Finishing a book is like saying goodbye to a friend: You are left with beautiful memories but feel slightly empty inside.
After reading “The Fault in Our Stars” by John Green, my voice feels paralyzed; words won’t come out. All I can think of is what Augustus Waters said at the end of the book: “My thoughts are stars I can’t fathom in constellations.”
This book is not in any form, as its main character Hazel Grace Lancaster would say, a “cancer book.” You don’t have to know anything about cancer to enjoy what it has to offer. However, the reader should know a thing or two about Green.
At age 22, Green worked as a student chaplain in a children’s hospital. He spent 12 years trying to write a book about kids with cancer. In the meantime, he became an aspiring author of six best-seller young adult novels, a YouTube sensation (creator of “Vlogbrothers”), and an icon for misfit teens and for people who want to make the world more awesome.
All novels are personal, but Green’s novels, to me, seem especially so. I have to consider the implications of when Green described his experience in the children’s hospital as “devastating.” This particular story describes everything real about the ugliness of cancer — much of which he experienced first-hand — and leaves out the sugar coating. This is about life, death, illness, love, heroism and how a 16 year-old is supposed to deal with the fact that she will die and leave everyone she loves behind.
Green has since said in interviews that his time at the hospital changed his life forever. Maybe it’s because I’ve been a fan of Green for some time now, following his career from YouTube to the bookstore bookshelves, but this is the most deeply personal book I’ve ever read.
I was immediately met face-to-face (metaphorically) by my fictional twin. Hazel Grace Lancaster, a 16-year-old survivor of terminal lung cancer who has to carry around an oxygen tank everywhere because “my lungs suck at being lungs,” is refreshingly real. She’s not manic, a self-deprecating humorist, or a dream girl. She reads great books and watches “America’s Next Top Model” marathons to make time go by.
Augustus Waters, her amputee friend, wants desperately to leave a lasting impression on the world and philosophizes about heroism, and his favorite book is a novelization of a video game. I see so much of myself in these two characters from their love of books to their questions about fearing oblivion, making the separation all that more tragic.
The two connect over mutual desires to understand infinite and fears of the future, or fear of no future. They do everything but define themselves as the cancer that nearly killed them. It consumes their lives, but cancer doesn’t define them. It’s a kind bravery that’s hard to be reckoned with.
On every page, it’s clear: This is a story told by someone who hasn’t known just one person with cancer, but has seen a multitude of children with terminal diseases and has tried to find some way to comfort them and their families.
Green didn’t write this story for me, so I don’t feel like I have any place saying that it’s amazing, beautiful and heartbreaking. There isn’t any bull crap about dying gracefully here because cancer is ugly and unpleasant. Green makes you feel Hazel’s lungs struggling to breathe and Augustus’s fake leg struggling to hold him up right. Despite the ugliness, Green illustrates the love between these two as being infinite. It’s for that reason that I can’t review this like a normal book.
You may not relate to dying, but you can relate to defining infinity, or at least trying to. I truly cannot criticize the book for any tiny faults. You will have to read this for yourself and go from there.
Green’s story reminds me of what makes books really timeless beyond their bound pages. Just as Hazel said, every moment lasts an infinite and Augustus gave her a tiny infinite to live in for as long as she lives. All books contain little universes and tiny infinities for us to explore and make our own.