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This heart-wrenchingly beautiful novel about a teenage girl and boy who meet at a cancer support center has already won emotional accolades from readers and reviewers.
Insightful, bold, irreverent, and raw, The Fault in Our Stars is award-winning author John Green’s most ambitious and heartbreaking work yet, brilliantly exploring the ...
Insightful, bold, irreverent, and raw, The Fault in Our Stars is award-winning author John Green’s most ambitious and heartbreaking work yet, brilliantly exploring the funny, thrilling, and tragic business of being alive and in love.
Winner of the 2013 Children's Choice Teen Book of the Year Award
This heart-wrenchingly beautiful novel about a teenage girl and boy who meet at a cancer support center has already won emotional accolades from readers and reviewers.
At the end of the first chapter of The Fault in Our Stars, I was literally laughing out loud over a joke about the "incorrect use of literality," shared between two cancer kids — one terminal, one in remission — shortly after a scene in which the two bond over one's philosophical answer to the other's stated "fear of oblivion" and both learn that a third friend is about to lose a second eye to cancer.
Hazel Lancaster, sixteen, has incurable thyroid cancer, with an "impressive and long-settled colony" of cancer cells in her lungs, but to Augustus Waters — mahogany hair, "aggressively bad posture," and a slight limp from a prosthetic leg nicknamed Prosty — she looks like "a millennial Natalie Portman." But what really brings them together is a joke about their Support Group director's well-intentioned prayer in which he describes the cancer-ridden children as "literally in the heart of Jesus."
"I thought we were in a church basement," says Augustus. "But we are literally in the heart of Jesus."
"Someone should tell Jesus," says Hazel. "I mean, it's got to be dangerous, storing children with cancer in your heart."
Three years (and one near-death experience) removed from high school, Hazel knows she will die soon, and this certainty has shrunk her world to her three best friends: her two parents and Peter van Houten, the reclusive author of her favorite book, An Imperial Affliction. To do otherwise, she feels, is to become a human "grenade" — the fewer people who love her now, the fewer lives she will shatter when she inevitably goes. But Augustus has other ideas, and soon the two are on an international quest to Amsterdam — oxygen tank, Prosty, and parental chaperon in tow — to meet van Houten himself.
Hazel's beguiling voice is utterly believable as a thoughtful, prematurely somber teenager who borrows from Shakespeare, Eliot, Dickinson, Anne Frank, and the fictional van Houten in telling the story of a romance of "the young and irreparably broken." But it's the crackling humor between the two lovers that makes them most human. "You have a choice in this world," says Hazel, "about how to tell sad stories, and we made the funny choice." This book, already a bestseller, is every bit as good as its reputation and easily one of the best of this or any other year.
Amy Benfer has worked as an editor and staff writer at Salon, Legal Affairs, and Paper magazine. Her reviews and features on books have appeared in Salon, The San Francisco Chronicle Book Review, The Believer, Kirkus Reviews, and The New York Times Book Review.
Reviewer: Amy Benfer
Late in the winter of my seventeenth year, my mother decided I was depressed, presumably because I rarely left the house, spent quite a lot of time in bed, read the same book over and over, ate infrequently, and devoted quite a bit of my abundant free time to thinking about death.
Whenever you read a cancer booklet or website or whatever, they always list depression among the side effects of cancer. But, in fact, depression is not a side effect of cancer. Depression is a side effect of dying. (Cancer is also a side effect of dying. Almost everything is, really.) But my mom believed I required treatment, so she took me to see my Regular Doctor Jim, who agreed that I was veritably swimming in a paralyzing and totally clinical depression, and that therefore my meds should be adjusted and also I should attend a weekly Support Group.
This Support Group featured a rotating cast of characters in various states of tumor-driven unwellness. Why did the cast rotate? A side effect of dying.
The Support Group, of course, was depressing as hell. It met every Wednesday in the basement of a stone-walled Episcopal church shaped like a cross. We all sat in a circle right in the middle of the cross, where the two boards would have met, where the heart of Jesus would have been.
I noticed this because Patrick, the Support Group Leader and only person over eighteen in the room, talked about the heart of Jesus every freaking meeting, all about how we, as young cancer survivors, were sitting right in Christ’s very sacred heart and whatever.
So here’s how it went in God’s heart: The six or seven or ten of us walked/wheeled in, grazed at a decrepit selection of cookies and lemonade, sat down in the Circle of Trust, and listened to Patrick recount for the thousandth time his depressingly miserable life story—how he had cancer in his balls and they thought he was going to die but he didn’t die and now here he is, a full-grown adult in a church basement in the 137th nicest city in America, divorced, addicted to video games, mostly friendless, eking out a meager living by exploiting his cancertastic past, slowly working his way toward a master’s degree that will not improve his career prospects, waiting, as we all do, for the sword of Damocles to give him the relief that he escaped lo those many years ago when cancer took both of his nuts but spared what only the most generous soul would call his life.
AND YOU TOO MIGHT BE SO LUCKY!
Then we introduced ourselves: Name. Age. Diagnosis. And how we’re doing today. I’m Hazel, I’d say when they’d get to me. Sixteen. Thyroid originally but with an impressive and long-settled satellite colony in my lungs. And I’m doing okay.
Once we got around the circle, Patrick always asked if anyone wanted to share. And then began the circle jerk of support: everyone talking about fighting and battling and winning and shrinking and scanning. To be fair to Patrick, he let us talk about dying, too. But most of them weren’t dying. Most would live into adulthood, as Patrick had.
