Book Review: The Fault in Our Stars (John Green)

Let’s talk about death. “Really?”, you ask. Really. Let’s talk about death because we all talk about life too much. We have bucket lists, to-do lists, and plans. We encourage each other to live rather than waste away. We tweet out tear-jerking, motivational quotes pulled from the likes of Oscar Wilde and paint dreamy futures that have no foreseeable end.  To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all. 

But in the words of Woody Allen, I’m not afraid of death; I just don’t want to be there when it happens, most of us (okay, practically all of us) shy away from the one concept that is just as inevitable as life. Death.

I’m making assertions on the human condition as if I’m not a part of it, so let’s call for full disclosure.  It sounds morbid to admit, but I have a high tolerance regarding anything death-related. In university, I desperately wanted to take a course called The Psychology of Death and Dying. My friends thought it was creepy and my family thought I was crazy, but it was actually a highly popular class. And when I finally got the chance to enroll, it did not disappoint. Granted, there were the occasional silent tears from students when something hit close to home and the material was depressing. Yet, there was a strange freedom in spending three hours a week talking about all things that are generally taboo in polite conversation. Suicide, palliative care, bereavement – it was nothing fabulous. But death is the less glamorous and loyal companion to life. It happens to all of us, will happen to all of us, but we forget that it’s what makes life that much more precious.

Philosophy aside, let’s talk books (finally moving on to the real point haha…I beat around the bush, it’s a talent 🙂 ). Call me hypocritical, but even though I claim to be some death-hugging-not-afraid-to-talk-about-it psycho I’m not one to go for books on the subject. I can’t do it. All those heartbreaking, sweetly-tailored stories on losing someone you love just don’t appeal to me which is why I was hesitant about reading The Fault in Our Stars.  Of course, I’m an idiot because this book is the absolute best.

bookSummary: The Fault in Our Stars stars 16-year old Hazel, a cancer patient who’s being forced to attend a support group by her parents. Although her cancer is terminal, a miracle drug has bought her more time and with it the chance to make the acquaintance of Augustus Waters, a fellow cancer patient. As they both bond over Hazel’s favourite book, “An Imperial Affliction”, Hazel experiences Augustus’ zeal for life and together the grow to appreciate what it means to live, to die, and to leave themselves behind.

Favourite Quote(s): Some people think that Amsterdam is a city of sin, but in truth it is a city of freedom. And in freedom, most people find sin. As he read, I fell in love the way you fall asleep: slowly, and then all at once. The world wasn’t made for us, we were made for the world. The marks humans leave are too often scars. 

Review: Honestly, I hadn’t heard of John Green at all before this book. There was so much talk about it on the news and on Twitter that I couldn’t resist anymore. I’m so glad there was truth to the rumors — it’s a strikingly profound read. There was no over-bearing cloud of death in the story. Instead, the subject was woven into each chapter with humour and wit which I loved. TFiOS reads like a best friend sharing the quirks and epiphanies of their life with you. It reads so real in fact, that you find yourself wondering how exactly you would handle life if it were you in Hazel’s shoes.

Something cool was that Green managed to master the dynamics of each person. I especially loved that he shows the flaws in everybody. Hazel’s mom is overprotective, her dad cries a lot, Augustus is fiercely independent, and Hazel is reclusive. These flaws are a result of their circumstances, but they do not make them weak. On the contrary, they make the characters endearing and I found myself able to understand why each person dealt so differently. Another thing I liked was that Green touched on what it’s like to be left because of your illness. It’s a point at which the patient seems like the victim because they can’t control what’s happening to them, but TFiOS shows how both parties involved are victims of a greater misfortune.

I would be lying if I said TFiOS didn’t make me shed some tears. It gracefully strips down labels that divide the living from the dying, reminding me through well-written prose that we are all inherently human.

Reviewer’s Rating: 5/5

*** The Fault in Our Stars movie starring Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort is set to begin production in August 2013 ***

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