Where does the fault lie?

A review of hit young adult novel, ‘The Fault in Our Stars’ by John Green

(The Book Castle)

“Light, romantic, yet philosophically challenging. Despite the jarring events and the plot twists that happen throughout this gem of a book, it never loses the core purpose and main message it was trying to get across.” ★★★★☆By Janin B. Volante

“The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars but in ourselves.”

The title of John Green’s recent and most acclaimed novel, with a major feature film adaptation that just came out this May, is a play on this somewhat obscure line from Shakespeare’s Hamlet. In The Fault in Our Stars or TFIOS, as it is fondly called by its fans, shows that star-crossed lovers can exist in this modern world. The novel is reminiscent of Rome & Juliet in the way that it is tragically beautiful. But unlike the Bard’s tale, it isn’t sappy, predictable and purpose-defeating.

Ansel Elgort and Shailene Woodley plays the main characters, Augustus Waters and Hazel Grace Lancaster respectively — (20th Century Fox)

The Fault in Our Stars is narrated by Hazel Grace Lancaster, a sixteen-year old who has thyroid cancer with mets in her lungs. Her mother is convinced she is drowning in a deep clinical depression as her lungs are in cancerous fluid. Mrs. Lancaster coerces her into attending a support group meeting in a church basement eponymously called “Support Group.”

One not so extraordinary Wednesday in the “Literal Heart of Jesus” (what they call the basement where the support group meets), she meets the best friend of her “exasperated-sigh” buddy Isaac, who is about to go completely blind from cancer. This friend turns out to be the “metaphor-loving” Augustus Waters or Gus, who stares at Hazel for the majority of their first hour together.

Support Group brings Hazel and Gus together. Gus’ forward and flirty attitude will either make you wary of him (like I was) or make you root for him (which I did later on). Either way, what sold the character for me was the fact that he could keep up beat for beat with Hazel’s sarcasm and wit. The funny and well-paced dialogue between them and on occasion, with Isaac, makes the innocent and unknowing reader silently or not-so-silently snort with laughter.

The three main characters all seem to be resigned to their fates in varying degrees, and their gallows humor can be pretty funny. (If it doesn’t go over your head, that is. It will register on the second read, I assure you.) The minor and supporting characters, especially the reclusive Peter van Houten, are intriguing and help carry the plot without stealing the show too much.

The characterization isn’t the only great thing about this novel. The general themes of dealing with death and the struggle of leaving a legacy are dealt with in a way that doesn’t talk down to the reader. You can feel that voice throughout the novel isn’t someone experiences or far too wise for us to relate to.

The light and romantic, yet philosophically challenging story draws you in and by the third chapter, you know you are in for a great ride. The story gets darker however as it was bound to be. Remember how I mentioned the unknowingly innocent reader? Well, there is a plot twist that I’m not sure you would taker. I don’t want to be a spoiler so I will not divulge whatever that is.

I told you about the novel not being sappy and predictable, but let me tell you about how it also isn’t purpose-defeating. Despite the jarring events and the plot twists that happen throughout this gem of a book, it never loses the core purpose and main message it was trying to get across. That is, not matter how broken a person is, he or she can always find happiness despite the pain and the weight of living and dying. ■ AH Online / The Culture Review

(Editor’s Note: This review was first published in The Aquinian Observer in August 2014)