(Which meant there was quite a lot of competitiveness about it, with everybody wanting to beat not only cancer itself, but also the other people in the room. Like, I realize that this is irrational, but when they tell you that you have, say, a 20 percent chance of living five years, the math kicks in and you figure that’s one in five so you look around and think, as any healthy person would: I gotta outlast four of these bastards.)
The only redeeming facet of Support Group was this kid named Isaac, a long-faced, skinny guy with straight blond hair swept over one eye.
And his eyes were the problem. He had some fantastically improbable eye cancer. One eye had been cut out when he was a kid, and now he wore the kind of thick glasses that made his eyes (both the real one and the glass one) preternaturally huge, like his whole head was basically just this fake eye and this real eye staring at you. From what I could gather on the rare occasions when Isaac shared with the group, a recurrence had placed his remaining eye in mortal peril.
Isaac and I communicated almost exclusively through sighs. Each time someone discussed anticancer diets or snorting ground-up shark fin or whatever, he’d glance over at me and sigh ever so slightly. I’d shake my head microscopically and exhale in response.
So Support Group blew, and after a few weeks, I grew to be rather kicking-and-screaming about the whole affair. In fact, on the Wednesday I made the acquaintance of Augustus Waters, I tried my level best to get out of Support Group while sitting on the couch with my mom in the third leg of a twelve-hour marathon of the previous season’s America’s Next Top Model, which admittedly I had already seen, but still.
Me: “I refuse to attend Support Group.”
Mom: “One of the symptoms of depression is disinterest in activities.”
Me: “Please just let me watch America’s Next Top Model. It’s an activity.”
Mom: “Television is a passivity.”
Me: “Ugh, Mom, please.”
Mom: “Hazel, you’re a teenager. You’re not a little kid anymore. You need to make friends, get out of the house, and live your life.”
Me: “If you want me to be a teenager, don’t send me to Support Group. Buy me a fake ID so I can go to clubs, drink vodka, and take pot.”
Mom: “You don’t take pot, for starters.”
Me: “See, that’s the kind of thing I’d know if you got me a fake ID.”
Mom: “You’re going to Support Group.”
Mom: “Hazel, you deserve a life.”
That shut me up, although I failed to see how attendance at Support Group met the definition of life. Still, I agreed to go—after negotiating the right to record the 1.5 episodes of ANTM I’d be missing.
I went to Support Group for the same reason that I’d once allowed nurses with a mere eighteen months of graduate education to poison me with exotically named chemicals: I wanted to make my parents happy. There is only one thing in this world shittier than biting it from cancer when you’re sixteen, and that’s having a kid who bites it from cancer.
Mom pulled into the circular driveway behind the church at 4:56. I pretended to fiddle with my oxygen tank for a second just to kill time.
“Do you want me to carry it in for you?”
“No, it’s fine,” I said. The cylindrical green tank only weighed a few pounds, and I had this little steel cart to wheel it around behind me. It delivered two liters of oxygen to me each minute through a cannula, a transparent tube that split just beneath my neck, wrapped behind my ears, and then reunited in my nostrils. The contraption was necessary because my lungs sucked at being lungs.
“I love you,” she said as I got out.
“You too, Mom. See you at six.”
“Make friends!” she said through the rolled-down window as I walked away.
I didn’t want to take the elevator because taking the elevator is a Last Days kind of activity at Support Group, so I took the stairs. I grabbed a cookie and poured some lemonade into a Dixie cup and then turned around.
A boy was staring at me.
I was quite sure I’d never seen him before. Long and leanly muscular, he dwarfed the molded plastic elementary school chair he was sitting in. Mahogany hair, straight and short. He looked my age, maybe a year older, and he sat with his tailbone against the edge of the chair, his posture aggressively poor, one hand half in a pocket of dark jeans.
I looked away, suddenly conscious of my myriad insufficiencies. I was wearing old jeans, which had once been tight but now sagged in weird places, and a yellow T-shirt advertising a band I didn’t even like anymore. Also my hair: I had this pageboy haircut, and I hadn’t even bothered to, like, brush it. Furthermore, I had ridiculously fat chipmunked cheeks, a side effect of treatment. I looked like a normally proportioned person with a balloon for a head. This was not even to mention the cankle situation. And yet—I cut a glance to him, and his eyes were still on me.
It occurred to me why they call it eye contact.
I walked into the circle and sat down next to Isaac, two seats away from the boy. I glanced again. He was still watching me.
Look, let me just say it: He was hot. A nonhot boy stares at you relentlessly and it is, at best, awkward and, at worst, a form of assault. But a hot boy well.
I pulled out my phone and clicked it so it would display the time: 4:59. The circle filled in with the unlucky twelve-to-eighteens, and then Patrick started us out with the serenity prayer: God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. The guy was still staring at me. I felt rather blushy.
Finally, I decided that the proper strategy was to stare back. Boys do not have a monopoly on the Staring Business, after all. So I looked him over as Patrick acknowledged for the thousandth time his ball-lessness etc., and soon it was a staring contest. After a while the boy smiled, and then finally his blue eyes glanced away. When he looked back at me, I flicked my eyebrows up to say, I win.
He shrugged. Patrick continued and then finally it was time for the introductions. “Isaac, perhaps you’d like to go first today. I know you’re facing a challenging time.”
“Yeah,” Isaac said. “I’m Isaac. I’m seventeen. And it’s looking like I have to get surgery in a couple weeks, after which I’ll be blind. Not to complain or anything because I know a lot of us have it worse, but yeah, I mean, being blind does sort of suck. My girlfriend helps, though. And friends like Augustus.” He nodded toward the boy, who now had a name. “So, yeah,” Isaac continued. He was looking at his hands, which he’d folded into each other like the top of a tepee. “There’s nothing you can do about it.”
