and (at last count) 95,620 people on Goodreads also thought it was a fantastic book. Of those 95,620 people, a massive 16,906 of them took the time to write a review! Need I say more? Or write more? Probably not, so I’ll keep it brief.
The Fault in our Stars is the story of teenager Hazel, who was diagnosed with Stage IV thyroid cancer at age 13 and then given an experimental ‘miracle’ drug at 14 – not a cure but it shrunk her tumours. Two years post-miracle, sixteen-year-old Hazel is post-everything else, too; post-high school, post-friends and post-normalcy. And even though she could live for a long time, Hazel lives tethered to an oxygen tank, the tumours tenuously kept at bay with a constant chemical assault.
“Admittedly, my Cancer Miracle had only resulted in a bit of purchased time. (I did not yet know the size of that bit.)”
Enter Augustus Waters. Hazel and ‘Gus’ meet at a cancer kid support group. Gus is gorgeous, in remission and shockingly to her, interested in Hazel – “Flirting was new to me, but I liked it.”
All sounds rather grim, doesn’t it?! But this is not, as Hazel might say, a Cancer Book. The kids are real – including throwing the odd tantrum, acknowledging that their lives suck, using ‘Cancer Perks’ when they can and watching America’s Next Top Model marathons.
There are plenty of good reasons why people are ranking this book in their ‘favourite and best’ lists (it’s funny, it’s sad, it’s romantic, it’s memorable). With so many people raving about it, did I start reading with my nit-picking-pants on? Perhaps. I’ll probably get crucified for saying this but… Gus… I wasn’t a huge fan. I found him just a little too charming, a little too smooth, a little too engaging. And there’s one bit where Hazel agrees with me –
“I couldn’t stop thinking about the little moment when I’d tensed up as he touched me. The gentle familiarity felt wrong, somehow. I thought maybe it was how orchestrated the whole thing had been: Augustus was amazing, but he’d overdone everything at the picnic, right down to the sandwiches that were metaphorically resonant but tasted terrible and the memorized soliloquy that prevented conversation.”
and Hazel sums him up perfectly with this –
“It was a move designed to elicit arousal, but it was certainly a designed move, because Augustus Waters was no improviser.”
That said, I did thoroughly enjoy it. And I cried (always a good indicator of how involved I am in a book… Although regular readers of this blog will know that I cry at the drop of a hat). I suspect that YA readers find this book heartbreaking for different reasons than I did. For me, it was all about the parents. I certainly got something in my eye when I read this –
“Just before the Miracle, when I was in the ICU and it looked like I was going to die and Mom was telling me it was okay to let go, and I was trying to let go but my lungs kept searching for air, Mom sobbed something into Dad’s chest that I wish I hadn’t heard, and that I hope she never finds out that I did hear. She said, ‘I won’t be a mom anymore.’ It gutted me pretty badly.”
There’s a Dutch theme in this book so I was thinking about a big block of Gouda or something orange. Then I remembered my mum’s Dutch Apple Cake (Hollandsche Appel Koek) – goodness it’s tasty. Find a good Dutch Apple Cake recipe here.
4/5 So I might be the only person in the world not giving this book full marks. That’s okay, I’ll live with the consequences. But I did love it. And I did cry my guts out at the end.