Sixteen-year-old Hazel has lived the roller coaster ride of a terminal cancer diagnosis for the last three years. Now, each breath comes with a price, and she cannot go anywhere without a small portable oxygen tank in tow. Meds prevent the tumors from growing, for now.
At a weekly support group, she listens to tales of other teens fiercely battling cancer. Listens but remains apart, until the unexpected entrance of Augustus Waters.
Augustus draws Hazel out of her self-imposed seclusion with his unflappable visionary nature. He is in many ways the opposite of the quiet, brooding Hazel, and her perfect foil. As the two begin to know each other, they swap favorite novels, and Augustus falls headfirst in love with Hazel’s pick, a novel about cancer called An Imperial Affliction. As the two discuss the book, its philosophical brilliance and painfully tantalizing unanswered questions, their bond deepens.
Terrified of causing the destructive grief that must result from falling in love with someone with a terminal diagnosis, Hazel pulls away from Augustus. He pursues her relentlessly, even spending his wish from a cancer organization to take Hazel to Amsterdam to meet the author of her favorite novel (seriously, what literary lover can resist this kind of wooing? Talk about big guns.)
Amsterdam is everything and nothing Hazel could have hoped for: her dreams dashed and come true at the same time. In response, she must decide how to live her life and what she believes about herself, others, and eternity in the face of faithlessness on the part of humanity and the universe.
John Green has proved his valor as a writer worthy of tackling the deep emotional and cosmic issues with earlier novels, but this novel may yet be his most incredible work. This novel tackles the big human questions about life, love, and loss, exploring at once what they mean and how one responds to them. All this and yet the story remains poignant and breathtaking and sometimes quite hilarious. And tragic. This is another one to read with tissues handy.
Also worthy of note: The Fault in Our Stars the movie will hit the big screen in 2014.
Main characters watch a young couple kiss and briefly fondle over clothing. One scene (without graphic detail) implies that the characters have sex.
As the characters face the reality of their diagnoses, they wonder about and discuss what happens after death. Hazel does not believe in God or heaven. Augustus believes in a more nebulous Something beyond.
While this isn’t violent content, it is only fair to mention that there are some heavy descriptions of different medical treatments and their side effects as well as the dying process. These are critical elements to the story, but some sensitive readers may find them too intense.
Augustus has an unusual habit of hanging a cigarette from his mouth which he never lights, but instead revels in the metaphoric significance of this action. Gus and Hazel sip champagne over a fancy dinner. Hazel and Augustus undergo various cancer treatments involving different types of medications.