Thursday, June 12, 2014

The Fault in Our Stars: A Review

After hearing many of my eighth and ninth grade students rave over John Green's The Fault in Our Stars last semester, I bought it on Amazon and added it to my reading list.

What was so irresistible about this book that made it impossible for teen (mostly girl) readers to put it down?

As you may know, this book is a love story between terminal cancer patients who try to make the most of their “little infinity” together. That alone makes it a captivating story that immediately grabs at your heartstrings.

What I liked
Hands down, John Green tells a great story. He provides so many details to build each character’s individuality that you feel you know Augustus and Hazel Grace and are personally involved in their lives. You care about them and what happens to them – and that is why you will need a tissue box before you finish the book.

I also liked that he shared not only the struggles of these teens, but also showed the involvement of their parents, especially Hazel’s. Fighting cancer was a family affair, and even when Hazel was annoyed with her parents, she recognized that their sacrifices were because of their love for her. In fact, she understood this so deeply that she felt guilty for making them put their lives “on hold” for her. The relationship developed among father, mother, and daughter was something I respected – especially because you generally don’t see this in popular teen fiction.

Not so much
The author has a raw, irreverent writing style and often used language to convey his characters’ thoughts and feelings. This, in my opinion, is laziness. Find another word – or simply show how the character feels – instead of encouraging teenage readers to dumb down their own vocabulary.

Because of its subject, this book took advantage of raising and discussing some big questions. Fiction can be a powerful tool to influence young minds, and I strongly disagreed with the author’s perspective. Here are some “for instances”:

Where did we come from, and what happens after death?
  • Hazel’s answer: “There was a time before organisms experienced consciousness, and there will be a time after. And if the inevitability of human oblivion worries you, I would encourage you to ignore it.”
  • Augustus’ answer on an afterlife isn’t much more comforting, although he thinks he believes in something: “Yes, absolutely. Not like a heaven where you ride unicorns, play harps, and live in a mansion made of clouds. But yes. I believe in Something with a capital S.”
Is there a purpose to life?
  • Augustus: “We’re all just side effects, right?”
  • Hazel, quoting her favorite author, offers the suggestion that humanity is nothing more than “barnacles on the container ship of consciousness”
  • Augustus also answers this question in a letter discovered after his death: “We are likely to hurt the universe as we are to help it, and we’re not likely to do either.”
Final thoughts

Am I overanalyzing this? I don’t think so, although I do think most teens liked the story for the story itself and didn’t consider what message the author was conveying.
Did I see the movie? No, and I probably won’t. I prefer not to watch love scenes between minors. For a full and excellent analysis on the movie, though, please visit

Should you read the book? If you have a teen or work with teens, I would say most definitely yes, because then, you can engage them about the book – what is likable and what conflicts with the biblical worldview.
If anyone needs a copy, I have one I would be willing to part with.