NORMAN — “Hunger Games” swept the world with its daring commentary on Big Brother, reality TV and violence. “Fifty Shades of Grey” stole the no. 1 spot on New York Times best sellers by being a popular guilty pleasure. And “The Fault in Our Stars” by John Green is quietly taking over by stealing the hearts and choke-holding the emotions of readers everywhere.
Hazel Lancaster is the book’s 16-year-old narrator. She’s been living with thyroid cancer (with mets in her lungs) since she was 13. As Hazel says, she’s “never been anything but terminal.” But because of a medical miracle drug, she has been granted an unknown amount of time to keep living. Of course, her living is TV reruns and book re-reads.
The plot begins when Hazel’s parents sign her up for a “Cancer Kid” support group, to better cope with her growing depression. A depression, Hazel clarifies, that is not a side affect of cancer, but rather a side affect of dying. Her disinterest in the support group is apparent until she meets Augustus Waters. And then everything changes. Suddenly, she’s having adventures, meeting people she never dreamed she would, and seeing far off lands usually only viewed on Google images.
Augustus is 17, and was diagnosed with osteosarcoma at a young age and lost his right leg. Currently in remission, Augustus makes it clear that he’s going to live his life to the fullest. His disease doesn’t define him, he defines himself. A real charmer, Hazel can’t help but fall for Augustus’ tendency to pick his behaviors based on their metaphorical resonance.
With Augustus in her life, Hazel is no longer the home-schooled, cancer-ridden teenager who watches America’s Next Top Model reruns like they were her religion. And it’s through her sudden and new experience of life that the story comes alive.
Green took this touchy and often over-washed subject of kids with cancer and turned it into an endearing narrative with comedy, love and thoughtfulness. Actually, on a whole, Green focuses the whole book on thoughtfulness. On Hazel and Augustus discussing the inevitability of death, how everything will turn to oblivion and just what impression they’ll leave behind. It shows that conversations and intelligent engagements don’t have to be a means to an end. But just something to have. Something to enjoy. Something to do because — why not?
Green traps the reader into feeling all the emotions. To fall in step with Hazel and Augustus as they “come-of-age” with death holding their hands. He makes you love and hate the main characters. To understand what they’re feeling.
Reading the books let’s you feel the tragedy of their love but then realize that it’s not a tragedy at all because they were allowed to experience it. A novel of experience, “The Fault in Our Stars” makes you want to live. To figure out how you define yourself and when you should start.
There is a reason this book is quietly taking over the nation. The well-written narrative offers an emotional insight never before seen in this genre.
And my biggest fear with “The Fault in Our Stars” was that Green would end it mid-sentence.