“We’re here for you, Isaac,” Patrick said. “Let Isaac hear it, guys.” And then we all, in a monotone, said, “We’re here for you, Isaac.”
Michael was next. He was twelve. He had leukemia. He’d always had leukemia. He was okay. (Or so he said. He’d taken the elevator.)
Lida was sixteen, and pretty enough to be the object of the hot boy’s eye. She was a regular—in a long remission from appendiceal cancer, which I had not previously known existed. She said—as she had every other time I’d attended Support Group—that she felt strong, which felt like bragging to me as the oxygen-drizzling nubs tickled my nostrils.
There were five others before they got to him. He smiled a little when his turn came. His voice was low, smoky, and dead sexy. “My name is Augustus Waters,” he said. “I’m seventeen. I had a little touch of osteosarcoma a year and a half ago, but I’m just here today at Isaac’s request.”
“And how are you feeling?” asked Patrick.
“Oh, I’m grand.” Augustus Waters smiled with a corner of his mouth. “I’m on a roller coaster that only goes up, my friend.”
When it was my turn, I said, “My name is Hazel. I’m sixteen. Thyroid with mets in my lungs. I’m okay.”
The hour proceeded apace: Fights were recounted, battles won amid wars sure to be lost; hope was clung to; families were both celebrated and denounced; it was agreed that friends just didn’t get it; tears were shed; comfort proffered. Neither Augustus Waters nor I spoke again until Patrick said, “Augustus, perhaps you’d like to share your fears with the group.”
“I fear oblivion,” he said without a moment’s pause. “I fear it like the proverbial blind man who’s afraid of the dark.”
“Too soon,” Isaac said, cracking a smile.
“Was that insensitive?” Augustus asked. “I can be pretty blind to other people’s feelings.”
Isaac was laughing, but Patrick raised a chastening finger and said, “Augustus, please. Let’s return to you andyour struggles. You said you fear oblivion?”
“I did,” Augustus answered.
Patrick seemed lost. “Would, uh, would anyone like to speak to that?”
I hadn’t been in proper school in three years. My parents were my two best friends. My third best friend was an author who did not know I existed. I was a fairly shy person—not the hand-raising type.
And yet, just this once, I decided to speak. I half raised my hand and Patrick, his delight evident, immediately said, “Hazel!” I was, I’m sure he assumed, opening up. Becoming Part Of The Group.
I looked over at Augustus Waters, who looked back at me. You could almost see through his eyes they were so blue. “There will come a time,” I said, “when all of us are dead. All of us. There will come a time when there are no human beings remaining to remember that anyone ever existed or that our species ever did anything. There will be no one left to remember Aristotle or Cleopatra, let alone you. Everything that we did and built and wrote and thought and discovered will be forgotten and all of this”—I gestured encompassingly—“will have been for naught. Maybe that time is coming soon and maybe it is millions of years away, but even if we survive the collapse of our sun, we will not survive forever. There was time before organisms experienced consciousness, and there will be time after. And if the inevitability of human oblivion worries you, I encourage you to ignore it. God knows that’s what everyone else does.”
I’d learned this from my aforementioned third best friend, Peter Van Houten, the reclusive author of An Imperial Affliction, the book that was as close a thing as I had to a Bible. Peter Van Houten was the only person I’d ever come across who seemed to (a) understand what it’s like to be dying, and (b) not have died.
After I finished, there was quite a long period of silence as I watched a smile spread all the way across Augustus’s face—not the little crooked smile of the boy trying to be sexy while he stared at me, but his real smile, too big for his face. “Goddamn,” Augustus said quietly. “Aren’t you something else.”
Neither of us said anything for the rest of Support Group. At the end, we all had to hold hands, and Patrick led us in a prayer. “Lord Jesus Christ, we are gathered here in Your heart, literally in Your heart, as cancer survivors. You and You alone know us as we know ourselves. Guide us to life and the Light through our times of trial. We pray for Isaac’s eyes, for Michael’s and Jamie’s blood, for Augustus’s bones, for Hazel’s lungs, for James’s throat. We pray that You might heal us and that we might feel Your love, and Your peace, which passes all understanding. And we remember in our hearts those whom we knew and loved who have gone home to you: Maria and Kade and Joseph and Haley and Abigail and Angelina and Taylor and Gabriel and ”
It was a long list. The world contains a lot of dead people. And while Patrick droned on, reading the list from a sheet of paper because it was too long to memorize, I kept my eyes closed, trying to think prayerfully but mostly imagining the day when my name would find its way onto that list, all the way at the end when everyone had stopped listening.
When Patrick was finished, we said this stupid mantra together—LIVING OUR BEST LIFE TODAY—and it was over. Augustus Waters pushed himself out of his chair and walked over to me. His gait was crooked like his smile. He towered over me, but he kept his distance so I wouldn’t have to crane my neck to look him in the eye. “What’s your name?” he asked.
“No, your full name.”
“Um, Hazel Grace Lancaster.” He was just about to say something else when Isaac walked up. “Hold on,” Augustus said, raising a finger, and turned to Isaac. “That was actually worse than you made it out to be.”
“I told you it was bleak.”
“Why do you bother with it?”
“I don’t know. It kind of helps?”
Augustus leaned in so he thought I couldn’t hear. “She’s a regular?” I couldn’t hear Isaac’s comment, but Augustus responded, “I’ll say.” He clasped Isaac by both shoulders and then took a half step away from him. “Tell Hazel about clinic.”
