I read my first John Green book when I was about 14. It was “Looking for Alaska” and it was perfect. It encompassed everything an adolescent girl would want to read about — relationships, friendships, love, if there really was such a thing, the never ending labyrinth of life, and of course, The Great Perhaps.
Immediately after I started reading it, I was immersed in the world of Miles. I felt like I was riding alongside him as he dove into a life I longed to experience. Like any teenage girl growing up in a tiny town, I was always thinking of what my future would hold: college, relationships, the people I would meet that would somehow change my life in unimaginable ways. I know now that I didn’t know anything — and the fantasy world that “Looking for Alaska” pulled me into made me believe that my future would be filled with adventure, quirky yet loyal friends and boys who silently worshipped me. Needless to say, I wanted to be Alaska Young.
Fast forward six years and it’s the beginning of my last year in college. John Green, whose books, after earning my endless devotion with “Alaska,” were all lying somewhere underneath my childhood bed, over-read and underlined, had come out with a new book. To give a brief synopsis, “The Fault in Our Stars” tells the story of teenager Hazel, as she battles cancer and grows up at the same time. Hazel meets her love interest Augustus at a support group meeting and the two quickly become indispensable parts of each other’s lives, doing everything together, including following their favorite author to Amsterdam to find out the crucial ending of his book.
When I started the novel, I knew it was going to seem a little foreign to me. I knew his writing style and realized that I wasn’t 14 anymore — I might not like it as much and as I began reading, I have to admit I was a little disappointed. What went on all seemed too predictable — as soon as the main character, Hazel who had been living with cancer for three years, admits that she has used up her wish from the Make-A-Wish Foundation, Augustus reveals that he still has his left. I knew he was going to use his wish to make her happy and I think so did everybody else who read it. The coupling of the two was obvious from their first meeting and the way it all went down seemed a little unlikely, but all very John Green.
I found myself wishing I was younger and feeling like a monster for not being in love with the book and the author who had once illuminated so much for me. As the story unfolded, though, I found myself not being able to put the book down; not even to eat or Instagram. I started underlining every sentence that seemed all too relevant or meaningful; lines that had to do with being human, sorrow, love, the big picture. And it was a lot. That’s the thing about John Green — he finds a way to raise existential questions about the afterlife and human consciousness, while simultaneously talking about issues that adolescents deal with all the time, like faltering friendships and sex. Green speaks clearly, doesn’t dumb anything down, yet manages not to alienate himself from his readers by being too scholarly; if it makes sense, he talks to his readers instead of at them.
Cancer is an easy topic to shy away from, not too many fictional books have made it their centerpiece like Green has. But he isn’t afraid to detail the uncomfortable circumstances that come with illness in “Stars,” while in turn reminding the reader that terminally ill people are in fact just people who happen to be terminally ill.
The book is worth the read, for sure. While there were still a few things I found way too cheesy — like how Augustus puts his cigarettes between his teeth, but doesn’t smoke them, and some of the long-winded soliloquies — in the end, a book that makes you think is always a book worth reading. And I think anyone who read the book took some time to reflect after Augustus brings the title to light by saying Shakespeare was never more wrong than when he wrote the words: “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in the stars, but in ourselves.”