Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears.
If one were looking for errors in John Green’s The Fault In Our Stars one would have to look, and look, and look again and pick… what? The fact that two teenagers with cancer fall in love and express that love physically? I would say the fault is more in the person who deems that inappropriate or something that an adolescent couldn’t handle. The love scenes, like most scenes in this brilliant novel, are moving, amusing and not a word too long.
Amusing, yes, because the heroine of the novel (though she would not call herself that) is a funny and beautiful girl who does not suffer fools or pity gladly, despite the Stage IV cancer that means she has to cart around an oxygen tank. (“The thing about Stage IV cancer,” said the late Christopher Hitchens, discussing the oesophageal cancer that would soon kill him, “is that there is no Stage V.”) Though she doesn’t believe in an after-life, her name has a hint of the etherial: Hazel Grace.
Hazel is bored at Support Group one unremarkable evening when she meets Augustus Waters, whose cancer has left him ‘1.4 legs.’ He is everything Hazel wants and needs, a handsome lad with a sunny disposition and a love of quick banter. ‘”I’m on a roller coaster that only goes up, my friend,”‘ he tells the Group leader, ‘ball-less Patrick.’ Augustus and Hazel’s love entwines around both themselves and the novel they figuratively and sometimes literally clutch, An Imperial Affliction, by the eccentric and (in all senses of the term) distant Peter Van Houten.
Just occasionally Green’s characters engage in dialogue that feels a tad too polished and witty to have sprung from the minds of teenagers, though he’s hardly the first YA fiction author to have done so. Luckily, it matters little and hurts not. The novel charms and touches thanks to sardonic humour and the almighty sieve with which the star-crossed lovers sift out the soppiness. ‘I think my school friends wanted to help me through my cancer,’ says Hazel, ‘but they eventually found out that they couldn’t. For one thing, there was no through.’ I’m afraid that to help you through the ending of Green’s novel you may need a few tissues.
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