Friday, January 27, 2012

John Green Sees Fault In Our Stars

Sixteen-year-old Hazel Grace Lancaster has a problem. It's not a small problem. It's a big problem.

She is going to die. And when she dies, the last thing she wants to be is a grenade — someone who causes collateral damage to everyone around her; people who might get to know her, become her friend, or otherwise attach themselves to her long-standing battle with cancer since she was 14.

So she sleeps, eats, repeats, limiting her contact with everyone except a few friends long vested, her parents who have no choice, and the support group just because her mom makes her go. You need a life, her mom insists. Make friends.

"Then we introduce ourselves: Name. Age. Diagnosis. And how we're doing today. I'm Hazel I'd say when they'd get to me. Sixteen. Thyroid originally but with an impressive and long-settled satellite colony in my lungs. And I'm doing okay."

Although she also takes a few college classes, every day is the same. And every support session is the same. It's an exercise in sharing their medical stories, offering near-scripted circle support for the living, and remembering the dead. Every session is the same, except when one attendee brings his friend, cancer survivor Augustus Waters. From that day forward, Hazel will never be the same.

The Fault In Our Stars is a perfect expose on life, love, and the mortality of everything. 

Hazel and Augustus are almost mirror images of each other. They are smart, snarky, sarcastic, cynical, contemptuous, and sometimes a little pretentious.

It won't take long to forgive the pretentiousness. Hazel, because she has faced death for almost three years and fights for another breath every day. Augustus, because he gave up a leg and basketball to beat it. More than that, it's their desire to tell their sad stories in the funniest way that wins people over.

It won't take you long to forget any summation that suggests the book is about dying of cancer, either. It's about living, and how infinite you can make life when circumstance pulls the knot of time taut.

When there isn't time, accepting an invitation to a boy's house to watch V For Vendetta, simply because he says she has a likeness to a millennial Natalie Portman, is perfectly justified. When there isn't time, putting off video game serials to read the thick-spinned An Imperial Affliction in order to impress a girl, makes perfect sense. And when there isn't time, you tend make time by splitting seconds into fractions of a second, just to savor all of it a little longer.

The pair of them do exactly that, perfectly enough that although The Fault In Our Stars is fiction, it is impossible not to become attached to the characters. Their sheer determination to deny their affliction will bond you to their lives. So will their unabashed wit and the occasional theatrical artistry for everything.

It doesn't take long for this fast friendship and hesitant romantic interest to develop into an inspired idea. The girl with an oxygen tank and the boy with a fake leg decide to take on a noble quest. They must find out what happens to all of the characters, including the hamster, in their mutually beloved book An Imperial Affliction by Peter Van Houten.

It won't be easy. The author is notoriously infamous for not responding to fan mail and lives in Amsterdam.

John Green has written his most ambitious novel and a timeless masterpiece. 

Although John Green is already a best-selling and award-winning author with two collaborative works and four books, The Fault In Our Stars is easily his most ambitious work. Not only does he take on the challenge of making his ill protagonist an adolescent girl, he also molds together a near-adventure story into a beautifully moving contemporary classic.

Green has captured his white whale. He wanted to write the book, or more exactly could not not write the book, to the story of characters who do not have the luxury of taking their own bodies for granted, taking their own mortality for granted, or taking their ability to find meaning in the world for granted. All the while, he shows them as full and complete humans and not people who need to be treated differently or less than.

Before writing and starting a popularized videoblog project with his brother Hank, Green worked as a book reviewer for Booklist Magazine and has had reviews appear in the New York Times. He also worked at a children's hospital for five months, immediately out of college, while considering whether or not he wanted to pursue a life as a minister. He met many teenagers with cancer.

The Fault In Our Stars By John Green Soars To 9.8 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale.

The Fault In Our Stars is a breakthrough in simultaneously taking on the awkwardness of adolescence and challenges of living with a terminal disease. Although he takes the subject matter head on, his decision to make Hazel sick from page one immediately casts the affliction as expected and accepted because it has to be. This makes it possible to laugh with the characters throughout, even when the story takes a crushing turn toward the end.

The Fault In Our Stars by John Green is available on Amazon. You can also order the book from Barnes & Noble or download the book from iBooks. The audio version, from iTunes, is especially brilliant. Green describes Kate Rudd's narration as adding more to the book than was even in the book. He's right.

Rudd becomes Hazel Grace Lancaster for about seven hours. If you think the book is haunting and will stay with you forever, so will Rudd's voice, cadence and performance. There is also a short question and answer interview with Green at the end of the audiobook. Read or listened to, it will change you.
blog comments powered by Disqus