There have been many poignant novels written about death, many of which involve a child or a parent with cancer. In The Fault in our Stars, well-known YA author John Green provides us with two teenagers with cancer, amidst a cast of grieving relatives and friends.
Hazel Grace is sixteen and has Stage IV cancer which has metastasised into her lungs. She breathes with the aid of an oxygen tank on wheels, which she has named “Philip”. She has been sent to a support group of other cancer sufferers to deal with her depression, which is where she meets cancer survivor Augustus Waters. He is good-looking and charismatic, and the two make an immediate connection.
Their story becomes a heart-wrenching young love affair, full of poignancy and heartbreak. There is a great deal of dying and cancer-related humour provided by both characters. Written by any other voice, this humour could be classified as distasteful, but coming from Hazel and Augustus the witty comments about cancer and death are funny in an inoffensive yet profound way.
The book is beautifully written, with Green depicting all the pain and suffering of various characters with simple elegance. The Fault in our Stars made me laugh, it made me think and it certainly made me cry. Green has captured the essence of pain, numbness and spirit which accompanies a diagnosis of cancer with insightful clarity; as a cancer survivor, I can attest to this. And any parent’s heart will repeatedly break in the scenes involving Hazel and her parents. Green’s understanding of the pain and perplexity of the cancer sufferer is sublime, which is why there is no fault in this superb novel.
Recommended for ages 14+