Isaac leaned a hand against the snack table and focused his huge eye on me. “Okay, so I went into clinic this morning, and I was telling my surgeon that I’d rather be deaf than blind. And he said, ‘It doesn’t work that way,’ and I was, like, ‘Yeah, I realize it doesn’t work that way; I’m just saying I’d rather be deaf than blind if I had the choice, which I realize I don’t have,’ and he said, ‘Well, the good news is that you won’t be deaf,’ and I was like, ‘Thank you for explaining that my eye cancer isn’t going to make me deaf. I feel so fortunate that an intellectual giant like yourself would deign to operate on me.’”
“He sounds like a winner,” I said. “I’m gonna try to get me some eye cancer just so I can make this guy’s acquaintance.”
“Good luck with that. All right, I should go. Monica’s waiting for me. I gotta look at her a lot while I can.”
“Counterinsurgence tomorrow?” Augustus asked.
“Definitely.” Isaac turned and ran up the stairs, taking them two at a time.
Augustus Waters turned to me. “Literally,” he said.
“Literally?” I asked.
“We are literally in the heart of Jesus,” he said. “I thought we were in a church basement, but we are literally in the heart of Jesus.”
“Someone should tell Jesus,” I said. “I mean, it’s gotta be dangerous, storing children with cancer in your heart.”
“I would tell Him myself,” Augustus said, “but unfortunately I am literally stuck inside of His heart, so He won’t be able to hear me.” I laughed. He shook his head, just looking at me.
“What?” I asked.
“Nothing,” he said.
“Why are you looking at me like that?”
Augustus half smiled. “Because you’re beautiful. I enjoy looking at beautiful people, and I decided a while ago not to deny myself the simpler pleasures of existence.” A brief awkward silence ensued. Augustus plowed through: “I mean, particularly given that, as you so deliciously pointed out, all of this will end in oblivion and everything.”
I kind of scoffed or sighed or exhaled in a way that was vaguely coughy and then said, “I’m not beau—”
“You’re like a millennial Natalie Portman. Like V for Vendetta Natalie Portman.”
“Never seen it,” I said.
“Really?” he asked. “Pixie-haired gorgeous girl dislikes authority and can’t help but fall for a boy she knows is trouble. It’s your autobiography, so far as I can tell.”
His every syllable flirted. Honestly, he kind of turned me on. I didn’t even know that guys could turn me on—not, like, in real life.
A younger girl walked past us. “How’s it going, Alisa?” he asked. She smiled and mumbled, “Hi, Augustus.” “Memorial people,” he explained. Memorial was the big research hospital. “Where do you go?”
“Children’s,” I said, my voice smaller than I expected it to be. He nodded. The conversation seemed over. “Well,” I said, nodding vaguely toward the steps that led us out of the Literal Heart of Jesus. I tilted my cart onto its wheels and started walking. He limped beside me. “So, see you next time, maybe?” I asked.
“You should see it,” he said. “V for Vendetta, I mean.”
“Okay,” I said. “I’ll look it up.”
“No. With me. At my house,” he said. “Now.”
I stopped walking. “I hardly know you, Augustus Waters. You could be an ax murderer.”
He nodded. “True enough, Hazel Grace.” He walked past me, his shoulders filling out his green knit polo shirt, his back straight, his steps lilting just slightly to the right as he walked steady and confident on what I had determined was a prosthetic leg. Osteosarcoma sometimes takes a limb to check you out. Then, if it likes you, it takes the rest.
I followed him upstairs, losing ground as I made my way up slowly, stairs not being a field of expertise for my lungs.
And then we were out of Jesus’s heart and in the parking lot, the spring air just on the cold side of perfect, the late-afternoon light heavenly in its hurtfulness.
Mom wasn’t there yet, which was unusual, because Mom was almost always waiting for me. I glanced around and saw that a tall, curvy brunette girl had Isaac pinned against the stone wall of the church, kissing him rather aggressively. They were close enough to me that I could hear the weird noises of their mouths together, and I could hear him saying, “Always,” and her saying, “Always,” in return.
Suddenly standing next to me, Augustus half whispered, “They’re big believers in PDA.”
“What’s with the ‘always’?” The slurping sounds intensified.
“Always is their thing. They’ll always love each other and whatever. I would conservatively estimate they have texted each other the word always four million times in the last year.”
A couple more cars drove up, taking Michael and Alisa away. It was just Augustus and me now, watching Isaac and Monica, who proceeded apace as if they were not leaning against a place of worship. His hand reached for her boob over her shirt and pawed at it, his palm still while his fingers moved around. I wondered if that felt good. Didn’t seem like it would, but I decided to forgive Isaac on the grounds that he was going blind. The senses must feast while there is yet hunger and whatever.
“Imagine taking that last drive to the hospital,” I said quietly. “The last time you’ll ever drive a car.”
Without looking over at me, Augustus said, “You’re killing my vibe here, Hazel Grace. I’m trying to observe young love in its many-splendored awkwardness.”
“I think he’s hurting her boob,” I said.
“Yes, it’s difficult to ascertain whether he is trying to arouse her or perform a breast exam.” Then Augustus Waters reached into a pocket and pulled out, of all things, a pack of cigarettes. He flipped it open and put a cigarette between his lips.
“Are you serious?” I asked. “You think that’s cool? Oh, my God, you just ruined the whole thing.”
“Which whole thing?” he asked, turning to me. The cigarette dangled unlit from the unsmiling corner of his mouth.
