The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

I live a reading life. I book talk, make recommendations and use literary references daily. As a voracious reader I am rarely unable to make a connection with a book, on some level.  With all of this reading, it is a still magic when I find a book that settles inside me, in a place inhabited by other magic books and literary characters. Those books and characters then become a part of me forever. There is no hard and fast type or genre that finds its way in. Some hold fast because I glimpse something noble or compelling within the pages. Others because they speak to the hopes and fears in us all. Finally, there are those that touch your own experiences; experiences that are usually extremely personal. Such is the case with The Fault in Our Stars, by John Green. At first glance Green has written a book about cancer. With such a sobering subject at its forefront the assumption can quickly be made that it is a book  about dying. Readers will soon realize, however, that nothing could be further from the truth. The Fault in Our Stars is a book about living.

Hazel is a teenager battling cancer. A terminal diagnosis has plagued her for several years and with a steadfast resolve she aspires NOT to be a grenade; to leave behind as little collateral damage as possible. Enter Augustus Waters. Bold, frank,and immediately smitten with Hazel, Augustus works to pull Hazel back from the precipice of a life spent waiting to die. With a shared love of literature and a first-hand knowledge of terminal illness, Hazel and Augustus forge a bond that will enrich and strengthen both their lives and the lives of Green’s readers.

Green is a master of voice, creating characters that move through the pages and settle in his readers. Using striking similes, masterful metaphors and carefully crafted foreshadowing he has written an amazing tale, complete with strong secondary characters who play an integral role; providing comic relief, frustration, and immeasurable strength.  Filled with literary references both obvious and subtle, Hazel’s journey is richly layered, appealing to Green’s readers on a variety of levels

What strikes a chord is Green’s amazing ability to portray the family dynamic when cancer strikes a young person. On May 4, 2007 I experienced this dynamic firsthand when my then 17-year old son was diagnosed with Synovial Sarcoma.  The initial diagnosis brought a multitude of emotions, and a need to make MANY important decisions without much time to digest what was happening. I did a good deal of soul-searching. Would I be able to serve the students in my classroom while supporting my son? Green’s decision to include the dialogue of parents preparing for the future; a future without their daughter, was painstakingly real and a vital part of this life-altering experience.

The roller coaster ride ended on a positive note for our family; my son is healthy and cancer free. I believe that Hazel’s story ends on a positive note as well as she learns that there are forces larger than her imminent death at work. The love she experiences with Augustus enables her to take a hard look at everyone and everything around her, most importantly at herself. Only then does she learn to live. Her story is a celebration. There are no guarantees in life, we do not choose who we connect with or even who we love.  We are not perfect, but yet we are here.

“The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves, that we are underlings.”

Thank you, John Green, for the reminder.

Cathy

Cathy Blackler teaches High School English in Southern California. A proud, card-carrying member of the #nerdybookclub, she is the current President of the Foothill Reading Council and is serving a three-year term on the California Young Reader Medal (CYRM) Committee. She truly leads a reading life, and still owns the first book she purchased with her own money.