I don’t know where to start. This book amazes me. The characters…. the story…. the honesty. These are the conversations I have with my brother. Not about the cancer, because I don’t have cancer but the problems I have in life that can’t avoided. The bipolar disorder. The mood swings. The being afraid that everything you feel and are at the moment is a byproduct of some chemical imbalance and wondering if all your friends can see right through it. That’s the feeling this book gives to me.
I’m sure for many other people, this book means something else, maybe for different reasons. And, I’m not sure what exactly I’m doing revealing any of my mental status during a book review. If that’s totally unprofessional, I get it. On the other hand, I don’t feel that my mental condition is a handicap, though it definitely is a stigma.
The plot is fairly straight forward and rather simple. Most of the best character examinations are. And, make no mistake, for a book about two teenagers with terminal cancer (Hazel Grace, our heroine and narrator, and Augustus Waters, the boy she falls in love with) Fault is unabashedly an examination of character, how as young adults we face adversity and bring ourselves low before rising up again, if that’s even possible.
At a support group session for cancer patients, Hazel meets Augustus. Augustus is in remission, while Hazel has a form of terminal cancer. They fall in love. Augustus uses his one wish from Make a Wish to take them on a trip ti visit the author of their favorite book, an antisocial recluse. He’s an abject failure as a human, leaving the two disappointed. Upon their return, Augustus reveals that his cancer has returned. Eventually, he dies. And, Hazel, in the short time she has left, must deal with his loss.
There’s such an honesty in these characters, in the words they chose, despite the high minded word choices. There’s something unironically poetic and sappy, with Augustus knowing he’s spouting philosophical ideas that he can’t hope to match but he tries anyway. But that same earnest bravado with which he confronts his world and the cancer that takes him from it isn’t any worse or less true than Hazel’s fatalistic view on life.
Hazel and Augustus represent diametrically opposing views towards death. Not that they both don’t want to live-because, who wants to die-but Augustus is trying to live out his existence as a person, while Hazel has relegated herself to a shell of existence.
A running parallel in Fault is the fictional author they worship, van Houtan. His work, An Imperial Affliction, follows a young girl who dies of cancer. The interesting thing about that substory is that it is never finished. Revolving around the idea of unresolved issues, that some stories don’t have endings, they just end, An Imperial Affliction mirrors
Hazel and Augustus are human. They aren’t idealized versions of death and dying that society perpetuates. While nothing about them is less than human, the same cannot be said van Houtan, who is a shell of person. The death of van Houtan’s daughter, at the hands of cancer, has left the author a shell of himself. And, the worst part is, he knows it and can’t change himself.
I don’t want to get too philosophical, because I feel that sort of ruins the Fault. Certainly, Fault isn’t afraid of the truth and darkness therein, that’s where it grabs my attention and heart as a reader. I can connect with these threads, with my own life.
From a technical stand point, such as my knowledge allows me to speak on, I found the pacing pitch perfect. The book doesn’t end with Hazel’s death and it doesn’t end with Augutus’s death. There’s plenty of breathing room for each and ever action and reaction, which is great. No scene overstay’s it’s welcome.
You don’t often get books that can move past the cliche’s. This book does that, seemingly effortlessly, which really helps sell the whole notion.
Not sure if you’ve figured it out yet, but I totally recommend reading the Fault in Our Stars. It’s totally worth it. Once I picked it up, I had it to keep reading until I was finished. A good Saturday read.