“The whole thing where a boy who is not unattractive or unintelligent or seemingly in any way unacceptable stares at me and points out incorrect uses of literality and compares me to actresses and asks me to watch a movie at his house. But of course there is always a hamartia and yours is that oh, my God, even though you HAD FREAKING CANCER you give money to a company in exchange for the chance to acquire YET MORE CANCER. Oh, my God. Let me just assure you that not being able to breathe? SUCKS. Totally disappointing. Totally.”
“A hamartia?” he asked, the cigarette still in his mouth. It tightened his jaw. He had a hell of a jawline, unfortunately.
“A fatal flaw,” I explained, turning away from him. I stepped toward the curb, leaving Augustus Waters behind me, and then I heard a car start down the street. It was Mom. She’d been waiting for me to, like, make friends or whatever.
I felt this weird mix of disappointment and anger welling up inside of me. I don’t even know what the feeling was, really, just that there was a lot of it, and I wanted to smack Augustus Waters and also replace my lungs with lungs that didn’t suck at being lungs. I was standing with my Chuck Taylors on the very edge of the curb, the oxygen tank ball-and-chaining in the cart by my side, and right as my mom pulled up, I felt a hand grab mine.
I yanked my hand free but turned back to him.
“They don’t kill you unless you light them,” he said as Mom arrived at the curb. “And I’ve never lit one. It’s a metaphor, see: You put the killing thing right between your teeth, but you don’t give it the power to do its killing.”
“It’s a metaphor,” I said, dubious. Mom was just idling.
“It’s a metaphor,” he said.
“You choose your behaviors based on their metaphorical resonances ” I said.
“Oh, yes.” He smiled. The big, goofy, real smile. “I’m a big believer in metaphor, Hazel Grace.”
I turned to the car. Tapped the window. It rolled down. “I’m going to a movie with Augustus Waters,” I said. “Please record the next several episodes of the ANTM marathon for me.”
Augustus Waters drove horrifically. Whether stopping or starting, everything happened with a tremendous JOLT. I flew against the seat belt of his Toyota SUV each time he braked, and my neck snapped backward each time he hit the gas. I might have been nervous—what with sitting in the car of a strange boy on the way to his house, keenly aware that my crap lungs complicate efforts to fend off unwanted advances—but his driving was so astonishingly poor that I could think of nothing else.
We’d gone perhaps a mile in jagged silence before Augustus said, “I failed the driving test three times.”
“You don’t say.”
He laughed, nodding. “Well, I can’t feel pressure in old Prosty, and I can’t get the hang of driving left-footed. My doctors say most amputees can drive with no problem, but yeah. Not me. Anyway, I go in for my fourth driving test, and it goes about like this is going.” A half mile in front of us, a light turned red. Augustus slammed on the brakes, tossing me into the triangular embrace of the seat belt. “Sorry. I swear to God I am trying to be gentle. Right, so anyway, at the end of the test, I totally thought I’d failed again, but the instructor was like, ‘Your driving is unpleasant, but it isn’t technically unsafe.’”
“I’m not sure I agree,” I said. “I suspect Cancer Perk.” Cancer Perks are the little things cancer kids get that regular kids don’t: basketballs signed by sports heroes, free passes on late homework, unearned driver’s licenses, etc.
“Yeah,” he said. The light turned green. I braced myself. Augustus slammed the gas.
“You know they’ve got hand controls for people who can’t use their legs,” I pointed out.
“Yeah,” he said. “Maybe someday.” He sighed in a way that made me wonder whether he was confident about the existence of someday. I knew osteosarcoma was highly curable, but still.
There are a number of ways to establish someone’s approximate survival expectations without actually asking. I used the classic: “So, are you in school?” Generally, your parents pull you out of school at some point if they expect you to bite it.
“Yeah,” he said. “I’m at North Central. A year behind, though: I’m a sophomore. You?”
I considered lying. No one likes a corpse, after all. But in the end I told the truth. “No, my parents withdrew me three years ago.”
“Three years?” he asked, astonished.
I told Augustus the broad outline of my miracle: diagnosed with Stage IV thyroid cancer when I was thirteen. (I didn’t tell him that the diagnosis came three months after I got my first period. Like: Congratulations! You’re a woman. Now die.) It was, we were told, incurable.
I had a surgery called radical neck dissection, which is about as pleasant as it sounds. Then radiation. Then they tried some chemo for my lung tumors. The tumors shrank, then grew. By then, I was fourteen. My lungs started to fill up with water. I was looking pretty dead—my hands and feet ballooned; my skin cracked; my lips were perpetually blue. They’ve got this drug that makes you not feel so completely terrified about the fact that you can’t breathe, and I had a lot of it flowing into me through a PICC line, and more than a dozen other drugs besides. But even so, there’s a certain unpleasantness to drowning, particularly when it occurs over the course of several months. I finally ended up in the ICU with pneumonia, and my mom knelt by the side of my bed and said, “Are you ready, sweetie?” and I told her I was ready, and my dad just kept telling me he loved me in this voice that was not breaking so much as already broken, and I kept telling him that I loved him, too, and everyone was holding hands, and I couldn’t catch my breath, and my lungs were acting desperate, gasping, pulling me out of the bed trying to find a position that could get them air, and I was embarrassed by their desperation, disgusted that they wouldn’t just let go, and I remember my mom telling me it was okay, that I was okay, that I would be okay, and my father was trying so hard not to sob that when he did, which was regularly, it was an earthquake. And I remember wanting not to be awake.
Everyone figured I was finished, but my Cancer Doctor Maria managed to get some of the fluid out of my lungs, and shortly thereafter the antibiotics they’d given me for the pneumonia kicked in.
