January 6th, 2013


The Fault in Our Stars, by John Green

This is a book about teenagers with terminal cancer. I kind of need to explain why I ended up reading this book.

A year or two ago, someone -- maybe ladyperegrine -- linked me to this video by John Green, in which Mr. Green says one of the most delightfully nerdy things: "The Venn diagram of guys who don't like smart girls and guys you don't want to date is a circle".

John Green and his brother Hank each produce a short video every week. I do not watch much in the way of videos and they've been doing this for many years, so I've watch only a tiny fraction of them, but I've enjoyed the ones I've seen. I follow John Green's Twitter in a failed effort to remind myself to watch his videos (this doesn't work because I pretty much only read Twitter from my phone and watch even fewer videos on my phone than I do in person). He mentions his books now and again -- The Fault in Our Stars being the latest -- so I finally decided to put it on my reserve list at the library. I found out later that, oh, it is a book about kids dying of cancer. But by then I had already checked the book out. I figured I might as well start it.

It is sort of like reading "The Graveyard of the Fireflies" in that by about halfway through I was pretty much crying nonstop. It is not as grimly depressing as "Graveyard", and it doesn't leave me feeling bad about life in general the way Feed did, so there's that. It's often laugh-out-loud funny, and even some of the horrible things are dealt with in humorous ways. Some of them are just sad and made me cry. I have cried a lot today. I kept thinking about stopping reading this book so I could stop crying for a while.

But I finished it anyway. I swear, I need to read something that's got an unambiguously upbeat and cheerful ending just for a change of pace.

The story is about Hazel, who has one kind of cancer, and Augustus, who has another, and about their relationship after they meet and questions like "Is it worthwhile to pursue romance when I and/or the other person has a life expectancy measured in months?" It treats the subject matter seriously: cancer is not a nebulous thing that leaves the characters completely healthy right up until they suddenly die. It's well-written. If you don't mind stories that make you cry, this is a great book. I do mind stories that make me cry and I liked this one anyway. So I'll give it an 8.