Adult readers are catching on to what many librarians have known for years—some of the most vibrant, intriguing books in the library are in the teen section. Word of mouth and media buzz have been building for teen lit star John Green’s latest title, The Fault in Our Stars, and for good reason. This smart, funny and altogether engrossing novel follows the evolution of a romance that begins in the most unlikely of places, a cancer support group for teens.
Neither Hazel Grace Lancaster nor Augustus Waters show up at the meeting with romance on their minds. Hazel Grace, a 16 year-old with terminal thyroid cancer, is clinically depressed. Her mother is forcing her to attend. Augustus, a former high school basketball star, is dealing with bone cancer and the loss of his leg. And he can’t help but notice how much Hazel Grace resembles his late girlfriend.
Homeschooled since her diagnosis at age thirteen, her best friends are her parents. She spends much of her time reading and watching America’s Next Top Model. Her favorite book above all is An Imperial Affliction, about a teen with leukemia who is dying. Hazel Grace identifies with the protagonist, and finds it maddening that the novel ends mid-sentence without wrapping up important plot strands. She’s written the author, Peter Van Houten, numerous times without getting a response.
She and Augustus bond immediately, as “Citizens of Cancervania” who each have an insider’s understanding of what the other is going through. And the chemistry between them is almost palpable. Augustus spends a good amount of time gaming and watching movies; his book of choice The Price of Dawn, is based on his favorite video game. He understands how much An Imperial Affliction means to Hazel Grace, so much so that he uses his “wish” from The Genie Foundation to take her and her mother to Amsterdam to meet Van Houten and demand some answers.
Green has a knack for bringing his characters to life through believable, snappy dialogue. He is a true, honest observer and reporter of the human condition, making his books memorable. Hazel Grace and Augustus will stay with you long after the last page is turned. Readers will need to keep a tissue box close at hand, as The Fault in Our Stars is a tearjerker throughout. Teen readers as well as adult fans of character-driven novels and love stories against all odds will find much to like here.