I woke up and soon got into one of those experimental trials that are famous in the Republic of Cancervania for Not Working. The drug was Phalanxifor, this molecule designed to attach itself to cancer cells and slow their growth. It didn’t work in about 70 percent of people. But it worked in me. The tumors shrank.
And they stayed shrunk. Huzzah, Phalanxifor! In the past eighteen months, my mets have hardly grown, leaving me with lungs that suck at being lungs but could, conceivably, struggle along indefinitely with the assistance of drizzled oxygen and daily Phalanxifor.
Admittedly, my Cancer Miracle had only resulted in a bit of purchased time. (I did not yet know the size of the bit.) But when telling Augustus Waters, I painted the rosiest possible picture, embellishing the miraculousness of the miracle.
“So now you gotta go back to school,” he said.
“I actually can’t,” I explained, “because I already got my GED. So I’m taking classes at MCC,” which was our community college.
“A college girl,” he said, nodding. “That explains the aura of sophistication.” He smirked at me. I shoved his upper arm playfully. I could feel the muscle right beneath the skin, all tense and amazing.
We made a wheels-screeching turn into a subdivision with eight-foot-high stucco walls. His house was the first one on the left. A two-story colonial. We jerked to a halt in his driveway.
I followed him inside. A wooden plaque in the entryway was engraved in cursive with the words Home Is Where the Heart Is, and the entire house turned out to be festooned in such observations. Good Friends Are Hard to Find and Impossible to Forget read an illustration above the coatrack. True Love Is Born from Hard Times promised a needlepointed pillow in their antique-furnished living room. Augustus saw me reading. “My parents call them Encouragements,” he explained. “They’re everywhere.”
His mom and dad called him Gus. They were making enchiladas in the kitchen (a piece of stained glass by the sink read in bubbly letters Family Is Forever). His mom was putting chicken into tortillas, which his dad then rolled up and placed in a glass pan. They didn’t seem too surprised by my arrival, which made sense: The fact that Augustus made me feel special did not necessarily indicate that I was special. Maybe he brought home a different girl every night to show her movies and feel her up.
“This is Hazel Grace,” he said, by way of introduction.
“Just Hazel,” I said.
“How’s it going, Hazel?” asked Gus’s dad. He was tall—almost as tall as Gus—and skinny in a way that parentally aged people usually aren’t.
“Okay,” I said.
“How was Isaac’s Support Group?”
“It was incredible,” Gus said.
“You’re such a Debbie Downer,” his mom said. “Hazel, do you enjoy it?”
I paused a second, trying to figure out if my response should be calibrated to please Augustus or his parents. “Most of the people are really nice,” I finally said.
“That’s exactly what we found with families at Memorial when we were in the thick of it with Gus’s treatment,” his dad said. “Everybody was so kind. Strong, too. In the darkest days, the Lord puts the best people into your life.”
Posted January 10, 2012
Let's face it: Cancer is a popular topic among the literary world, both in fiction and non-fiction. For years, authors have penned the tumultuous lives of those affected by cancer, as well as the lives of those who know people with cancer. I have been following Green's work for several years now, and I have been consistently impressed with the work he has done. However, his previous novels have always fallen short of excellence, something that has changed with the Young Adult author's newest outing. The Fault in Our Stars is wonderful. Plain and simple. Too often "cancer books" are downtrodden with overemotional drama that saturates the reading experience with misery. Fortunately, this book changes that. The tone of the book is primarily humorous, as is Green's specialty, and does not dwell excessively on drama. That does not mean, however, that the severity of the characters' situation is ignored. Rather, the cancer is more of a supporting character, always hovering around our narrator, but never entirely interfering with the flow of the story. The cancer simply exists, and while it makes itself known, it does not do so loudly. This offers a nice change of pace for those accustomed to the achingly detailed books about cancer and hospice they might have read in the past. Most importantly, the characters are not the wise and all-knowing cancer kids that is common in many stories of young people suffering with the disease. They offer their perspective, but they are scarcely blatant about it. Hazel, our narrator, offers often amusing observations about the world she lives in as well as the situation she has found herself in, but she is not and does not claim to be an all-knowing book of infinite knowledge. The same is to be said about Gus, our heroic best friend. While the story lacks extravagance, that doesn't stop it from becoming one of the best novels I've read in recent memory. It is a stubborn little book, and will not be easily forgotten like so many other books lining the bookshelves of the present. The prose is quiet and minimal, while still retaining a sort of muted beauty. The dialogue is sharp and witty. The characters are well-drawn out, and you might even find yourself wanting to hug the venerable (and fictional) author Peter Van Houten by the end of the book. In conclusion: Whether you have enjoyed Green's previous works or are familiar with his on-going YouTube phenomenon, you will certainly enjoy The Fault in Our Stars. It's a fantastic book filled with fantastic characters, and is written by a fantastic author. This is destined to be one of the best books of the year, and should not be missed.
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This book is not only for the young set. There is great benefit to all who read this. It’s not only about two teens battling cancer; it’s about a lesson to all of us to live our lives every day, every minute. We should be thankful for this time especially if we are lucky enough to find love and be capable of giving. This story is beautiful, funny, heartbreaking and poignant. Gus and Hazel made me laugh, cry, laugh all over again, and cry yet again. I’m still crying!
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Posted April 22, 2012
I prolonged reading this one. I knew it was going to be good - not only because of the rave reviews I'd been hearing, but also because the subject matter was a tough one to tackle. And yet, I let it sit in my TBR pile for three months, while I stalled and read other books.
cancer touches many lives, and everyone deals with it differently. cancer touched my life in June of 2006, when my mom was diagnosed with late-stage hepatocellular carcinoma (cancer of the liver). It was predicted she'd have anywhere between four to six months, and that was with all the surgeries, chemo, and whatever else they could throw her way. Proving the doctors wrong and opting out of all Western medicines and treatments, she gave us four wonderful years.
