I wanted to write a review about THE FAULT IN OUR STARS by John Green because I really loved this book but I worried about how to write a review for a book that has become so iconic and that so many people have read—I worried that I wouldn’t have anything new to say. But then I thought, maybe there is someone out there like me: a mom, whose daughters loved the book, but was someone who didn’t want to cross the invisible parent/child boundary and read a book that was precious to her kids and thus off-limits to her. I wanted that mom to know she should read this book.
I crossed my own invisible boundary on a snowy Saturday when my daughters were with their father for the weekend and, while cleaning their room, took down a copy (of the many, some in foreign languages) that my daughter has on her special John Green shelf and started to read.
Like everyone, even those without teenage daughters, I had heard about this book. What a huge success it was and what a wonderful guy the author is. But I hadn’t heard about the plot at all. I didn’t know it was about a whip-smart, wordy girl with a giant chip on her shoulder who has cancer, probably terminal, who meets an impossibly cool, equally whip-smart and verbose young man who helps her figure out what living on your own terms is really about, and along the way takes her to Amsterdam on the most impossible trip during which they get a chance to taste the stars.
When I picked up the book, I didn’t know anything about Hazel Grace or Augustus Waters, and I thought I’d just see what my daughter loved so much that she had lines from the book covering her wall on handwritten sticky notes.
I read the book in that one day. I was sobbing at the end and thought the story of Augustus bringing Hazel back into the world was truly wonderful. Part coming of age story and part love story with moments of terror, unbridled heroism, pain, and joy and told in such glorious language this really is a book worth all the hype.
I have had people tell me that no one could be as impossibly cool as Augustus or as bright as Hazel Grace, but I had a friend when I was eighteen who could have been the model for Augustus. He was a handsome loner whose cool charm lured everyone to him, who used twelve words where one would do, and who was sharp as a tack, funny, and kind. And he’d been that person his whole life. He didn’t just become smart, funny, and kind when he hit adulthood.
These characters John Green has drawn might be slightly idealized, but they are also very real. They are the kinds of people kids want to be and want to be with. The story of Hazel Grace, Augustus, and their friends is not necessarily a story that one wants to live through, especially if you are a parent, but it’s one that teaches the reader about the beauty of love and the power of resistance in a world that keeps trying to limit our spirit. It is a book to read and then keep on your shelf—in as many languages as you can – and it is a book to share with your daughter because she will want you to. Okay? Okay.