A story of grit and determination. Of the need to survive.
John Green’s novel The Fault In Our Stars is easily my most favourite book of 2013. The story is narrated by its 16-year-old protagonist Hazel Grace Lancaster. She had thyroid cancer, but has now been diagnosed with Stage 4 Lung Cancer. She is forced by her parents to join the Cancer Kid Support Group where other kids talk of their fight against this dreaded disease. It’s here she meets 17-year-old Augustus “Gus” Waters, a former basketball player who has lost his right leg to Osteosarcoma, right now he is in remission. Another 17-year-old Isaac, a close friend of Augustus has lost his eye to cancer and has just learned that he must have his other eye removed, which will result in a permanent loss of vision. Isaac introduces Hazel and Augustus.
For Augustus, its practically love at first sight. He tells Hazel that she reminds him of Natalie Portman from “V for Vendetta”. He invites her to watch the movie with him at his house. Slowly they settle into a comfortable friendship where they discuss their interests. Hazel’s interest is reading. Her favourite book is An Imperial Affliction, a novel (with no ending) by Peter Van Houten, while Augustus urges her to read The Price of Dawn, a novel based on his favourite video game. One thing that bothers them is the abrupt ending of their now common favourite book An Imperial Affliction. They even write letters to the author asking him what happens to the characters in the book.
Hazel has managed to live with her disease which makes her every breath dependent on oxygen which she carries around in a cylindrical green tank. The oxygen is delivered to her nose through a cannula (tubes which enter her nostrils). Thanks to an experimental drug called Phalanxifor, Hazel has been able to fight the disease.
Slowly Hazel and Augustus’s friendship blossoms into love as they start spending more time together. Augustus who had saved his wish from “The Genies” (a version of the Make a Wish Foundation) uses his wish to fly Hazel and himself to Amsterdam to meet the Author Peter Van Houten so that the author can tell Hazel what happens next in his book which he has left hanging without an ending. It’s in Amsterdam that their love story reaches its peak.
Hazel’s mind is in turmoil. She feels that a relationship with Augustus will only hurt him as her eventual death will devastate him. Augustus has lost his former girlfriend to cancer. At its heart The Fault In Our Stars is a bitter sweet love story, where two cancer afflicted teenagers invite readers to laugh and live life to the fullest for as long as it’s possible. The book throws up the big questions on life and death.
The way the teenagers manage their illness and still live their life without bitterness is remarkable. Their discussions about their disease, how the new drugs have prolonged their lives, which surgeries they have had, which treatment they are undergoing, sounds like the way regular teenagers would discuss fashion, relationships and studies. Hazel sees herself as a grenade, discusses Cancer Perks and the side effects of dying. Hazel and Augustus, the star-crossed lovers, share an irreverent sense of humour with minds that are full of the big questions of life: How will I be remembered? Does my life and death have meaning?
THE FAULT IN OUR STARS by John Green, Penguin, Rs. 399