John Green, The Fault in our Stars, 2012
It’s a rare achievement for a book to gain such fame so as to become part of the national conversation. Durnig my lifetime barely a handful of titles have achieved such a critical mass of support. The Harry Potter Trilogy, the Hunger Games, 50 Shades of Grey, maybe Bridget Jones Diary. These books are preceded by their reputations. People encourage you to read them, to share in the journey which they have undertaken. John Green’s novel is the most recent addition to this super-league of books, and with the upcoming cinematic release things are only going up.
At its heart this is a teenage rom-com, the story of two people meeting and falling in love. Hazel Grace Lancaster, the main protagonist, is a normal teenage girl, interested in things like America’s Next Top Model. This normality, however, is tempered by the fact that Hazel has Cancer. Incurable, Inoperable Cancer. This is a story of love, yes, but a story of love in an infinitely short period of time.
And that’s really where I want to leave it. The power of this book is its story. As someone who is very aware of the spectre of illness, and the effect it can have on every aspect of your life, I could relate to a lot of the text. It highlights how life goes on and the need to define yourself as being more than your condition. Not everyone is a fan – and certainly there were moments when I slightly checked out from the story – but it is definitely worth a read.
In terms of readability – I must confess that I got through it in one sitting. The text is conducive to binge-reading. Every page begs to be turned. The story is clearly a one way journey, and it’s one you don’t want to get off.
Finally – I’d like to talk about crying. Everyone advised me that I would need tissues (even revealing spoilers to highlight how sad this book could be). Sad it is, but I must confess nothing more than a solitary tear was elicited by the text. I’m sure the movie will take me back to the world of optimistic sadness to which the book transported me, but I really found it hard to progress beyond a mood of reflective melancholy. I’ve thought about this a lot, reflecting on my response to this book. All I can say is that at times I found it hard to escape the fiction. Indeed, I kept reflecting on the story of Zach Sobiech, in many ways very similar to the book, but more emotionally engaging by the nature of its reality. If you really want something that is going to reach into your brain and scream at your emotions until the tears have all escaped then watch his story in the video below.