In exactly two weeks from today, it will have been two years since my mom passed away. And maybe it's the timing, that caused me to finally pick up THE FAULT IN OUR STARS and start reading the first page of a book, I secretly think I'd been dreading to read all-together.
But what I found amongst those pages, was an exceptional story - and while beautifully written, it was tremendously bittersweet. Anyone who has had even a glimpse into this devastating disease, can completely relate to how raw and heartbreaking this journey truly was.
The relationship between Hazel and Augustus from start to finish, was nothing short of believable - full of emotion, yet flavored throughout with well-timed humor, as the two made their way through such unfortunate circumstances. Neither of them gave credit to their cancer - it simply was what it was, and they both dealt with the hand they were given, in the best way they knew how.
You may have noticed (or not?) that I didn't capitalize the c in the word cancer, anywhere above - and that's because I don't believe it deserves that kind of credit or attention. One day we'll figure out how this horrible disease takes over the human body, metastasizes throughout, and ultimately, takes the ones we love. And we'll stop it. Until then, it's exceptional books like THE FAULT IN OUR STARS that makes you realize, it doesn't matter who you are or what your age is, in the end, cancer affects us all.
John Green is a master at story-telling; a true artist in the way he delivered a journey that could have gone in a non-favorable direction, all too easily. A FAULT IN OUR STARS was an excellent read and a favorite YA contemporary for me - this is one I highly recommend to everyone.
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Posted June 29, 2011
Dear John Green,
Thank you so much for writing another book.
This will be amazing.
Sorry this is not an "actual" review.
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Posted January 12, 2012
i just finished this book. it was beautiful, amazing, wonderful, laugh-out-loud hilarious, sobbing-into-a-pillow sad, and just passed harry potter as my favorite book of all time. throughout the whole book i had this aching in my gut like i was being punched repeatedly. there were times that i was crying from laughter, and there were times i was sobbing from sadness. this was john green's best book by far and will be read and analyzed in english classes for years to come. DFTBA.
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Posted July 3, 2011
John, I love you. And that sounds very cliche and fangirlish, so I apologize. It's been amazing being a part of the insanity and brilliance that is Nerdfighteria, and as a bibliophile and lover of all things involving paper and ink, I so look forward to this book. Counting the days, John, counting the days... For now, DFTBA. Keep writing and inspiring us all, as well as making us laugh. :) You rock, John! -Erin, the hopeless nerdfighter.
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Posted May 27, 2012
TFIOS is my absolute favorite book, ever, and I am going to TRY and explain why.
A few months ago, I saved up money from Christmas and my birthday to buy books. Lots and lots of books, for me to read on my nook, that i also saved up for. The number 1 item on that list was TFIOS, only because I love the Vlogbrothers, not because I thought this was going to be some life-changing, epic read.
So, i bought the book and my new nook. That day, i read the Lorien Legacies Series and finished The Hunger Games on the next. I saved TFIOS for a very unassuming Tuesday, a week or so after my raid of Barnes and Noble.
Since 2nd grade, I have always wanted to become and author. I wrote stories on these little booklets i made of paper, and my friend colored them in. However, being in 8th grade, people you meet have a habit of asking the same annoying question: What do you want to be when you grow up? People said authors didn't make any money, its a hard field, whatever. Anyways, I definitely started thinking that I would have to find a new aspiration. But then, I read The Fault In Our Stars. That Tuesday, I had Glee Club practice until 5, and I had dinner at my neighbors home, once you factor in homework, i was not free until 8:30 or so. My neighbor was still over, drawing pictures of a character in my own stories, when i finally picked IT up. Needless to say, IT was amazing, and I kicked my neighbor out ( sorry Tulsi!). That was when i read TFIOS. I cried. I laughed. I called my mom at nearly two in the morning, admits crazy tears, to tell her that i loved her. The next day, I fell asleep in class, and I dreamed of my heavenly boyfriend of TFIOS, Augustus Waters. I couldn't explain to my friends why the book was so amazing. It simply wasn't enough to call it the best YA novel i'd ever read. TFIOS was beautiful. I wanted everyone to know how beautiful it was. But, I didn't want anyone to read it. I felt like my friends wouldn't GET it. I felt like it was mine. All of my, very un-literary, friends decided that they too would read TFIOS. i cringed inside. NOOOO! This book was too beautiful for them to butcher and not understand. I felt like my friends, as wonderful as they are, would not understand the complexity in the book. Like they would not understand it, and that they would read it but not see the value of every word. It is one of those books where i feel like, either everyone needs to cry over it because they are mature and smart enough to get it, or no one should read it at all, besides me of course! Anyways, I can't explain enough how wonderful this book really is. You should most definitely read it if you haven't, and please understand how meaningful and beautiful it really is, or else don't read it at all, because then i will shudder inside to think that you didn't appreciate it.
Hazel of my head, I just want you to know that I too would have been driven nuts wondering where the poor hamster went.
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Posted January 16, 2012
I swear, if John Green were currently 16 I would confess eternal love to him. However, in the mindset of not appearing stalker-esque, I will simply state that he brilliantly captures the wittiness of life embodied through well-developed (and perhaps overestimatedly brillant) characters. It was truly a work of art. DFTBA! :)
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Posted January 25, 2012
As a middle school teacher, 8th grade, I am always reading and searching for outstanding YA books to share with my students. The way Mr. Green writes is so enthralling that you are hooked after the 1st sentence. I love that his books appeal to boys and girls alike.
