Maggie, I don’t think I’ve ever sobbed so much while reading a book. But I did not only bawl, I also laughed and often laughed through tears.
My inner bookstore employee can’t help but notice the handselling hazards of The Fault in Our Stars. How do you explain to new readers, the ones who have never heard of John Green or nerdfighteria, or those who do not read “children’s books, ” that they must read this impactful and gorgeous story? I can just imagine a handsell going like this: “Yeah, so this novel is one of the most beautiful books I’ve ever read with characters you befriend and writing you want to quote. What’s it about? Oh, uh, two kids with cancer.” It’s The Book Thief all over again! (btw, Markus Zuask, the author of The Book Thief, blurbed this book for what that’s worth).
Our narrator, Hazel, is all profound thoughts, wit, and gallows humor. Augustus Waters (a fellow that needs his full name) is, as one synopsis put it, a “gorgeous plot twist” who arrives at Hazel’s cancer kid support group in the first chapter. You suspect their relationship is doomed from the start, but you can’t help cheering them on.
The thing is, yes, this book is about kids with cancer but it’s not an “issue book” or a “cancer book.” Including cancer gives those of us who have so far escaped our family or ourselves having such an experience a small window into the realities of a terminal illness and a tiny ounce of understanding.
The book is about Hazel’s outlook on life. It is about being alive, being in love, and recognizing the inevitability of death.
This all sounds very deep and profound, and some parts of The Fault in Our Stars are. But, it also talks about boys, the mall, video games, and America’s Next Top Model. It made me laugh out loud one paragraph and cry the next. So, non-Maggie readers, take this as my handsell pitch: Read this book for a shot of pure emotion.