The Fault in our Stars by John Green ISBN: 9780525478812
Plot Summary: Hazel has terminal cancer of the lungs. She knows that her time is limited. But then she meets Gus, who is in remission, at the support group her parents make her go to. Gus is handsome and funny and, for some reason, thinks Hazel is really cute even though she has chipmunk cheeks. Hazel tries to resist liking Gus, but she can’t help it, and the two fall headfirst into a deep relationship. Gus even uses his “Genie Wish” to take Hazel to Amsterdam so she can meet the author of her favorite book and find out what happens at the end of his cancer book. This might sound like your standard cancer book, but it has wit and snark and an undeniable smartness.
Critical Evaluation: This is a hard book for me to evaluate, because I like it so much that I can be blinded to its faults. I will do my best to examine it more closely and not gush too much. I’d like to compare it to the movie Juno, which is also very witty, but almost to a fault. I found myself asking, both during reading “The Fault in Our Stars” and while watching Juno, are there really people who talk like this? (And how come I’m not one of them?) As characters, Gus and Hazel are very witty, funny, elegant, and unlike most teenagers I’ve met. But they are not totally improbable. I have known at least a couple people like that in high school, so I know it is possible, and I just need an author to prove to me that this person is possible in this exact manifestation. With John Green, I buy it. When Hazel first meets Gus, he makes several comments playing off his soon to be blind friend. And Hazel can recite “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.” It still felt plausible to me. Both still show that they are teens, with instances of both whining at and fighting with their parents, just like any other teen.
This book is not one I would call fast paced, but nor does it move slowly. We are given the details we need to establish Hazel’s background and world before Gus, and then the two can sort of leisurely begin to pursue one another. The trip to Amsterdam feels like a whirlwind, much like any vacation does. Gus’ relapse comes on far too quickly and drags just the right amount. In life these things drag, but, at least for me, it never felt indulgent.
Reader’s Annotation: Hazel has cancer and falls in love with Gus, not knowing how much time they have left together. But this is not your average cancer book, because as Hazel says, those books suck.
Information about the author: John Green was born in Indianapolis, Indiana on August 24, 1977. He attended Kenyon College and majored in English and Religious Studies. He has been a publishing assistant and production editor for Booklist as well.
Many of his books have been well received and honored over the years. “Looking for Alaska” won the Michael L. Printz Award. “An Abundance of Katherines” was also nominated for the same award. “Paper Towns” was awarded both the Edgar Award for Best Young Adult Novel and the Corine Literature Prize. He is also well known for being one of the Vlog Brothers, whose video blog has quite a following.
Genre: Realistic Fiction, Romance
Curriculum ties, if any: None in particular.
Booktalking Ideas: My classmates had fantastic booktalks for this during the presentation, but as far as my own booktalk, I would highlight how funny this book is. I would have to mention that it is a cancer book, but that it doesn’t act like other cancer books. Some will have heard of John Green and/or the Vlog Brothers, so I think this would also be good to highlight.
Reading Level/Interest Age: The main character is 16. I would also say that the language and sexual scene make this slightly more appropriate for a high school reader. School Library Journal recommends this book for grades 9 and up.
- Sexual situation
- First, I would want to be familiar with book. As I’ve read this book, I’d be aware of potential issues that could be challenged. In the case of a book I had not read, I would want to have access to reviews.
- Then I would put together a rationale for why this book is included in the collection. This rationale would include:
- Bibliographic Citation of the book.
- A description of who the book is best suited for.
- A summary of the book and applicable other information, such as biographical information about the author.
- My justification for including the book. This would include how it fits in with the selection policy and library mission statement, and include its educational significance if applicable or the impact it could have on readers.
- Copy of selection policy and library mission statement at my library.
- ALA Library Bill of Rights
- Good and bad reviews of the book
- Alternative works a student could read
- Reconsideration form if patron is not satisfied with rationale
- When talking to patron, I would listen to their concerns without getting on the defensive and attempt to sympathize with their concerns. In some cases, all an upset patron needs is to be able to vent and know that someone is listening to them.
- If needed, I would send the challenge up the chain of command.
There is a fair amount of coarse language in this book. However, that just makes it a more authentic read for a teenager. (My sister was called the truck driver on her high school soccer team, and it wasn’t because of her driving skills.) Though these teens have sex in the book, it is very subtly described, so there are no scenes that could be considered graphic. As I’ve said before, this book represents aspects of people’s lives that are not so pleasant or sanitized, but should still be available for the solace they can provide for anyone affected by cancer, or diversion for any other reader.
Why did you include this book? : This was a required title for class, but it is also a well written and unique story that is quite popular.
Green, J. (2013). Bio page. John Green website. Retrieved from http://johngreenbooks.com/bio-c