Young adult novel tells tale of cancer survivors

ChinLin Pan

Young adult author and YouTube star John Green has done it again. Like his previous award-winning novels for teens, including “Looking For Alaska” and “Paper Towns,” Green's latest novel, “The Fault in Our Stars,” pulls at heartstrings with his signature blend of humor, poignancy and heartbreak.

Narrator Hazel is a 16-year-old girl who miraculously survives thyroid cancer. Although her tumor shrank due to an experimental cure, Hazel must carry an oxygen tank with her for the rest of her life. One day, Hazel arrives at the “Cancer Kid” support group she grudgingly attends and meets Augustus “Gus” Waters, a 17-year-old with a prosthetic leg lost to cancer. Instant chemistry sparks between the two.

The intelligent, sarcastic teens bond over films, their cancerous lives and Hazel's favorite novel, “An Imperial Affliction,” the fictional novel within Greens novel by reclusive Dutch-American author Peter Van Houten. Hazel connects deeply with the novel, which is about a girl with cancer, like herself. It's Hazel's greatest desire to know more about the characters' fates, since the novel ended with the character succumbing to cancer.

Although the plot of “The Fault in Our Stars,” the title of which is an allusion to Shakespeare's “Julius Caesar,” is elegantly witty and tearjerking, the pace lags in earlier chapters. It takes time for Hazel and Gus to go to Amsterdam and get their answers from Peter Van Houten, which propels the novel into its sweetly tragic final act.

Green provides iconic quirky humor in his razor-sharp and brutally honest characters and their compelling banter. Hazel and Gus' relationship is a sweetly crafted slow burn, based on romantic gestures and meaningful conversations about fearing oblivion and acknowledging existentialism.

Readers will easily feel close to Hazel and Gus every step of the way, cheering them on and hoping for the best. It's easy to see why John Green remains one of the most beloved, celebrated authors of the modern young adult genre.

Printed on Monday, January 30, 2012 as: Sick teens struggle to discover answers