Indiana is not normally a place I would be excited to visit. I have nothing against the state! I drove through it once and though it was pretty. Today, however, I am very excited (you know it’s true because I don’t like to use the word “very” unless I mean it) to take you with me to Indianapolis. Why? We are going to be journeying through the story of Hazel Lancaster in A Fault in Our Stars by John Green.
Hazel is a sixteen-year-old cancer patient whose illness is being held at bay by an experimental drug. She spends all of her time with her parents and the members of a Christ-centered support group, and not surprisingly, Hazel is unhappy. When her mother forces her to attend a support group meeting, Hazel meets a young man named Augustus Waters. He cannot keep his eyes off of her, nor she him. As a romance blossoms between the teenagers, Hazel reveals his love for a book that changed her perspective on life, An Imperial Affliction by Peter Van Houten. Augustus is in remission, but he understands Hazel’s obsession with this book about a young girl with cancer. Gus works to make Hazel’s dream of meeting her favorite author come true even though Peter Van Houten lives in Amsterdam, and the trip powerfully changes their outlook on life.
I cannot begin to summarize John Green’s work with a short paragraph. The emotions he portrays through these characters took my breath away with their sadness, and sometimes, I laughed out loud. I have heard people say that they expected The Fault in Our Stars to be just another depressing teen novel and have avoided it. That drives me crazy! The Fault in Our Stars is celebrated for a reason: it is beautiful. Yes, it was depressing at times. Yes, I cried, but what’s new? I cry at the end of most moving novels. Don’t make emotion a reason not to read; the best books will evoke emotional responses.
Besides being packed with emotion, this novel has several positive qualities that make it worthy of being called a contemporary classic. I’ve started looking at books with “teacher eyes.” I go through a mental checklist of what makes a book worth reading in a literature class for adolescents. One of the best aspects of The Fault in Our Stars is the word choice. John Green has a way with words that is difficult to replicate, which if you have seen his vlog, you will understand. It seems atypical of a sixteen-year-old girl to have such a command of the English language, but when you find out that she’s taking college literature classes, her vocabulary makes sense.
Hazel’s growth is what truly makes this book worth reading. She begins as a fairly self-involved, self-pitying individual. Certainly, she has a right to lament her situation! Yet, her dreary attitude may be off-putting when the reader sees how much love is directed at her and the struggles of her fellow cancer patients. Gus’s love for her is what truly wakes her up. She sees someone who needs her, when previously, she had always been a “burden.” By the end of the novel, Hazel has encountered and overcome emotions and experiences that are relatable to young people. She has developed a personal ideology, optimism, and acceptance of her cancer-filled body.
To quote Roger and Ebert, “two thumbs up!” If you haven’t already read this novel, you should. Not only is it a wonderful piece of literature, but also culturally important. A movie version of The Fault in Our Stars is in production. I love reading John Green’s updates on Facebook! His presence on the set gives me hope for the film.