Sixteen-years-old and terminally ill, Hazel doesn’t have a whole lot of hope for romance until she attends a cancer support group. It is there she meets handsome, charming Augustus Waters, and in that first moment of attraction, Hazel knows her life will never be the same. A story of love and loss amidst the myriad of battles that come with fighting cancer, The Fault in Our Stars has been acclaimed as the Titanic of our generation. But does it live up to the hype? Let’s review.
The book opens with Hazel being persuaded to attended a support group by her mother. Up until this point, Hazel has spent most of her time in front of the TV or going to college classes when she feels well enough to attend. It’s at her parents’ urging for her to make friends that she begrudgingly attends the group. It’s here she hits it off right away with the charismatic-albeit-egotistical Augustus, aka Gus. It’s at this first meeting that Gus invites Hazel to his house to watch a movie, an invitation Hazel accepts on the spot. The friendship progresses from here through a mutual love of books and exploring each other’s favourite reads, going on picnics, supporting their friend Isaac through losing his eyesight to cancer and simultaneously his girlfriend, visiting each other’s house, and various relapses that see Hazel in hospital getting the fluid drained out of her lungs.
Based on their shared love of one book with a cliff-hanger ending, Augustus ends up using his cancer wish on Hazel for them both to go on a trip to Amsterdam to meet the author, and hopefully get some answers to their questions concerning the unfinished book. It is a romantic adventure full of champagne, the Ann Frank museum, and a Dutch lady fired from her assistant job as their tour guide. It’s in the middle of this blissful whirlwind vacation that Augustus confesses to Hazel that his own condition was not as cured as he first made it out to be, which causes Hazel to once again ponder the meaning of life and of death, and wonder if there is indeed, any meaning to it at all.
I’ll give it this, the book is entertaining. Funny, honest, and fast-paced, the writing style is so engaging that it is hard to put down. As far as writing goes, it’s hard to find a fault with it (see what I did there?). Having said that, there are some major issues with the story. As far as morals go, well… there really are none. Sex is flippant, as is the crude humour. There really is nothing sacred in the lives of these characters, except perhaps the love they have for each other and their parents, but even then, with their flamboyant, anything-goes attitude and blatant disregard for morality, it’s hard to take their love seriously. I couldn’t help but be struck by the fact the story revolved around what was really just two kids talking about stuff that should be way over their heads. There’s a lot of language, which adds to the “trying to be a grown-up” vibe the book pushes for, but fails miserably. If a character must cuss, please write it so it doesn’t sound like a teenager trying to be cool.
The other problem is that the book makes a mockery of faith, and comes pretty close to making a blatant mockery of God Himself. It glorifies a worldview of ignorance; that belief in something tangible after death is folly, and the real philosophical thinker is open to the fact that there is merely only “Something” out there. Thus, it praises the mystery of uncertainty over the foolishness of those who believe in a God who loves them. Here’s the thing though – there is still mystery in death, even with the certainty that there is a God. No one really knows what life will be like on the other side, so there is still a great sense of whimsical hope tied to faith in eternity. Knowing that there is a heaven isn’t truth like a brick; just a black-and-white fact you beat people with, just like God isn’t just the “big man upstairs” who can’t wait to send people to hell. This book, in its favour of believing in “infinity” and “oblivion”, totally disregards the beautiful mystery and a hopeful uncertainty to faith in a way that makes God look like a fool’s errand. Which of course is sad for anyone who reads it, because they will miss out on the awe and wonder that God holds for those who seek Him.
In short, if you’re looking for a cheap thrill or a good piece of sap with no moral compass to hang your brain up in, The Fault in Our Stars will achieve that for you, much as the Titanic did in the last era. But if you’re hoping to be inspired by a good love story, you’d be best off looking elsewhere. It may be a fun read at first, but like all cheap food, it will leave a bad taste in your mouth.
Published on 2 December, 2015. Last updated on