The fault in our stars by John Green

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Penguin, 2012. ISBN 9780143567592.
(Age: 13+ years) Highly recommended. John Green, author of Looking for Alaska and Will Grayson, Will Grayson, writes about teenage sufferers and survivors of cancer in his latest novel The Fault in our stars. The narrator, sixteen year old Hazel, has thyroid cancer which is being held at bay by a miracle drug. However, intelligent, clear-eyed and iconoclastic, she knows and accepts that the remission is temporary. Through Support Group, which provides her and the reader with some black humour, she meets other sufferers, one of whom is Augustus, a survivor of bone cancer. Hazel, knowing that her life will be short, does not welcome love and resists accepting it. However, Augustus is attractive, amusing, smart and consequently irresistible. Together Hazel and Augustus reject the glib assurances and encouragements offered by well-meaning but ignorant non-sufferers. They experience as much of life as they can, initially through reading. Hazel's favourite book is about a cancer family; she wants to find out what happens to the survivors, and the reader realizes that this is a central concern of her life. What will her mother, her very caring and loving mother, do when Hazel dies? Augustus uses his Wish (from a Cancer charity) to find the author who has no answers for them. However the trip to Amsterdam, complete with Augustus's prosthetic and Hazel's oxygen tanks, to find him becomes a memorable time for them as they experience happiness and have to accept its transience. Hazel, accepting of her future, unexpectedly has to be clear-eyed and resolute about another's suffering. Hazel learns that survivors must provide their own answers, and sufferers their own happiness, however fleeting. The word-play in the novel is a pleasure, and the insights into the lives of cancer victims seem perceptive and convincing. Ultimately the novel is very sad, but it is also very funny, and without being didactic offers some wisdom about what is important in life. It is highly recommended.
Jenny Hamilton