Warning for the ladies: Do not wear mascara when reading this book.
I was sitting at my sister's soccer banquet reading The Fault in Our Stars (nerd alert). I kept anticipating someone coming up and asking me what I was reading. Which left me dumbfounded. The only thing that popped into my head was, "It's not a Cancer Book!"
You know the books I'm talking about. If you are my age you probably read Lurlene McDaniel's One Last Wish series when you were younger. Or maybe you've given Nicholas Sparks Cancer Books a try. At first glance, that assessment seems unfair. Both of the main characters are cancer patients. So how can I possibly say that it's not a Cancer Book? Because this book is about much more than death, much more than the Noble Cancer Patient Battling Triumphantly. This is a book about life, because even in the face of dying, what Esther and Augustus are struggling with is life.
It's a book that asks the Big Questions. Questions about what it means to be human, what it means to be alive and what happens after death. It's a thought provoking novel, where cancer is the driving force but not the whole story.
"Who am I to say that these things might not be forever? Who is Peter Van Houten to assert as fact the conjectures that our labor is temporary? All I know of heaven and all I know of death is in this park: an elegant universe in ceaseless motion, teeming with ruined ruins and screaming children."Even in the midst of being brilliantly deep, it's also delightfully snarky. To me, that is realism. Very few people sit around thinking deep thoughts all the time. People are deep, people are angry and people are silly, none of these excludes the others. Hazel is both introspective and human, contemplating oblivion, then complaining about Cancer Perks or how her lungs suck at being lungs.
"I didn't tell him that the diagnosis came three months after I got my first period. Like: Congratulations! You're a woman. Now Die."The characters talk about cancer differently than in any Cancer Book I've ever read. They sound like real teenagers, albeit extremely intelligent ones, who have already discovered the sad truth that the world is not fair. Or as they say "The world is not a wish-granting factory."
The book goes between being funny and heart-wrenching in a way that I don't think has ever been done. Normally you have "books that make me laugh" then on another shelf "books that make me cry." Very rarely do you have books that make you do both. It's hard for a book to balance both humor and poignancy, but John Green manages to do that perfectly with The Fault in Our Stars.