So I did a quick search and came up with the story of how The Fault in Our Stars came to be (a brief career stint John Green had, directly out of school, where he worked with terminally ill kids), how he decided he felt bad for all the kids who live somewhere he'll never do a signing- so he decided to sign the entire first print run of The Fault in Our Stars (150,000 books!), and how when he announced this it sent the book to the top of the Amazon and Barnes and Noble pre-order sales lists, and finally how all this hoopla advanced the print of the book by 5 months!
These were all decidedly impressive things. I went out first thing Wednesday and bought myself a copy, signed of course. Lets face it, when that many book compatriots say jump, I say when, where and how high?
Can I just say? Where have you been all my life John Green!? HOW have I not read any of your other books? And good lord I need to rectify that grievous bibliophile mistake.
Hazel Grace is terminally ill. She's been terminally ill since she was 12 and she's now 16. She lives an in between life of not health and not death. It's less than amusing. But it will get decidedly better when Augustus Waters shows up at her weekly support group.
This was such an impressive book. It was equal parts funny and heart wrenching. Like laugh-out-loud funny and I-cried-quite-often heart wrenching. This is not a book you read commuting to work, unless you don't mind people staring. It was completely engrossing just on the merit of the characters, without a melodramatic plot or contrived love triangle. But the most impressive thing by far is how well John Green seemingly captures the life of a terminally ill teen. I say seemingly because I have not experienced it so I'm no expert, but it feels real and 100% true. This isn't a pandering look at how sad terminally ill kids are, this is the sarcastic, charming and sometimes angsty view point of a teen who's been terminally ill for their entire teen experience, with all the requisite video games, American Next Top Model marathons and crushing breakups that normally come with the territory.
Augustus Waters drove horrifically. Wheter stopping or starting, everything happened with a stupendous JOLT. I flew against the seat belt of his Toyota SUV each time he braked, and my neck snapped backward each tie he hit the gas. I might have been nervous- what with sitting in the car of a strange boy on the way to his house, keenly aware that my crap lungs complicate efforts to fend off unwanted advances- but his driving was so astonishingly poor that I could think of nothing else.
We'd gone perhaps a mile in jagged silence before Augustus said, "I failed the driving test three tines."
"You don't say."
He laughed, nodding. "Well, I can't feel pressure in old Prosty, and I can't get the hang of driving left-footed. My doctors say most amputees can drive with no problem, but...yeah. Not me. Anyway, I go in for my fourth driving test, and it goes about like this is going." A half mile in front of us, a light turned red. Augustus slammed on the brakes, tossing me into the triangular embrace of the seat belt. "Sorry. I swear to God I am trying to be gentle. Right, so anyway, at the end of the test, I totally thought I'd failed again, but the instructor was like, 'Your driving is unpleasant, but it isn't technically unsafe."
"I'm not sure I agree," I said. "I suspect Cancer Perk."
Green has managed to create some of the most enchanting characters I've ever spent time with. Hazel and Augustus are incredible, I want to have children one day that are every bit as amusing and brilliant. Even their names are perfect. But Hazel's parents, and their friend in illness Isaac are equally amazing and wonderfully rounded. Hazels mom broke my heart as she talks about what she'll do after Hazel's gone, and every time her dad cries I wanted to hug him. They all stayed with me long after I finished reading and they've made me think a great deal about what stamp you leave on the world, whether it be during a short or a long life.
It was, without a doubt, the most affecting book I've read in a long time, it even surpasses A Monster Calls and that book made me bawl like a baby. It's amazing how joyous a story he was able to tell with a story that's still so sad. But I walked away with joy and hope, and very swollen eyes from crying.
Now I need to lay off the death books for awhile, obviously.
The Fault in Our Stars, By John Green
Published by Dutton Juvenile, January 2012
Buy The Fault in Our Stars on Amazon (as long as it's a first edition it should be signed)
Are you like me? Somehow completely ignorant of the John Green phenomena and want a quick run down of his career and where this book came from? Try this awesome article in the Sydney Morning Herald.