My book reading has not been going too well these last two months. So I thought that to break the jinx, I will read a YA book. And so I got John Green’s ‘The Fault in Our Stars’. ‘The Fault in Our Stars’ was recommended to me by one of my favourite friends Heidi. Then it was part of NPR’s best YA novels list. And then it ended up in many year-end favourites lists in 2012. So, I had to read it. I finished reading it yesterday. Here is what I think.
The story of ‘The Fault in Our Stars’ can be told very briefly. It is about Hazel who has cancer but still has a few years because of a medical miracle, and Augustus who appears to have been cured of cancer in his bones. They meet at a Cancer support group, the sparks fly and what happens after that forms the rest of the story. Other characters like Hazel’s parents, Augustus’ friend Isaac, a reclusive writer called Peter van Houten, who has written a novel about a girl who has cancer, and his assistant Lidewij also play important parts in the story.
I loved everything about ‘The Fault in Our Stars’, starting from its Shakespearean title, to the way the cover has been created – the title in white chalk on a blackboard and the author’s name in charcoal on a whiteboard :
To the second paragraph in the first page which grabbed my heart and refused to let it go :
Whenever you read a cancer booklet or website or whatever, they always list depression among the side effects of cancer. But, in fact, depression is not a side effect of cancer. Depression is a side effect of dying.
To the story which was beautiful, humorous, intense, happy and heartbreaking in equal measure, to the beautiful sentences which keep appearing frequently and melt one’s heart, like this :
As he read, I fell in love the way you fall asleep : slowly, and then all at once.
And this :
Some tourists think Amsterdam is a city of sin, but in truth it is a city of freedom. And in freedom, most people find sin.
And this :
“Some war. What am I at war with? My cancer. And what is my cancer? My cancer is me. The tumors are made of me. They’re made of me as surely as my brain and my heart are made of me. It is a civil war, with a predetermined winner…Cancer isn’t a bad guy really. Cancer just wants to be alive.”
And this :
I would probably never again see the ocean from thirty thousand feet above, so far up that you can’t make out the waves or any boats, so that the ocean is a great and endless monolith. I could imagine it. I could remember it. But I couldn’t see it again, and it occurred to me that the voracious ambition of humans is never sated by dreams coming true, because there is always the thought that everything might be done better and again. That is probably true even if you live to be ninety – although I’m jealous of the people who get to find out for sure.
And this :
It was kind of a beautiful day, finally real summer in Indianapolis, warm and humid – the kind of weather that reminds you after a long winter that while the world wasn’t built for humans, we were built for the world.
To the beautiful dialogues like this one :
Hazel : “To be fair to Monica, what you did to her wasn’t very nice either.”
Isaac : “What’d I do to her?”
Hazel : “You know, going blind and everything.”
Isaac : “But that’s not my fault.”
Hazel : “I’m not saying it was your fault. I’m saying it wasn’t nice.”
And this one :
Stewardess : “Sir, you can’t smoke on this plane. Or any plane.”
Augustus : “I don’t smoke.”
Stewardess : “But –“
Hazel : “It’s a metaphor. He puts the killing thing in his mouth but doesn’t give it the power to kill him.”
Stewardess : “Well, that metaphor is prohibited in today’s flight.”
To the delightful references to mathematics and infinity that the book makes, to the fact that the book doesn’t simplify the theme it takes on but illuminates it in all its complexity while still making it read like a YA novel – I loved ‘The Fault in Our Stars’ for all these and more. It is a perfect book. I know that I must be the last person on earth to read it, but I heartily recommend it. Be prepared to laugh and cry and think, all at the same time.