I added John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars to my reading list a few months ago. My list grows like a weed in the rain, but I keep saving titles. The book caught my attention with reviews I saw about how the story dealt with cancer, avoiding the “typical cancer book” label. This intrigued me.
Mr. Green accomplishes this feat with his witty narrative and interesting characters. Cancer becomes a way to move the story forward rather than being the story itself. It’s the first YA novel I read since the Harry Potter series; it delivered. I won’t spoil it for you by outlining the story arc for Hazel, the narrator, or for her love interest, Augustus. Instead, I will showcase another character I enjoy.
To my delight, I meet Isaac. He’s a teen fighting a cancer that will blind him. First encounter: as Hazel endures another depressing meeting where everyone is sharing name, age, and diagnosis.
“The only redeeming facet of Support Group was this kid named Isaac, a long-faced, skinny guy with straight blond hair swept over one eye. And his eyes were the problem. He had some fantastically improbable eye cancer…from what I could gather on the rare occasions when Isaac shared with the group, a recurrence had placed his remaining eye in mortal peril.”
Isaac’s girlfriend dumps him before his surgery because “she didn’t want to do it after.” No one wants to dump a blind guy, right? Better to do it right before his traumatic operation. In anger, Isaac ends up smashing some of Augustus’ baseball trophies offered up for destruction:
Augustus stepped toward him and looked down. “Feel better?” he asked.
“No,” Isaac mumbled, his chest heaving.
“That’s the thing about pain,” Augustus said, and then glanced back at me. “It demands to be felt.”
Isaac’s story leads me to question the conditionality of love and relationships.
Post-surgery Isaac, as Hazel describes, wears glasses and, “clung to his mom’s arm with one hand, a cane in the other.” I want Isaac to flourish despite his blindness. The author continues to show Isaac as dependent and moody, which is understandable so soon after his surgery. I want to see Isaac moving independently, though. If he knows about text-to-speech software, than where are his cane skills?
I recommend The Fault in Our Stars for anyone looking for fiction that reads truer than most books from a teenager’s perspective. Forget the YA label just like you did for Harry Potter.
Also, for those of you who do read this book: Team Graham! The kid was robbed. He deserved a few more appearances.
What do you think about The Fault in Our Stars?
9 Comments Add yours
I really liked Issac as well! The scene where he is throwing eggs at his ex’s car I think might reflect some of the independence that you wanted for Issac, and that he deserves. Even though Augustus directs him in the the actual throwing, they are doing something that undermines a larger “dependent” convention: Issac and Monica’s relationship. I think the egging is an example of Issac trying to come to terms with the fact that now, he may be more independent than he ever was.
mpbuzzard: Interesting observation about Isaac breaking more than eggs. If TFiOS was a TV show, I would want Isaac to get a spin-off show.
I started reading this book a year ago — it was highly recommended by many book lovers. I had to put it down, though. I spent too much of my growing years in a hospital, and the book was too close to home: a compliment to the author, I guess! With your recommendation, maybe I’ll give it another try.
Beth: I did not have that reaction to the hospital scenes. I enjoyed the book, but if I had an emotional trigger like you mentioned, I might have abandoned that book, too.
This was a book where I loved the characters so much that I wanted very badly for them to have a happy ending. John Green does such a great job with characterization and teen voice!
It is easy to fall in love with these characters. I will read more John Green in the future.
Me too. I’ve heard An Abundance of Katherines is really good. Our library doesn’t have it so I’m going to have to break down and buy it.
I loved that book, too. I read his ‘Looking for Alaska’ in grad school, for a YA lit class. He’s an amazing writer and person. He’s so involved in charitable causes. I admire him.
I will add Looking to my To Read list. His writing can pull you in and 30 pages later you wonder, wait, I was just going to read for five minutes.