John Green sums up my feelings about his new book, The Fault In Our Stars, in one of his quotes, ” Sometimes, you read a book and it fills you with this weird evangelical zeal and you become convinced that the shattered world will never be put back together unless and until all humans read the book.” I am a huge fan of John Green. I’ve loved all of his books for his brilliant writing, hilarious moments of humor, highly intelligent girl characters, and deep human connections. This book is my new favorite. 16-year-old Hazel has cancer. She’s had it for a long time and will for however much longer she will live. She is sheltered. She attends college classes with her oxygen tank in tow, but her main social interaction is her parents. Her mother makes her attend a support group, one that is normally depressing and boring. That is until one day when Isaac brings his friend Augustus. Augustus is a cancer survivor. He won’t stop staring at Hazel, which both thrills her and freaks her out at the same time. You see… Augustus is gorgeous. With Augustus, Hazel’s world expands as she explores a deep friendship and love. I don’t want to say more than that. Sometimes you just have to experience the book and anything I have to say about their beautiful relationship would not give it justice. Hazel has a favorite book about a girl struggling with cancer. The author never wrote a follow up and Hazel would love to know what happened to the characters. When she has a chance to meet her favorite author, who is a bit of a recluse, it makes for an odd experience. While reading that section I thought about the time I met John Green, who is one of my favorite authors. He came to my library to talk to teens. He was extraordinary with them. Afterward staff had lunch with him and we had a wonderful talk. He was just as personable and funny as he is on his you tube videos. I made him a cake that looked like the cover of Looking For Alaska, which would seem weird for anyone who is not part of his fan community. He told me the cake tasted awesome and seemed to really mean it. So my experience meeting a noteworthy person I admire was the opposite of Hazel’s. I felt fully immersed in reading this book. The characters seemed so real to me and I felt great sadness when they were in pain and struggled. Teens will love this book, but I am glad I read it as an adult. When you are a parent and you read this you get another perspective. Reading this book was a rich experience. I worried about the characters in between my times to read and couldn’t wait to pick it back up.
Some ideas for discussing with teens:
Hazel says of her favorite book, An Imperial Affliction, “There are books which you can’t tell people about, books so special and rare and yours that advertising your affection feels like a betrayal.” Discuss.
Talk about Hazel and Augustus’s connection. Have you ever had that kind of relationship with someone? If not, what do you think it would be like?
Compare Augustus to other boys in YA novels you’ve read.
Talk about the breakup between Isaac and his girlfriend, Monica. Why would that happen? Would you do the same thing?
Discuss when Hazel tells Isaac, “Sometimes people don’t understand the promises they’re making when they make them.”
Discuss when Augustus says to Isaac, “That’s the thing about pain. It demands to be felt.”
Talk about when Augustus and Hazel are in the Anne Frank House and they overhear Otto Frank say, “Most parents don’t know really their children.”
Discuss Hazel’s curiosity about Augustus’s late girlfriend.
Talk about when Hazel met Peter Van Houten. What would it be like to meet someone you admire? Do you think you would be disappointed?
Do you watch America’s Next Top Model?