Book #1 (of 2012): The Fault in Our Stars
by John Green (Young Adult fiction)
How can John write such fantastically, yet terribly sad books? He must cry writing these, I don’t care that guys want girls to think they don’t cry. A guy would be INHUMAN not to cry reading this book.
My head aches from crying. Normally when I cry reading I just have tears silently streaming down my face, I exaggerate and say I bawled. This book, I don’t need to exaggerate. For the last third of the book I had to put it down every few pages to cry, to crunch my body into a tight little ball and cry and cry. But then I had to pick it up again, you can’t put it down until you’re more composed because the tears, the sadness, they are all part of the experience, part of the book; they add to it, they make it real.
The characters aren’t all depressing though, they’re not what make the book sad. They’re funny, they have brilliant personalities, they have hilarious humours and they’re fun. This is the kind of book where one page you’re bawling and the next you’re laughing through your tears =)
John writes such believable characters with Hazel, Augustus, and Isaac; they’re so human, so humany-wumany. They’re people that I would love to meet, to hang out with, to know. John has written a story about kids with cancer, but never once did I find myself pitying them because of their cancer. I felt bad for them because of the normal events that happened but not once did I think, “Oh poor Hazel, she has cancer”. It’s made them people, not their disease. This is not a book about kids with cancer, this is a book about friendship, about love, about life, oh-and-by-the-way, the main characters have cancer.
I finished the book and turned on my camera to try and record my immediate reaction. I opened my mouth and no sound came out. There is nothing to be said. This is the best book I’ve ever read. I suspect I said something similar about Paper Towns, but you see, I hadn’t read The Fault in Our Stars yet at that point.
I was unsure about buying this book, unsure if it would be a book I’d want to own. I didn’t know the basic plotline, the reason I bought it was because the bookstore near my workplace had signed copies and I wanted one.
I’m really glad I bought that pink J-scribbled book. I feel like people who haven’t read it are robbing themselves of a wonderful experience, but like Hazel says, “There are books like [The Fault in Our Stars], which you can’t tell people about, books so special and rare and yours that advertising your affection feels like a betrayal.” (TFIOS Page 33) That is why I will impersonally advertise the book, through text on a website, it will keep the special feeling of TFIOS being my book, not to be shared.
PLOTLINE WITH SPOILERS! DO NOT READ IF YOU HAVE NOT YET READ THE BOOK! SPOILERS ALERT!
Hazel Grace Lancaster is sixteen and has cancer. It means she has to be hooked up to an oxygen tank all the time to keep enough oxygen in her infected lungs. For now she’s stable, cancer is controlled and she can live a more or less normal life. Well, for a cancer-patient. Under the recommendation of her doctor and the insistence of her mother she attends a weekly support group that meets in a nearby church. She has one friend here, Isaac. He only has one eye, the cancer took the other. One day Hazel is again forced to attend support group but comes to find Isaac has brought a friend who is a cancer survivor (although it took one of his legs), Augustus Waters, a long, lean, hott seventeen year old with a smooth sexy voice. After support group they’re introduced and Hazel ends up going to Augustus’ house to watch V for Vendetta, as he thinks she looks like Natalie Portman. They talk about books, Hazel tells him her favourite is An Imperial Affliction by Peter Van Houten, his favourite book is The Price of Dawn, based off of his favourite video game. He agrees to read her favourite on the condition she read his, which he lends her then and there. They’re both true to their word and end up enjoying each other’s books.
Hazel and Augustus begin dating, Isaac’s cancer returns and he ends up loosing his other eye and being left blind. His girlfriend dumps him before the surgery though, which really, really cuts him up. Hazel and Gus stick by him though and try and help him through.
The two of them both write to Peter Van Houten (the author of An Imperial affliction) about his “unfinished” books and Augustus (who emailed) gets a reply. He decides to use his cancer-Wish to take Hazel to Amsterdam, where they’ve been invited to meet Van Houten where he’s living in seclusion. It’s all being planned when Hazel has a relapse. Things look pretty bleak but she recovers and they manage to take the trip and go (with Hazel’s mum) to meet the one and only Peter Van Houten, Hazel’s favourite author (who *SPOILER* ends up being an alcoholic jerk). While in Amsterdam Augustus tells Hazel that around the time she had her relapse, he found out his cancer had returned. Everywhere. His whole body was an inflamed mass of cancer. (This is about halfway/two-thirds through the book and, warning, this is where I started to cry. I didn’t stop until the book finished, even a little bit after it finished…)
They return home and gradually Gus’ cancer gets worse and worse. He’s dying and there’s no way around it. Hazel visits everyday, she still loves him, he loves her and he wants to write her a sequel to An Imperial Affliction after Van Houten refuses to explain the unfinished ending to them. He can’t though, he’s too weak. They both agree they want each other to write their eulogy for their funerals.
One evening Augustus calls Hazel and asks her to write a eulogy and meet him at the church where they had the support meetings. She does and finds him and Isaac there. Gus has arranged a prefuneral so he can hear his best friends’ eulogies for him. (This scene is heart-wrenching, the kind of crying where you scrunch your body up trying to make the pain go away as you’re crying in gasping breaths, trying to blink back the tears because you can’t stop reading).
Eight days later, he dies.
His funeral happens, Hazel writes a different eulogy to read, less personal. Then a while later she visits Isaac and they try to distract themselves playing video games. At some point Isaac mentions that Gus was writing something for her and she immediately thinks of the promised An Imperial Affliction sequel. She tries to find it, asks his parents about it, looks in his room, on his computer, doesn’t find anything. His parents eventually find a notebook that was by his hospital bed but the first four pages are torn out and can’t be found. When Hazel’s friend Kaitlyne calls, she suggests that he mailed the to her, or, perhaps, they weren’t for Hazel at all.
With the idea that the pages weren’t for her in mind Hazel contacts Van Houten’s (former) assistant in Amsterdam and she goes to Van Houten’s house and finds, sure enough, Augustus has sent the pages to Van Houten. Van Houten, reads them and says to send them to Hazel.
It’s a eulogy.
Augustus wrote her the eulogy she wanted. The gorgeous heartfelt, personal eulogy from her boyfriend. Gus had mailed it to Van Houten with the hope that he could turn his notes into a well versed eulogy, but he didn’t change anything, he just sent it straight to Hazel and it’s beautiful.
Overall: Ten out of Ten. So sad, and I wish Gus hadn’t had to die, but he did or the story would have been all wrong. It’s beautiful. John Green, I salute you.