The Fault In Our Stars (2012)
By John Green
So I’m a little late to the John Green party, but it’s better late than never. I read this book last summer when the film was just released in theaters (and yes, I have watched the movie too).
The Fault in Our Stars is about a sixteen year-old girl with thyroid cancer, Hazel Grace Lancaster, who is forced by her mother to attend a support group for cancer kids. At one of the meetings, she befriends a seventeen year-old boy named Augustus Waters, who lost his leg due to osteosarcoma. The two bond over a novel entitled, An Imperial Affliction, by Peter van Houten, which results in Augustus surprising Hazel to a trip to Amsterdam to meet the author.
It is obvious from the title, even before reading this novel, that it is going to be a tragedy. Although it appears that the symbols, stars and lovers, suggest romance, the relationship between the two convey a nuance of sadness and misfortune. The “fault” in our stars refers to something problematical in their relationship, or fate bringing the two lovers together for a short period of time, and then separating them. The Fault in Our Stars also alludes to other well-known tales such as William Shakespeare’s “star-crossed lovers,” Romeo and Juliet or the famous Chinese folktale, “The Weaver Girl and the Cowherd.” According to legend, the two lovers, Orihime and Hikoboshi (respectively represented by the stars Vega and Altair) are separated by the Milky Way, and are only allowed to meet once a year—the seventh day of the seventh lunar month—when the stars, Vega and Altair, are under the same sky and are able to see each other.
Now, I found Peter van Houten’s character amusing. He is an eccentric, but also an arrogant and rude alcoholic writer. I think that the film’s portrayal of him (Williem Dafoe as Peter van Houten) was spot on: he was exactly what I pictured him to be. In fact during the film, I was smirking at the part when Peter van Houten played Swedish hip-hop music when meeting Hazel and Augustus.
Aside from Peter van Houten, I thought Augustus and Hazel’s characters and the development of their relationship is realistically portrayed. While reading, there were many jokes and adorable moments between the two; in which makes the reader feel as if he or she were also there, sharing the moment with them. Although Augustus Waters is a self-proclaimed virgin and he never had a serious relationship before Hazel, I honestly think he has more game than we, as readers, give him credit for. In fact, I think that Augustus’ sudden interest in Hazel’s favorite book, An Imperial Affliction, and also the trip to Amsterdam, was his game plan to “put the moves on” Hazel Grace Lancaster. Thus, I conclude that Augustus Waters could be seen as a ladies’ man.
One of the main dilemmas for Hazel and Augustus is figuring out the actual ending of An Imperial Affliction. As I read, I kept wondering why was it so important for Hazel and Augustus to have an “actual” ending to the book which ends with a mid-sentence. Well, from Hazel and Augustus’ perspective, they do not have enough time to actually live their lives due to their illnesses. Henceforth, they desire for the main protagonist of An Imperial Affliction to be guaranteed a “decent ending (life),” because Hazel and Augustus won’t have one.
I think the mid-sentence ending of that novel is a perfect metaphor for life. Some of our life goals and wishes are stability and solutions to our problems. At times, we wish for a fortune-teller to predict our futures: we all hope to live a good life; in which when once we are at our deathbeds, we can reflect on our lives and actually smile. Yet in reality, it doesn’t work that way. We can’t predict the future, but instead we hope and pray in the back of our minds that “everything will turn out okay in the end.” Since we can’t predict our futures, we read books and watch films because those characters have endings, and those endings are usually idealistic and meet our expectations about what our lives should be like. As for Hazel, it annoys her that her favorite book, An Imperial Affliction, has no actual ending. There is no guarantee or reassurance that the main character will live a “good life,” which I ironically thought is an appropriate ending because that is how life actually is.