Recap: Sixteen-year-old Hazel Grace Lancaster has very few friends. She’s oddly close with her parents. She takes a few college classes instead of high school, and she loves America’s Next Top Model marathons. Also, she has cancer. Every time she attends another support group session, her mom insists that she make friends, but Hazel isn’t interested. As far as she’s concerned, she’s well on her way to dying anyway.
Everything changes when she meets fellow cancer patient Augustus. He’s sarcastic and smart and well, hot. He’s also in remission. Because Hazel is new to boys and relationships and new friendships, for that matter, she forces him to read her favorite book before accepting a date with him. Augustus reads the book — one with an open ending about a girl who has cancer. Augustus joins Hazel in her frustration with the end of the novel. Soon, a relationship is formed, as is an obsession with the novel.
Augustus uses his “Make a Wish”-style wish on Hazel. Hazel opens Augustus to world of true love, not the forced “love” he shared with his ex-girlfriend. But with two young cancer patients in love, there’s only one ending. This is not a happy story, but this is a powerful one about life, love, and how we perceive it all.
Analysis: When Hazel and Augustus meet, they’re doomed, destined for death. But they’re also lucky — able to live their lives with nothing to lose, however difficult it may seem. The Fault in Our Stars tells the story of young love between two old souls, and to reinforce their deep connection, author John Green relies on literature.
From the beginning, the two discuss their favorite books — both entirely different genres of literature. Her favorite book is a powerful story reflective of her own, and frightening in its depressingly realistic outlook; his, a graphic novel that depicts strength, overcoming the impossible, and heroism.
But the title of this novel itself, The Fault In Our Stars, is taken from a line of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar: “The nobleman Cassius says to Brutus, ‘The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, / But in ourselves, that we are underlings.'” This is how the teenagers suggest it is no one’s fault but their own that they are sick and doomed. But the reference to “stars” recalls yet another Shakespearean play, Romeo and Juliet, by referencing the two as “star-crossed lovers.” Theirs is a love that is not meant to last.
But the journey Hazel and Augustus take together — emotionally, physically, and literally — shows their love goes beyond death. With realistic teenaged narration from Hazel’s point of view and frank awareness of the characters’ own destiny, Green tells a story that will make you cry, but encourage you to live your life the best way you can. After all, you only get one chance.
MVP: Augustus. Through all the pain of illness and all the sadness of death, he finds the beauty of life, and gives Hazel a reason to live hers, even when she doesn’t know that it’s worth it.