I haven’t jumped on the Young Adult book bandwagon before now because neither vampires nor teenagers fighting to the death hold much appeal for me. So when my trusted cultural concierge (yes, I have one, and so can you: headbutler.com) recommended John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars, I remained skeptical. But I trust my butler, and, as a consequence, I’m not just on the YA bandwagon—I’m driving.
Sixteen-year-old Hazel narrates The Fault in Our Stars. Because her thyroid cancer has metastasized to her lungs, Hazel’s best friend is her oxygen tank. Then Hazel meets Augustus, a seventeen-year-old amputee recovering from what he describes as a “touch of osteosarcoma,” at a cancer support group. They fall in love, and yeah, I know what you’re thinking: Ali McGraw, Ryan O’Neal, the sappy Love Story thing. Not even close. John Green doesn’t pull any punches when it comes to the humiliating, dehumanizing details of cancer and its treatment, but neither does he get maudlin or sentimental. It’s a balancing act I can’t help but envy.
Hazel and Augustus are smart and edgy and brimming with dark humor. They argue the meaning of life and death and what comes after, and for these two it’s more than mental gymnastics. In the end, though, The Fault in Our Stars is a love story—one you won’t be able to forget. And whether you’re sixteen or sixty or somewhere in between, isn’t that what makes great literature great?
The highest compliment I can pay an author is to read another of his or her works. I’m currently reading Looking for Alaska, one of John Green’s earlier books, as well as Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking Fast and Slow and Chris Pavone’s debut novel, The Expats.
My novel, Yard Sale, is available in print and e-book versions from Amazon.