Summary: “The World is Not A Wish-Making Factory” (a frequently used line from the book that quite adequately sums up reality.)
The Fault in Our Stars is narrated by Hazel, a 16 year old with cancer. Her cancer is terminal. But she has gained a few years with the help of a (fictional) trial drug that has slowed the growth of the tumors in her lungs. It is only with her ever-present oxygen tank that she still manages to stay alive.
After her doctors and parents suspect that she has become depressed she starts attending a teen cancer support group where she meets Augustus Waters, fellow cancer victim.
Of course, they fall in love. That part of the story is never really in doubt. It is how they live, with each other, with cancer, with parents who love them, that is what is important.
I like books with fictional books as a central plot point (it was one of my favorite things about Madeleine L’Engle’s Swiftly Tilting Planet.) Books really can be moving and important. I have never had a particular book that I read dozens of times and was a central part of my life. But I have had many book that were important to where I am at as I read it. And many other books that I have read multiple times that continue to speak to me. Hazel has devoured An Imperial Affliction. It is her bible, where she finds meaning, how she processes the world around her. And eventually it is something that her and Augustus share.
This is a book about two teens with cancer, it is called A Fault in Our Stars which is a from a tragic line from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar. The Fault in Our Stars is tragic, but it is a beautiful and still hopeful book. My only complaint from some of John Green’s other books is that they tend to be outside of the hopefulness that I want to see in young adult books. That is not to say they are completely depressing; they deal with tough subjects in a real way. That is no less true about this one, but it feels more hopeful than the others.
I would like to sit down with Green and talk about Christianity with him. Green enrolled, but never attended, University of Chicago Divinity School (where I have my MDiv from). He was planning on becoming an Episcopal priest, but after working as a chaplain at a children’s hospital for 5 months he abandoned that plan. His books are never Christian fiction, the characters are aware of Christianity (or in one case Islam) but are not actively Christian. But they are not against Christianity either. They are simply outside the church. However, all of the books deal with matters of faith: death, the meaning of life, love, existence etc. The books would be very good for discussion, although many of them have explicit language, sex (usually very tame and it is usually other people having sex, not the main characters), alcohol or drugs. So there is some content warning on them. I think all of the books are appropriate to about 15 year olds and up.
Even if you are not a fan of young adult books, John Green is an author I think many readers will enjoy. The Fault in Our Stars is the best of the books that he has written. After that I would recommend An Abundance of Katherines, which is the funniest of the books. Looking for Alaska and Paper Towns are both very good, but darker than An Abundance of Katherines and not quite as good as The Fault in Our Stars, but still worth reading.