Review by Diane Westerfield
I picked up "The Fault in Our Stars" on recommendation from my husband. This was a bestseller in the Young Adult novel genre and quite worth reading, although you should have tissues handy. It's a pretty fast read, clocking in at 313 pages printed in largish type.
The story is about a teenage girl, Hazel, who is suffering from Stage 4 cancer, currently held at bay by an experimental drug. (both the specific kind of cancer and the drug are inventions of the author). She is coerced by her mother into attending a cancer support group, and meets a teenage boy named Gus who is a cancer survivor. Hazel drags oxygen tanks with her; Gus has a prosthetic leg. They begin to date, with the awkwardness of teenagedom increased by their respective conditions.
The narrative is filled with wry humor, intelligent observations, and beautiful quotes. Hazel is well aware of her mortality and her status as a Cancer Kid. A thread running through Hazel's story is her love for the novel "The Imperial Affliction" by Peter Van Houten (the fictional novel's name is a reference to "The Emperor of All Maladies". It sounds like a great book, but the teens are desperate to know what happens to the characters after its abrupt endings, and Van Houten is not forthcoming with answering their questions.
Although Green invented some things for the book, it comes off as very authentic -- this is what it would be like for an intelligent teenager to be facing mortality far too soon, and how the parents would be forced to deal with it as well. The relationship between Hazel and Gus is handled with sensitivity but also a strong sense of reality. Highly recommended; be ready to cry!