‘The Fault in Our Stars’ tells bittersweet, charming love story

by Karin Tompkins

Young adult novelist John Green, author of the award-winning novels “Looking for Alaska” and “Paper Towns,” alters his storytelling method for his new novel, “The Fault in Our Stars.” Green’s previous novels tell stories of unrequited love from the perspective of skinny, geeky young men, but in Green’s new novel, the protagonist is a terminally ill female who very quickly finds and develops a romantic relationship with a one-legged, “metaphorically-inclined” basketball star.

This change in pace may seem strange for those who have previously read Green’s novels, which so poignantly capture the bitterness of unreciprocated emotions and the awkwardness of adolescence. In “The Fault in Our Stars,” however, Hazel and Augustus immediately act on their feelings for one another, leaping into love before the cancer present in both their bodies can take away their opportunity to spend time together. The rapid maturation of Hazel’s and Augustus’s relationship allows Green to explore deeper themes with his new work, transcending previous elaboration on longing, frustration and pursuit of the “dream girl” for a new discussion, as Hazel’s disease and her relationship with Augustus force her to confront the fundamental realities of life and death.

With this new novel, Green continues to demonstrate his knack for blending serious, even tragic, situations with laugh-out-loud humor. Overall, “The Fault in Our Stars” is a heart-rending love story and rightfully lacks most of the wacky antics of Green’s previous books, but Hazel’s wry observations and Augustus’s charm provide levity. Targeted toward young adults, Green captures the teenage voice impeccably, yet peppers his work with sufficiently elevated diction and literary references to keep sophisticated readers happy. Even the novel’s title is an homage to Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar,” which should establish that “The Fault in Our Stars” is not your average YA novel, nor is it your average “cancer story.” This book may induce tears in even the least sentimental reader, and it certainly inspires thought and provides a heaping helping of perspective.