You don’t get to choose if you get hurt in this world, old man, but you do have some say in who hurts you. I like my choices. I hope she likes hers. (Page 313)
I never would’ve thought a young adult novel could be this heart-rending. Green crafted a beautiful love story around two teenagers; each suffering from different forms of cancer. It made the story that much more poignant and unforgettable. I had a new appreciation for the triumph of the human spirit after finishing it.
Green chose two exceptionally compelling characters to drive the narrative. He presented the story in Hazel’s point of view. In spite of the incurable cancer in her lungs, she persevered, I would say, heroically. At one point, she nearly succumbed to the disease. The author did a phenomenal job having her recount the scene as her anxious parents watched their only daughter almost die. While too sick to attend high school she received a GED and took college classes. A bit grudgingly, she attended a support group to help her cope with her disease. That’s where she encountered her love interest, Augustus.
This former high school basketball player survived a bout with bone cancer that led to one of his legs being amputated. While cognizant of Hazel’s condition, he still pursued her. As if that didn’t demonstrate the strength of his character: his previous girlfriend passed away from a brain tumor. He recounted to Hazel the slow, difficult nature of her decline. The disease affected her mental state causing her to even poke fun at Augustus’ artificial leg. He still remained with her until the end. Keep in mind: he was only a teenager. That’s noble!
The author derived the title from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar. Cassius said, “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars/ But in ourselves.” (Page 111) Another great character, the quirky author Peter Van Houten, commented: “Easy enough to say when you’re a Roman nobleman (or Shakespeare!), but there is no shortage of fault to be found amid our stars.”(Page 111)
Green used a wealth of outstanding lyrical flourishes in this book. The best included:
You do not immortalize the lost by writing about them. Language buries, but it cannot resurrect. (Page 112)
You are so busy being you that you have no idea how utterly unprecedented you are. (Page 123)
I fell in love the way you fall asleep: slowly, and then all at once. (Page 125)
There are only two emotions, love and fear…(Page 188)
And the deepest line I’ve ever read:
Even cancer isn’t a bad guy really: Cancer just wants to be alive. (Page 246)
The author weaved in an astonishing plot twist. In the interest of avoiding spoilers, I’ll refrain from telling readers what it is. I feel it would take away some of the book’s impact.
John Green crafted a powerful novel. The likability of both protagonists made it tough to read due to their medical conditions. Still, it was a rewarding experience to do so. I’d encourage others to read it as well. Just keep a box of tissues handy.