Welcome to Liz’s Lemonade Stand, where the lemons of life are twisted into the sweetest lemonade.
The Lemon: It’s a dreary, gray winter day–the kind of drab conjured only by piles of street-dirtied snow and scrawny, silent branches poking out of the ground like bleached coral. A soupy sky overhead causes you to question the existence of the sun as a biting wind worms its way into any and every crevice it can. The stage is set for a perfect day of curling up with a book and something warm to drink- the problem is, aside from that anthropology textbook, you’ve got nothing to read!
The Lemonade: If you’re craving a curl-up-and-hibernate type book, look no further than The Fault in Our Stars, by John Green. A New York Times bestseller and upcoming movie (to be released in June 2014), there’s a decent chance you’ve already heard about it. If you have yet to treat yourself to reading it, I implore you to locate a copy as soon as you possibly can.
The Fault in Our Stars is told through the eyes and voice of Hazel Grace Lancaster, a tenacious 16 year-old living with terminal cancer. With a sharp tongue and wisdom beyond her years, Hazel’s no-nonsense attitude immediately evaporates the possibility of another cliché, “kid with cancer” book. Green wastes no time introducing the beautiful soul Augustus Waters to the story, bringing them together at a cancer Support Group meeting.
Augustus is a 17 year-old charmer living in remission of osteosarcoma. He looks for metaphors in the mundane with the same level of persistence you’d expect from a dog searching for crumbs under the table; only Hazel rivals his insightful intellect. Star crossed lovers, soul mates, best friends: whatever term you choose fits the fated duo like a well-worn pair of jeans. Their unlikely friendship just works, unhindered by prosthetics and oxygen tanks.
Instead of fixating on the standard connotations surrounding cancer, Green writes from the perspective of the cancer patient. Hazel, for one, is not defined by the disease. She recognizes that it is literally a part of her but it does not have to be who she is. Likewise, Augustus cheerily echoes this sentiment with his personal catchphrase, “I’m on a roller coaster that only goes up, my friend.” What this novel does so well is capture the raw earnestness of young love, a feat that many other books fail to properly do. The emotions of the characters are not over the top, but as real as fiction can make them. Predictably, tragedy strikes the world’s most adorable (and admirable) couple, but it falls less like the blow of a sledgehammer and more like an overdue first snow blanketing a barren forest.
Hazel and Augustus shine like the faulted stars that they are. Rapid-fire humor and insightful dialogue, as well as goofy teenage shenanigans, make this book completely irresistible. I inhaled its 313 pages in two and a half days, though I probably would’ve finished it in one had time allowed me to. When I wasn’t reading it, the characters were never far from my mind, a surefire sign of success on the author’s part. Obviously a quick read, I was struck at how clever Green’s writing is. Crisply unique, The Fault in Our Stars is seasoned with oodles of literary references that every avid literature student will be able to nerd-out over. Go ahead, knock yourself out analyzing any one of the abundant metaphors. Keep your eyes peeled for masterfully placed references to classic works like Waiting for Godot and Slaughterhouse Five. Revel in the notion that great literature for young adults does, in fact, exist in today’s world of poorly written pulp fiction.
A review by The Atlantic sums up this novel perfectly: “This is a book that breaks your heart- not by wearing it down, but by making it bigger and bigger until it bursts.” A word of advice to any future readers: do not read this book in public, for two reasons. One, you will become a sobbing mess; and two, it deserves your utmost attention. So what are you waiting for? Grab a mug of hot chocolate, locate a comfy place to curl up, and prepare yourself to fall in love.