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Serious as Cancer? - The Fault in Our Stars Review

Book Cover for The Fault in Our Stars
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The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

Rating:
Star4
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Star
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Star

This review is in anticipation of the movie version of The Fault in Our Stars coming out June 6, 2014 starring Shailene Woodley (Divergent) and Ansel Elgort (Divergent).

In The Fault in Our Stars, John Green writes about a charming young couple who happen to be afflicted with serious types of cancer. Hazel Grace Lancaster has Stage 4 thyroid cancer, which would have been fatal if it weren’t for an experimental drug she took that miraculously kept the cancer at bay. Her mother forces her to attend a support group for cancer survivors, which she despises, but there she meets Augustus Waters (Gus), a basketball player who had to amputate his leg to stop his bone cancer from spreading. Gus is a breath of fresh air in Hazel Grace’s life, and he leads her to new hope and new adventures.

Stars is a well-written book that doesn't shy from the ugly realities of cancer,. Vivid descriptions of the dreariness of a cancer survivor’s life alternate with Hazel’s funny and sarcastic account of her budding relationship with Gus. Stars tries to avoid the pitfalls of teen fiction - a tendency towards self-pity and narcissism and sappy romance, - and avoids most of them admirably with lots of self-awareness on the part of the book's narrator, Hazel Grace. One of the more clever examples of this self-awareness happens in Chapter Four when Hazel Grace describes her favorite book An Imperial Affliction as “not a cancer book, because cancer books suck.”

If there is a fault in Stars, it’s that the very young (and very sick) characters are a little too perfect. Stars would have been more realistic if there were more fear and petulance from Hazel, which would have been perfectly understandable given her physical condition. Gus is the too perfect combination of gallant and sensitive, basically, the perfect guy. This may not be a flaw after all; perhaps teen readers want characters who are recognizably human, but not too much so.