Recommendation: If you like John Green or Young Adult, go ahead and buy it. If your interests are elsewhere, it’s still worth a read, but you’ll probably just want to borrow it from a friend or your local library.
At the request of a friend I’ve taken a detour along The Road to throw in a review of John Green’s most recent book. The Fault In Our Stars follows Hazel Grace, a sixteen year old living with thyroid cancer that is quietly kept at bay by a miracle drug and an oxygen tank she must carry around at all times. At a support group for young people with cancer, which Hazel attends quite reluctantly, she meets Augustus Waters, a fellow cancer survivor and former basketball player, now living cancer-free after having a leg amputated. Though Hazel is initially skeptical of Augustus, she shares with him her favorite book (An Imperial Affliction by fictional author Peter van Houten) and is surprised by his favorable reaction. What follows is a journey both to meet the reclusive author of their favorite book and to find love with whatever time they have left.
In a lot of ways, TFIOS is a great young adult novel. It treats its characters and readers with respect, neither condescending nor talking down to them as quite a few Young Adult books unfortunately do. It deals with a tough subject gracefully, honestly, and with a sharp wit that doesn’t overpower the rough reality of our young protagonist’s circumstances. Although the plot is a bit straightforward, there are enough turns to keep you interested, and even if the plot doesn’t excite you the characters have such acerbic humor that you’ll keep reading just to see what they say next.
Which brings me to my chief complaint about TFIOS—a little thing I like to call the Juno effect. Now, those of you who have seen the movie Juno might know what I’m talking about but, for the uninitiated, let me explain. In Juno, the characters (also teenagers in crisis) speak in a highly stylized and sarcastic manner. It’s really entertaining while you’re in the action, but once the curtains fall and you exit the theater, you’ll be overcome with a feeling that it was all a bit staged and unrealistic—and that will stop you from falling fully in love with it. TFIOS felt very much the same to me. While you’re reading it, you’ll love it, but when you find yourself a couple steps removed, your tune won’t be quite as melodious. It’s a good read and another solid performance from John Green, but it’s closer to a two week fling with a cute guy/girl than a lifetime with Mrs./Mr. Perfect.