The Fault in Our Stars is yet another outstanding read. Once i started I couldn't stop and read it from cover to cover in one sitting! Believe me, you will do the same!
Thank you Mr. Green for another story I can recommend and share with my students!!
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Posted August 29, 2011
Its JOHN GREEN. I MUST HAVE IT.
If you haven't read any of John Greens books, heres all you have to know:
THEY ARE AWESOME.
John Green is more commonly know as one of the two 'vlogbrothers' from youtube. If you want further reason to buy this, go check out their channel.
I have yet to find a book of his that I haven't thoroughly enjoyed. An Abundance of Katherines, Looking for Alaska, and Paper Towns... They all were just so well written and made you never want to stop reading.
The first book of his you should read? Paper Towns or Looking for Alaska.
The second book? Paper Towns or Looking for Alaska.
The third book? An Abundance of Katherines.
The fourth book? THIS ONE.
Why is this one the fourth one?
IT HASN'T BEEN RELEASED YET. You should be reading all the other ones while you wait for this one to come out.
I can see it now... Pure genius.
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Posted July 25, 2012
This is coming from a guy: I have never realized I was still able to cry like a 2-year-old. Hence, this book is insanely good. So do read this.
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Posted January 12, 2012
Ever since I first started watching vlogbrothers videos, I was completely enamored by John Green. I read all his previous books and absolutely loved them! I borrowed my sister's copy of TFiOS once she was done and I could not put it down. I literally did nothing but read. It took me about 6 hours to read. I have never cried so hard in my life, and despite its downs, this book has an equal part of ups. I can't think of a book more appropriate to recommend, to anyone. This is a seriously perfect book and there was not fault in this star. :)
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Posted March 13, 2013
Five years ago i was lonely. I met my best fiend "ben". Ben helped me get through the horror of fourth grade. In the beginning of fifth grade, Ben was diagnosed with stage four lung cancer. I was heartbroken. Every day I would bring him homework and we would talk and talk. Two months after his diagnosis Ben died in his sleep. I was lost. I cried for days and days. My parents didnt know what to do with me. His funeral was probably the hardest thing i have ever gone through. 5 days after the funeral I got a call from his mother saying he d left me a note. It simply said I Love You. This struck me as an amazing emotiin from a ten year old boy.
Thank you, Mr. Green for bringing Ben back to life for me. This is truly the story ofsomeone who died too young.
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Posted February 2, 2012
I am truly puzzled by the consistent 5 star ratings on this book. Perhaps I am not familiar with Green's writing, but I found it both difficult and annoying to read such unintelligible dialogue, such as the obnoxious overusage of the word 'whatever,' mixed with the polar-opposite of far too advanced vocabulary of his 16 and 17 year old characters. I kept revisiting with the feeling that they were walking and talking dictionaries who would sometimes relapse into a state of stupor. It is this factor that made this book honestly hard for me to read. However, putting that aside, the book did have some amazing and epiphanous moments.
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Posted July 2, 2011
Dear John (haha, punny)
I am VERY excited to get your new book! I'm pre ordering NOW *clicks button* so I can get my signed copy.
~A loving NerdFighter
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Posted July 20, 2011
Posted April 4, 2012
This book is terrible...
JK haha i absolutley loved this book! Its about a girl with cancer, whomm wants nothing to do with her doomed life. Only obssesing over a book. But in an unexpected turn, she meets a cute guy ( sorry i cant say any more!) This book takes you on the emotional roller-coaster of a teenage girl with cancer. So if you do decide to get it. Buckle up and make sure you have plenty of time on your hands because you wont be able to put it down! I read the whole thing in 3 days then cried because i didnt want the book to be over! But seriously if you read this whole comment- your thinking too much. Get the book, you'll love it!
PS I love you Jhon Green your book is absolutley amazing, thank you so much for following your dream and writing this because i defitinly needed this book ( i was running out of good books to read!) And i would really rate your book stars 7
20 out of 103 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted October 23, 2013
My dearest apologies to all of you John Green fans. I am not a serial hater, this is new to me. All I have to say (if one would be kind enough to listen open-mindedly) is that this book was, simply, not as great as it is hyped up to be.
It's about a girl who has cancer and falls in love with a boy who has cancer.
Interesting premise. Promising ending (clearly one character would die, and also predictable from the moment one says "I want to be with you forever")
But overall the writing was not outstanding. This book had nothing in it I hadn't read before and in no way blew me away. It actually makes me angry just how much people rave about it.
We know. Everyone knows. My grandmother knows.
The details are shady, I feel like I never get a clear view on any of the landscape, and when I do, it's about confetti.
And no, writing dialogue like this:
mom: even though you read one book repeatedly and have no high school education, you're still surprisingly extremely well spoken for a teenager.
me: thanks mom, I am elated that you think my average way of speaking is exceptional.
...is NOT creative and witty. It's frustrating. It's not your signature, John Green. It's irritating.
I guess I'm just mostly surprised at how many people are falling into the ever swirling pit of "I <3 TFIOS" instead of waking up and realizing how utterly predictable and poorly planned this book was. I hate to sound terrible here, but wouldn't the book have been "more" heart breaking if it ended like her favorite book did? In the middle of either her or Augustus's sentence? THAT would have been neat and might have made up for the rest of it. But instead, it ended on sort of a
"...oh. Well.....that's over I guess"
I'm going on a rampage. I need to stop. Thank you for your time and patience. Sorry if I just stabbed a hole in your fandom, but you should be thanking me for not continuing my rant. Maybe someday I might finish what I set out to tell the wor-
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