The Fault in Our Stars

Posted: December 2, 2012 in Book
Tags: , ,

Fault_in_Our_StarsThe Fault in Our Stars by John Green

Published by Dutton, 2012

ISBN: 9780525478812

Genre: Realistic/Contemporary Fiction, Romance, Humor

Reading Level/Interest Age: Grades 8-12

Author Biography:

John Green is a New York Times Bestselling author as well as the recipient of several prestigious awards including the Michael L. Printz award and the Edgar award.  Green is more than merely an author.  His fans have created an unmovable force behind all of his work.  Other than his books, Green is known for his youtube videos that he uses to correspond with his brother Hank.  The videos increased his popularity and now fans known as nerdfighters tune in to hear his opinions on whatever topic interests him that day.  Before his was an author, Green worked for the review magazine, Booklist, as a publishing assistant and production manager.

Green grew up in Orlando, FL but now currently lives in Indianapolis, IN.  He graduated with a B.A. from Kenyon college in both English and Religious Studies.  Information retrieved from John Green’s website.

Reader’s Annotation:

Hazel got a new lease of life after experimental treatments saved her from cancer.  Now she lives every day trying not to leave to large of an impression on the lives of others.  When she meets Gus at a cancer kids meeting, she realizes what exactly she was missing pushing everyone away from her.

Plot Summary:

Thinking about your future can bring up a variety of questions.  The questions can be serious like:

What are you going to be when you grow up?

Will you have kids?

But, the questions can also be mundane and insignificant like:

What color house will you live in?

What TV shows will you watch?

Hazel knows she shouldn’t consider any of these questions.  Living with thyroid cancer that has spread viciously to her lungs should have killed her years ago, but with the help of an experimental treatment, Hazel is living on borrowed time.  However, instead of sitting in bed watching hours of episodes of an America’s Next Top Model marathon, Hazel’s mom forces her to go to a cancer support group.  Hazel has gone to the group before and listened to the empty words of wisdom and hope.  Her only friend was a boy named Isaac who was about to lose his sight to cancer until Augustus showed up.  Gus also has cancer, but after losing his leg, the cancer seemed to be under control.  While living in a kind of stasis, Gus makes it his mission to make Hazel experience life.

At first, Hazel was reluctant to allow Gus to become close to her as she had almost died several times before and did not want to ruin someone’s life with her death.  Gus’s persistence defeated Hazel’s stubbornness and soon they were spending every minute together.  When Hazel introduces Gus to her favorite book, An Imperial Affliction, a book about a girl with cancer written by a reclusive one-time author, the duo try everything in their power to get in touch with the author in hopes that he will reveal the cliff-hanger ending and give them closure.  Their search leads them on a trip to Europe and both Hazel and Gus realize that the ending provided may not be the ending they were seeking.

Critical Evaluation:

While The Fault in Our Stars can easily be described as a funny cancer book (which I have done in the past), it is so much more than that.  The Fault in Our Stars is a book about relationships and reactions.  I classified this above as a romance because there is definitely romance involved in the story, but the romantic aspects of Gus and Hazel’s relationship almost cheapens what they had.  It wasn’t typical high school puppy love that is something featured in books for teens.  To reference the film Jerry Maguire, it’s more about completion.  Gus and Hazel both had aspects of themselves that were lacking.  Their relationship was necessary to complete one another.  Gus had a past relationship that ended with his girlfriend’s death while Hazel was so close to dying that now she thought it better to disengage herself from everyone and everything.  The accidental meeting at the cancer kids meeting was a catalyst to the being of a journey in which both Hazel and Gus learned some important things about themselves.

It has been said that one of Green’s downfalls is that he does not right true teen characters.  Reading through personal reviews on book social network sites like Goodreads, this complaint comes up frequently.  First of all, Green writes true.  Adults have this impression that teens are dumb and lack any deep, questioning thoughts.  While it’s true that not all teens speak as eloquently as Green’s characters, the thoughts are still accurate.  And that is not to say that no teens speak like Green because I have met several.  I look at this complaint very objectively.  Adult writers create their characters to be well-spoken and clever.  Rarely do they stumble in words or dumb down their characters.  But I have met several adults, too many to count, that do not resemble the articulate and insightful characters in books.  Does that mean the adult writers are not being true?  Absolutely not.  Adults tend to underestimate teens whereas Green talks up to teens, giving them the inspiration to be better.  Secondly, especially in reference to The Fault in Our Stars, Hazel and Gus have done more living and experienced more difficult decisions than most adults.  If it is true that wisdom comes from experiences, it seems to me that Hazel and Gus should be exactly as they are portrayed.

Curriculum Ties:

  • While The Fault in Our Stars has no obvious connections to subjects in school, I can see this title being a great required reading book for summer reading or a classroom study.  Readers are sure to have opinions about the title and it would be excellent for class discussion.

Booktalking Ideas:

  • One sentence summary: “This is a funny cancer book.”  While I believe that it is much more than that, I have booktalked this title using this sentence as the icebreaker.  Usually I got several surprised gasps and odd looks that they paid more attention as I continued with the plot summary.
  • What would you do if you knew you could die any day?  Would you still hang out with your friends?  Would you hide yourself away in your room?

Challenge Issues:

  • Controversial topics: Death and dying and teen sex
  • Defense:

- Read the book to familiarize yourself with the material.  The topics mentioned above need to be understood in the context of the story.

- Familiarize yourself with the library’s policy so that you can defend the initial purchasing.

- Show reviews of the book.  The Fault in Our Stars received starred reviews and Green has won awards for his previous works.

(Information received from ALA’s Using the Strategies and Tips for Dealing with Challenges to Library Materials  webpage)

Why This Book?

Honestly, if this book was not an assigned title for the class, I would have included it anyway.  Green’s books are amazing and should be included in any collection.  I also believe that this title has a good chance at winning the Printz award come this January.  On a more pop culture note, The Fault in Our Stars has recently been picked up to become a film.  Once the film trailer is released, its popularity will increase.

References:

Green, J. (2012).  John Green’s Biography.  Retrieved from http://johngreenbooks.com/bio-contact/.

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