Much has already been said about this book, and much more will probably be said about it in the distant future. It is one of those books that no matter when or in which era you pick up, it’s still gonna affect you, like it affected the first person who read it, simply because it talks of that eternal entity we call Life.
Lot of my friends had told me a lot about this book – “oh, it’s beautiful. I cried”, or “those two poor lovers! It really makes you believe in the power of love”; and yet I was apprehensive of reading it. I assumed, as I had been led to believe, that the book was an emotional tear jerker, manufactured in the assembly line of tragic love stories, that had once given us the masterpiece of Romeo and Juliet, but since then due to lack of Innovation, resorted to hackneyed clichés. Two young teenagers, suffering from cancer, meet at a Support Group and fall in love – it doesn’t take Einstein to figure out what’s eventually gonna happen at the end. I assumed that it would be one more story about star-crossed lovers that would make me cry, but provide little reading pleasure. I assumed wrongly.
Don’t get me wrong. Some cancer stories are really heartrending, like My Sister’s Keeper and Walk To Remember, but what differentiates this book from them is that in the former, we as readers are separated from the characters. We sympathize, but we rarely empathize. We read the book, and think with a shudder ‘that could have been me’, and that realization makes the book all the more poignant. We, in short, behave like Hazel and Augustus’s friends who feel scared and sorry for them, but at the same time they feel relived that it didn’t happen to them. What they and we often fail to realize is that those who live with a disease do not always need our sympathy. Their zest of life, as the book proves, may outrun even ours.
The Fault In Our Stars however is written in a way that pulls in the reader, elevating him/her from the status of an eavesdropper to one of the characters. The story isn’t about facing life amidst hard obstacles, it is about facing life, despite all obstacles, and isn’t that what all of us do, everyday. Cancer in the story is merely co-incidental. They do suffer, but which one of us don’t suffer in either love or life, or both. Some may argue their obstacles and suffering were greater than anything we can ever imagine, but how exactly do you measure suffering? At its essence the book is simply a story of two young lovers, written with such crisp wit and wry dark humor that you can’t help but laugh. I thought the book was a tear jerker. I was wrong. If anything, it’s a laughter jerker.
The world isn’t a wish granting factory.
The message of the book is simple : Life is unfair, but then it doesn’t have to be fair. Nature doesn’t owe any one of us happiness – a mistake we commonly make. Death is inevitable, whether at 17 or at 77, and in between you are further doomed to face intense physical and emotional pain, heartbreak and loss. Life isn’t about haggling over how many years you live. It’s about how much you live in the years assigned to you. 18 is too young an age to die, but for the father whose daughter died at 9 years, those 9 years are a luxury his daughter didn’t have. Death is a tragedy, whether at 18 or 88 or 108. All of us (and books) die in the middle, and some dreams remain unfulfilled. Even if the book had ended with both the characters alive, their story was destined to end the way it did, in their fictional universe, someday.
The achievement of the book and its characters is that they managed to go beyond their disease. We don’t remember Hazel and Augustus only as two cancer kids, but two young teenagers, just like you or me, who had dreams and ambitions for the future, who hated studying and going to school, who loved books, poetry, traveling, video games, their family, and most of all each other.
My favorite part of the book is when it doesn’t end with Augustus dying, but with Hazel realization that she has to move on; that though she will always love Gus he belongs to her past and she must move on alone into her future.
The book is among the best the young adult genre has ever produced and I would definitely recommend it as a read to everyone. It is NOT your usual sappy romance.