Thursday, April 11, 2013

The Fault in Our Stars

The Fault in Out Stars
by John Green
336 pages
High School+

Hazel has cancer.  Even though it is in remission, she knows that one day, sooner than she would like, it will kill her.  It's hard to try and live a busy and satisfying life when you can't breath well and you know you're going to die anyways.  While Hazel tries to live life, and be happy, she feels cynical and weighed down a lot of the time.  She even doesn't like going to her cancer support group- too dreary and disheartening to hear the list of dead people 3 times longer than the list of those still alive.

One night, her mom all but forces her to go to support group, to get out of the house and go do something.  She gets there, sees a couple old friends, and also meets a new guy, Augustus Waters. Gus is different, even though he too is a survivor.  He smiles, he grins, and draws Hazel to him, not just for his looks, but for his charisma.  Soon, they are hanging out together, going on picnics together, and even sharing their favorite books.  When Hazel makes Gus read "An Imperial Affliction" about a girl with cancer, he is hooked.  He reads it in a night, and, just like Hazel, can't stand not knowing what happens.  The book ended mid-sentence!  Both of them write the author to see if he is writing a sequel, or would even just tell them what happens to the characters.

Together, they start an adventure.  Hazel lives life, finally, while helping Gus live his as well.  They support friends through breakups, pester an author, and manage their cancer symptoms.  What good is living with cancer if you can't live? 

Oh my goodness, I cried!  I loved this book, not just for its witty banter, not only for the great characters and realistic setting, but because it made me cry.  I got so emotionally tied to Hazel and Gus that when they hurt, I hurt too.  My heart ached for their trials. Hint- have lots of tissues on hand toward the end.  This was a fantastic book!

I'm usually not into realistic fiction (check out how many fantasy books I have on here), usually because it doesn't seem to do much.  There's not adventure or the characters just sit around and talk about each other behind their backs.  But in the book, Hazel and Gus were doing things.  They went places around town, obsessed about their favorite book, comforted another friend in need, and more.  They don't just sit around, the do things!  And not normal everyday things.  I do enough "normal" things, I don't particularly want to read about them.  But this book had a great blend of normal, so I would identify with the characters, and the unusual, to keep my interest. 

Several themes in this book that could be discussed, almost too many to list.  Life and death is huge.  Both Hazel and Gus know that at some point soon, they will die.  This changes their outlook on life, and causes them to evaluate what "living" means to them.  What would you change in your life if you knew you might not be around the next month? 

Another theme is love, what it means to a person, how it affects their actions, and how it changes lives.  Knowing what the future holds, or knowing how things will end is another emphasized theme.  Hazel and Gus do some fairly extreme things to try to figure out what happens to characters in a book.  This reflects their desire to know how their own stories end: what happens to their families and friends after they die, will people remember them or be hurt by their death.  Knowledge is powerful in this book.

Overall, AMAZING book.  I will recommend to any teen, regardless of gender or what type of book they usually read.  I would keep it to high school teens for a couple reasons.  One, subject matter- so heavy and thought provoking.  I don't know that middle school kids would have the maturity to be interested in this book.  Second, a small sexual scene.  Nothing big, nothing explicit, but it's there.  Younger kids probably know more than what this book holds, but just for safety's sake, keep it more to high school or older.

Read this book!  It is amazing and I loved it!

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