This original book review has been updated with thoughts on the movie
The Fault In Our Stars is a novel by John Green about two teenagers who find love under very difficult circumstances. The two main characters, Hazel and Augustus, meet in support group for children living with cancer. The two can’t deny the attraction they feel for each other but they know theirs love is of the star-crossed variety. The story of their love is a beautiful and heart-breaking one that shows that even though they are coming to terms with their impending mortality that they are still simply teenagers in love.
A note about the author: John Green has had success as an online vlogger, as well as an author. In 2007, John and his brother, Hank, who lived in different cities across the US, created a vlog series where they only communicated through video messages that were posted on YouTube. I believe that it is fair to say that the Green brothers are two of the original YouTubers. In 2010, they began hosting an annual gathering of youtubers called Vidcon and are very well respected by and connected with many of the big names on YouTube.
Even before I had read this book or even heard about John Green as a writer, I knew of him and his brother as a source for enlightening information on the Internet (the two brothers currently have a channel where they discuss history, science, and divulge other little known facts). I was pleasantly surprised to hear that John was lauded as being an excellent writer of young adult literature. If anything, I would have expected a “geek” to be a writer of sci-fi. I continued to hear great things about his writing, especially this book, so I decided to give it a listen
I really enjoyed this book. I highly recommend it for many reasons. The story is very powerful, the characters are well-developed with a strong voice, and the narrator of the book did an excellent job. What I like best about this book is that while, yes, it is a book about a teenage girl and boy terminally ill with cancer, it is also just about a teenage girl and boy. Like I previously stated, the characters in this book are excellently developed. There is one particular character, an old man named Van Houten, who has a number of layers to his personality and backstory, just as any human would. I love this character the most because his words and actions kept me guessing. This is a book that I would read again and again.
I actually did read the book again to get ready for the movie that was released in early June 2014. I thought that I would not tear up as much because I already knew what would happen in the end, but instead I found myself crying in different places. For example, the happy scenes made me cry the second time around because I knew that the happy times would not last. I was so excited to see the film that my husband, knowing how excited I was, agreed to go with me, and it didn’t even bother me that there were so many young teenagers in the theater making sounds at inappropriate times. And, I have to admit that I almost let out a few audible sobs because the movie was so intense and emotional. To say that I loved the movie is an understatement and I am itching to go back and see it another time.
With the exception of two scenes, I was extremely happy with how the novel was adapted to the movie. Because Van Houten was one of my favorite aspects of the book, I was a bit disappointed with how they chose to portray his character. I realize that this might be my interpretation but I saw him getting much more emotional then the character became in the movie. Willem Dafoe, who played Van Houten, certainly could have handled the complexities of Van Houten’s characters so I wonder why they didn’t allow that.
Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort played Hazel and Augustus respectively and both did a wonderful job. At one point while the two were kissing, I leaned over and told Chris that the two of them had played sister and brother in Divergent and he found that very funny. Elgort played a very arrogant Augustus, which was certainly the way the novel describes him, but I feel the film failed to let the character become as vulnerable as Augustus becomes in the novel. Woodley seemed more comfortable in this role then she had in Divergent and I was thinking that her experiences from playing a teenage mother in The Secret Life of an American Teenager may have prepared her well for the role. Nat Wolff, who played the friend, Isaac, injected some necessary humor into the movie and was actually chosen to play the lead in another of John Green’s popular novels, Paper Towns, which should come out some time in 2015. In my opinion, the movie was excellent and, for the most part, lived up to my rather high expectations. For that, I am very grateful.
I highly recommend this book to anyone of any age. The book is not just for teenage girls, as it seems that practically all of us have a loved one who has suffered from cancer and so we all can relate. While this was the first John Green book that I have read, I have since read An Abundance of Katherines and Paper Towns and recommend those books as well.