2014 started off like any other year in our house – watching the ball drop over Times Square, making a couple toasts, and, of course, my wife announcing her annual list of “movies we are going to see this year.” The list was packed full of the usual fare: Marvel movies, a few comedies, and, in June, “The Fault in Our Stars.” I was thrown for a loop, but my wife told me I had to read the book.
Fast forward to early April… during an editorial meeting for this blog, we were brainstorming topics and Dr. Sawicki asked if I had read “The Fault in Our Stars” by John Green. I told him that I was putting it off, but my wife really enjoyed it. He told me to read it and consider writing a review. I wasn’t sure what a movie featuring up-and-comer Shailene Woodley had to do with supportive or palliative care, but I was game so here we go.
A Quick Synopsis
For those who might not know the basics of the story, “The Fault in Our Stars” is told in the first-person by a girl named Hazel. Hazel has terminal cancer, but is currently in remission. She attends a local cancer support group, where she makes friends with a spirited young man named Augustus. They have an instant connection and the story documents their journey, in good times and bad.
While I questioned the connection to supportive care at first, from the first chapter, the writing was on the wall: the main character has cancer and is dealing with a terminal illness as are many of the characters around her.
Not having read a book told in the first-person by someone with cancer, let alone one just out of high school, I was intrigued to learn more. The way that the characters develop and react to their illnesses and the people around them is truly the driver for this story.
The one distraction, for me, was the believability of the dialogue… at first. In the first few chapters, I found myself questioning whether or not teenagers really talked in the romanticized version of dialogue that John Green has put together. As I got into the characters and plot later in the story, I realized that the dialogue really did fit the entire world that Green developed.
What Really Makes the Story
Once I got over these initial thoughts and feelings, I really was drawn into the characters, and for “The Fault in Our Stars,” the characters and the imagery described for certain scenes are what really drew me in. There were definitely some moments where I felt I was standing right beside the characters, feeling what they felt. This is truly where Green excels in his story-telling.
From a supportive care perspective, the value of this book is in the way the characters deal with their own illnesses and how they perceive the illnesses around them. John Green also captures the way these “grenades” deal with their family and friends who aren’t sick.
While we might assume that cancer patients might be sad, lonely, and in pain, Green shows us a whole other world; these patients are human like the rest of us and they feel just like we do, through ups and downs.
Long Story Short…
The long story short is… that “The Fault in Our Stars” by John Green is a wonderful book to read for anyone at any age. It is a pretty quick and easy read, but the message it delivers is one that will resonate long after you’ve put it back up on the shelf.
I would also encourage anyone who is interested to check out the movie, featuring Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort, in theatres June 2014.