The Fault in Our Stars by John Greene (Dutton Books, 2014) is both an existential novel about the meaningless of life as well as an sensitive exploration of the importance of friendship in the midst of the seemingly meaningless.
Hazel is a 16-year-old girl with cancer, miraculously kept alive by a “miracle” drug that could stop working at any time for her. Stuck at home for years, Hazel has learned to distance herself from many relationships and friends, all the while reading her favorite books, studying hard, and taking courses at the local college. She is content, but as she has pointed out, a side-affect of cancer is often depression, so she has her moments.
Hazel’s story revolves around a new friend, Augustus Waters, who she meets at a cancer support group. Although Augustus is a cancer survivor himself (and lost a leg in the process), he refuses to accept Hazel’s dismal existential prognosis for her own life, and challenges her to rise above her cancer, to take a chance. Augustus’ hope is to be someone and to make a difference during his life so he would be remembered. Hazel’s goals are more to avoid being a “grenade” that explodes all in her path when her time to die eventually comes.
Together, these two teenagers find comfort in a book, An Imperial Affliction, about a cancer patient, prompting discussions of death and life, and the “ever after” that comes once a book is finished. I loved how a book brought them together more. I loved how cancer in general was treated in the novel as a whole. There was pain, but it was also a treasured friendship that developed amid the unknown of the future.
There were so many memorable scenes in the book, and I’d hate to spoil the powerful ending to the story here. I cannot do the novel justice. It truly is as good as all have said. The movie likewise follows the book rather well, and I’d suggest that as well for those who read (and enjoy) the book.
Suffice it to say, I was touched by the ultimate message in The Fault in Our Stars. That is that we have choices every day about how we will live our lives. It’s true that we may not how long we have in this world, but we must find peace in what we chose during the time we do have. That choice is definitely ours, despite our prognosis for tomorrow.