With wit, sarcasm, and gut wrenching moments, The Fault in Our Stars by John Green fearlessly portrays teenagers and their struggles with mortality, pain, and cancer. Green’s writing is honest and raw, able to capture the thought process of an actual teen without romanticizing pain. His understanding of human emotion seeps into his work, creating two-dimensional characters.
Hazel Grace Lancaster has come to view cancer as her “side effect of dying” with no hope of ever getting better or being remembered in the world. She and Augustus Waters, a 17-year-old amputee she met at a cancer support group, must deal with their relationship and the imminent sense of mortality that looms over them. While Hazel believes that her actions don’t matter (because after all, the world is going to end in oblivion), Augustus shows her the importance of her existence in the world, despite her short, cancerous life.
TFiOS is pretty sad (and you should stock up on tissues before you start reading), but it is also hilarious. It has a very morbid and sarcastic sense of humor. Most of the time the reader won’t know whether to laugh or be shocked by the jokes peppered through the novel. Augustus even says to his friend Isaac, who is going blind, “You look a little… pardon my double entendre, my friend, but there’s something a little worrisome in your eyes.” Deprecating humor is a way to deal with problems and Green has no trouble bringing it forth.
On his website, johngreenbooks.com, Green states, “Our literature has enough novels that glorify suffering as transcendentally beautiful.” Though his characters feel pain in the book, like the tumors in Hazel’s lungs or Isaac’s loss of sight, pain isn’t praised. It is something that simply “demands to be felt.” Green’s rendition of pain brings a vibrant reality to his work.
Mortality is emphasized especially by Hazel’s situation with cancer. She’s constantly at the edge of death, not knowing when she will be alive. She feels as if she’s going to hurt all the people around her when she does, even comparing her time of death to a ticking time bomb. In the eyes of someone without cancer, it brings the realization that we have so many days, weeks, and years ahead of us to do something we love. It is not only relevant to teens, but also many adults who are worrisome over their future. The Fault in Our Stars shows the importance of living, not just existing. Just because you have a shorter life, like Hazel because of cancer, it doesn’t make you insignificant in the world.
The book gets an A- (minus because I cried way too much and I’m still not over the ending). The humor makes it a sweet pleasure read, but the concepts and themes are very thought provoking, allowing people to question their placement in the world and how they want to live.
By Maryam Raad