Books,  Reviews

The fault in our stars: A poignant yet funny book

I was at at the airport book stall searching for something to gift my friend’s daughter, when I found this book by John Green in the fiction for young adults section. I picked it up, but wanting to be sure that I was gifting the right book, began reading it on the flight. And it took only a few moments to get hooked to it.

‘The Fault in our Stars’ is a book about cancer. The main protagonists, Hazel Grace Lancaster and Augustus ‘Gus’ Waters, are both teenagers who suffer from terminal cancers. Hazel has Grade IV thyroid cancer which has metastasized to her lungs. Being enrolled in a clinical trial has allowed her lung nodules to shrink a little, giving her some unexpected extended survival time. She meets handsome Augustus, a former basketball player who is afflicted with an osteosarcoma and an amputed leg at her Cancer Support Group meeting. If these gory details make you feel that the book is laden with despondent, dreary and depressing thoughts, you are completely mistaken.

The book had me chuckling aloud for most of my flight much to the chagrin of my co-passengers.  While death lingers on like a subtle suggestion in the background of the story, the predominant emotion is that of hope and love. How often do we remember that teenagers still have hormonal surges even if they are battling for their lives? Hazel and Augustus fall in love with each other, and they both don’t have a clue about who will depart first. Both sets of parents are permissive of this romance, completely aware that their children hardly have any time on their hands to live their desires. Hazel calls this one of the ‘perks of having cancer’! Between playing video games and exchanging books, Hazel and Gus have delightful conversations which are all at once poignant, amusing and amorous.

On Hazel’s bucket list is a strange wish. She has read a wonderful book about a girl with cancer which seizes her fantasy. The book unfortunately has an unfinished ending. Hazel wants to communicate with the author to find out what finally happens to the characters of the book. Will she succeed in her wish? Will knowing what happened put her at peace with her mind’s demons? Will her illness and her breathlessness allow her to travel to Amsterdam to meet the author? Can Augustus help in fulfilling her dream?

This is John Green’s sixth book and he has the remarkable ability to twist a phrase leaving you stunned. Green’s writing is refreshing. His dark humour makes you grin in the most wretched situations. He understands young minds. His description of how they perceive adults is endearing and quite a revelation. Hazel understands that her going away will wreck her parents, and as she says she “doesn’t want to be a grenade in their lives.” I hear that this book has been made into a motion picture of the same name.

This is a compelling read, with melancholy as a subtext. However, the ability to seek love and hope, despite the obvious fragility of life is the emotion which dominates this moving novel.

The fault in our stars, Author: John Green, Penguin Books, 2012, Rs 399

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