• Text size      
  • Send this article to a friend
  • Print this article

John Green: The Fault In Our Stars (Penguin)

Earlier this year, The Fault In Our Stars broke out of the Young Adult market to become a mainstream bestseller.

A movie is already in production, set for a June 2014 release, but whether it will capture the hard-nosed but soft-centred intelligence of Green's novel we will just have to wait and see.

It is written from the point of view of 16-year-old cancer patient Hazel, who lives in Indiana. A fictional drug called Phalanxifor has shrunk her tumours, but no one pretends that it has bought her anything more than a few years. Hazel is a bright, articulate and witty kid, and she meets her intellectual equal, recovering bone cancer sufferer Augustus, at a support group. Under different circumstances, this would be the beginning of a beautiful relationship. But Hazel is reluctant to get involved with anyone if they are going to have to go through the sorrow of losing her.

So - although they are obviously meant to be together - Hazel and Augustus tentatively circle around each other. At the stage where Hazel is unwilling even to hold hands, she introduces him to her favourite novel, An Imperial Affliction ("It's not a cancer book, because cancer books suck"), written by a reclusive author who now lives in Amsterdam. More than anything, Hazel wants to find out what happened to the characters after the end of the book, and she and her new love hatch a plan to travel to Amsterdam - Hazel trailing her ever-present oxygen tank - and ask the author personally.

Green captures Hazel's tone effortlessly, never sounding like a 35-year-old man trying to imitate teenage speech patterns. Luckily for him and the reader, Hazel is eloquent and an adept exponent of gallows humour. Above all, though, it is a genuinely poignant, moving book. Both wearily accustomed to living with cancer, Hazel and Augustus are on the same page, implicitly understanding each other's thoughts and moods. Long before they met, they had become reconciled to the fact the universe is indifferent to our wishes. Together, they just want to seek out the positive side of a heartbreaking situation. This is the kind of book that gives tearjerkers, and teenage literature, a good name.

Contextual targeting label: 
Arts and Entertainment

Commenting & Moderation

We moderate all comments on HeraldScotland on either a pre-moderated or post-moderated basis.
If you're a relatively new user then your comments will be reviewed before publication and if we know you well and trust you then your comments will be subject to moderation only if other users or the moderators believe you've broken the rules

Moderation is undertaken full-time 9am-6pm on weekdays, and on a part-time basis outwith those hours. Please be patient if your posts are not approved instantly.