Staff Review by Chris Saliba
John Green's The Fault in Our Stars miraculously mixes humour, fatal disease and teenage love to create an almost perfect novel.
The subject matter of this
young-adult novel is really quite daunting: teenagers living with
cancer. It seems like a subject you could get very, very wrong unless
you really knew what you were doing. Green drew inspiration for the
subject when he was working as a student chaplain in a children’s
hospital. The novel’s main character is based on Esther Earl, a teenage
friend of the author who contracted thyroid cancer.
novel is in essence a simple love story, but complicated by the deep
uncertainty of the protagonists’ lives. Hazel Grace Lancaster has
thyroid cancer which has spread to her lungs. When her mother nudges her
into going to a support group for teens with cancer, she meets the
amusing and charismatic Augustus Waters. He’s had osteosarcoma, which
has resulted in a leg amputation. They both have a mutual friend in
Isaac. He’s had eye cancer and has had to have both removed. His
girlfriend has also dropped him because she couldn’t cope with his
A secondary plot involves the author Peter
Van Houten. His novel, An Imperial Affliction, is Hazel’s favourite. She re-reads
it obsessively. The main character in this novel-within-a-novel is Anna,
a girl who has cancer. Hazel loves the book, as she thinks it’s an
accurate description of what it’s like to have cancer, but is frustrated
at the novel’s abrupt end. Augustus manages to communicate with Van
Houten, and Van Houten becomes involved in the drama of their relationship.
almost impossible to find any faults in this compelling novel. John
Green doesn’t go beyond the bounds of his literary brief in simply
trying to show the humanity of teenagers living with cancer. It’s this
commitment to realism that makes The Fault in Our Stars such a success.
In so many respects the characters in the novel are just normal people
like you and me, but having to deal with life and death issues at too
young an age. There’s a real tenderness and sensitivity in his writing
that is quite palpable. It’s a cliché to say it, but it’s true: Green’s
novel makes you realise how fragile life is and how important it is to
prioritize the right things.
John Green also gives his
story plenty of comic touches which makes The Fault in our Stars
genuinely funny in places. It’s quite a miraculous feat that he can
juggle humour, fatal disease and teenage love into such a seamless mix.
The secondary plot about the novelist Peter Van Houten is smartly woven
into the story as well, highlighting the importance of literature as
therapy and as a way of making sense of the world.
A brilliant and humbling book.
The Fault in Our Stars, by John Green. Published by Puffin. ISBN: 9780143571629 RRP: $19.99
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