29 January 2013

Teen Tuesday

The Fault in Our Stars* by John Green (Dutton hardcover, 10 January 2012).

Hazel Lancaster is sixteen, and has lived with a diagnosis of fatal thyroid cancer for three years.  A very intelligent young woman, she hasn't attended school for some time, but has managed to earn her GED at home, and attends classes at the local community college when she feels up to it.

Due to the help of an experimental drug, her life has lasted longer than expected, but the disease is advanced enough that she has to take an oxygen tank with her everywhere.  Her relatively solitary life and her disease have (not unexpectedly) led to depression and her doctor has encouraged her to attend a support group for teens with cancer.  Since her parents agree, she does, even though she thinks its a bit lame.

But at one meeting, she meets Augustus Waters, a few months older than she.  He tells her he's attending the meeting to support his friend Isaac, who is one of the few people at the meetings that Hazel likes.

Hazel and Gus click immediately, and begin to spend time together.  She learns that he also had cancer, but has been in remission since one of his legs was amputated.  They exchange favorite novels.  His is called The Price of Dawn, and is about a soldier named Max Mayhem who kills hundreds throughout the course of the book (presumably in the name of peace, justice and The American Way).  Hers is entitled An Imperial Affliction and is written by a (fictional) author named Peter Van Houten, from the point of view of a girl named Anna, and ends abruptly in the middle of a sentence when Anna presumably dies. 

Hazel is frustrated at not knowing what happened to the girl's mother and stepfather after Anna's death. This information, for some reason, is very important to her, and she 's written to the author multiple times with no reply.

Although Green manages to describe the development of a relationship between two teens with cancer honestly and without overdoing the sentiment, it's still an emotion-laden book to read, whether one has a fatal disease or not.  Although it's marketed for teens, it's also suitable for mature adults.    

*"The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars,
But in ourselves, that we are underlings."
Julius Caesar, I, ii, 140-141

 FTC full disclosure:  I picked up an advance reading copy of this book at ALA last June.  

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