Love stories can be many things: epic, poetic, abysmally internalised or cast across continents. The Fault of Our Stars is none of the above, but it is funny and deadly and, like all good love stories, quietly devastating.
Hazel Grace Lancaster is 16 and has terminal cancer, its death sentence indeterminately commuted by a wonder drug that marries her to an oxygen cylinder. Augustus ‘Gus’ Walters is 17 and strong & healthy in remission, albeit with only one leg. They’d like to be ‘normal’ teenagers – and occasionally act like them – but the vanishing point perspective ‘gifted’ by cancer has robbed them of any desire to strop.
Instead there is a brilliant bone dry wit through which they see & appreciate their brief lives – the shining now, the darkest future, they see everything and still, all that vision can’t stop romance. It can’t stop Hazel & Gus falling in Love.
Family is a vital haven, with both sets of parents glimpsing grief in the wings but bursting with pride & love for their brave kids forced to play these sick parts by an unstoppable disease but playing them against type, to the hilt, even as it steals their very breath.
The plot features a mini-quest to Amsterdam, where Hazel tries to prise the unwritten final chapter of her favourite book from its enigmatic author, with decidedly mixed results. Does the trip almost kill her? Does she get her answers? You’d think it wouldn’t matter – as Gus is posing Hazel so many questions on his own – but how she copes is the heart of the book because there’s an acceptance to Hazel, a deeply bound peace even as she fights, that marks her Love as timeless.
To say any more risks giving away too much, but I almost stopped reading this wonderful book halfway because John Green had made me care for these people so bloody much and I just couldn’t face it. But they could, and do, with a rare, unsentimental beauty.
Read it and weep. With laughter and sorrow and hope.