John Green is nothing short of brilliant. His approach to writing teen literature goes far beyond any other author of the genre that I can think of. I am so grateful that I took the time to acquaint (submerge) myself with his novel, The Fault In Our Stars. A story of young love so beautifully written I was in a constant state of awe.
Hazel Lancaster and Augustus Waters lock eyes on one another during a cancer support group meeting for teens. Definitely not the typical location for meeting your first true love but this is in no way your typical teen love story. The bright but painfully sheltered Hazel (better known as Hazel Grace) quickly finds a deep connection with the brutally handsome and witty Augustus (better known as Gus). Opposites in many ways, these two are unlikely magnets and thrive on conversations about books, video games, quirky philosophies of life, and of course, living with cancer.
The novel takes Hazel and Gus on a journey to Amsterdam to meet the estranged (and severely alcoholic) Peter Van Houten, the author of Hazel's favorite book, An Imperial Affliction. However, the trip becomes more than just a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Expectations are crushed, truths are told, realities come forth, and the love between Hazel and Gus intensifies and becomes almost immeasurable.
Green takes the stereotypical "cancer story" and flips it on its head. He creates characters that are so raw and vulnerable you can't help but feel the story and emotions behind them. This is not so much a story about kids dying from cancer as it is about kids living with cancer and what it feels like to fall in love. The perfectly written passages of crass remarks intertwined with gut-wrenching and beautiful insights are what make this novel memorable. Green creates a powerful blend of both the humor, pain, and beauty of being dealt a bad hand in life.
I chose to listen to the audio version of this novel and it was superb. Kate Rudd's reading is impeccable. She was able to capture the voice of Hazel in a way I probably wouldn't have in my own head. Her witty cadence reminded me much of Tina Fey (weird, I know) but in the same breath she was able to express the tender and honest thoughts of Hazel just as effectively.
This is yet another example of YA literature that is enjoyable for adults. Sometimes I think YA novels are smarter, fresher, and more relevant than adult novels. The Fault In Our Stars would indeed be one of them. Because of the extensive vocabulary, I would recommend this book for high schoolers and above. This won't stop me from adding a copy to my middle school classroom collection but I predict only my more "seasoned" 7th and 8th Graders will truly understand and appreciate its content.
For more information about John Green and his novels visit: http://johngreenbooks.com
Have you read this novel or any other works by John Green? I would love to hear your thoughts and suggestions. Do share!