Late in the winter of my seventeenth year, my mother decided I was depressed, presumably because I rarely left the house, spent quite a lot of time in bed, read the same book over and over, ate infrequently, and devoted quite a bit of my abundant free time thinking about death.
The Fault in Our Stars was one of the novels I saw everywhere for about a fortnight and then, once the posters had been replaced in the station, the lingering intrigue and memorable cover finally made me succumb to purchase.
I was coming in completely fresh to John Green’s novels as I had never read any of his other titles and was unaware of his style so I was excited to see what TFIOS would be like. In the past I have been known to do a bit of internet research on a new author before buying, just to see if the title I want is deemed to be the best of the bunch but with TFIOS I dove right in, devil may care and come what may!
Inspired by Cassius’ line in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar: ‘The fault dear Brutus, is not in our stars, / But in ourselves, that we are underlings’, John Green’s YA novel follows protagonists affected with varying types and stages of cancer. Although this huge subject has massive potential for a really morbid and depressing time Green’s exceptional writing, done with apparent ease, juxtaposes laughter with tears, hope with devastation and light-heartedness with the serious.
The topic of cancer in fiction, whatever the genre, is always going to be a tricky subject matter as I think most readers would have had a type of experience/opinion/view of it in reality; such is the horrible nature of that particular beast. However, this is not just a ‘cancer book’. Green manages to weave cancer in and out of the narrative in such a way that we are aware of its presence, aware of its debilitating effect on the protagonists but it is far from the primary focus. That is the voice and characterisation of Hazel, Augustus, Isaac and their families that come to the fore an engage the audience in such splendid way.
The Fault in Our Stars is so much more than a YA novel, or a cancer book, or a teen romance. It studies reaction to a tapestry of situations and illuminates the difficult times that are often avoided. It isn’t a perfect novel, there are points when I thought ‘reality would never lend a coincidence or circumstance that flawless’ or when Hazel/Augustus said something so profound that it couldn’t ever have been off the cuff but, hey, that’s fiction!
I genuinely loved this book and it certainly makes its impact. I read that the film rights of TFIOS have been bought and whilst I would love to see it on the big screen, I pray to literally anyone that can hear me that Hollywood doesn’t ruin the majesty of Green’s work in the glossy, shiny way it always seems to. This narrative is raw and affecting and deserves to remain so.