The Fault in Our Stars is Not About Teen Cancer


This blog is about The Fault in Our Stars by John Green, and contains absolutely no spoilers. For those of you who haven’t heard of this, I’ll save you the google search and give you the synopsis:

“Despite the tumor-shrinking medical miracle that has bought her a few years, Hazel has never been anything but terminal, her final chapter inscribed upon diagnosis. But when a gorgeous plot twist names Augustus Waters suddenly appears at Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazel’s story is about to be completely rewritten.”

I was a bit skeptical going in, with various comments ranging from ‘John Green is so clichéd’ to ‘teen cancer is overrated’. But someone lent it to me so I had to read and just –

This is one of my favorite books of all time. To the point where I almost don’t want anyone else to read it ever. Because it spoke to me so deeply that to recommend it would be like handing you a piece of me and that’s just not how I do.

Both of the above comments have frustrated me so much and I’m here to explain to you why they are wrong and see what y’all think.

So. Fact: John Green’s books are pretty clichéd plot wise. Fact: It’s not a bad thing. Even a little bit. The thing about John Green’s writing and just the way he tells stories in general is they are extremely honest. There is something almost personal about each of his books. I mean, every fiction writer inadvertently puts something extremely personal on the page, but with John Green it’s a bit more apparent. And the thing about clichés is that most people lead a clichéd life. Yes, a lot of the time the guy does get a chance with the chick he has no chance with. Yes, most teenagers hate life. And, while this may come as a shock, all types of girls watch America’s Next Top Model, no matter how above it they may seem. Sometimes people die or people start acting strangely for no reason and it does not matter a bit if these aspects of actual life are used when writing fiction. What matters is how you portray them. And John Green does it honestly. You don’t find yourself rolling you eyes at the topic that has definitely been done, rather you find yourself engaging in a very honest story. And for that, I appreciate everything he writes.

Now. Teen cancer being overrated and all that. Yeah, sure, we don’t need another story where two characters fall in love but – oh no! – one has a terminal disease. And they fight to the end with the strength and bravery of a Spartan, but they can’t beat it and they die and it’s really sad and super dramatic. I could go on and on about the book very openly pointing out this cliché, I could talk about the fact that both characters start out sick and meet at a support group, I could even bring in the fact that death in this book is more of a factual splutter than a dramatic battle . But I am not going to do this because there is one overreaching truth. And that is: The Fault in Our Stars is not about teen cancer.

The book, like a lot of books, is about a great many things. One could say it’s about living as best you can, since we all do die in the end. One could say it’s about love and friendship. I’ve even heard someone say the book is about beauty. For me (and some other people I’ve talked to) the book is, at its core, asking and perhaps answering a question. What’s the point of it all? Why do we keep doing what we’re doing, knowing it’s meaningless in the grand scheme of things and we’re all going to die anyway? Whatever the original intent, this is what the story became. There is a character completely based around the idea of someone who asked this question, found no answer, and simply gave up. The main characters struggle with this question and seem to find an answer, even though it’s not really stated explicitly. And the title. The Fault in Our Stars. Based on this line from Julius Caesar: “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, / But in ourselves, that we are underlings.” Throughout this play, there is a lot of fortune telling and future predictions and all that stuff and astrology was definitely a thing in Rome. So how I take it, good ol’ Billy Shakespeare is saying that it is not our perceived fate that destroys us, but rather our weakness in the face of this. So for the title of this books, it goes into what you choose to let destroy you, how to choose to live your life, what it means to be human, why we’re all doing this and all that good stuff. Because that’s what the book is really about.

Just – everything about this story was so beautiful. It was tragic, but un-dramatic. It was hopeful, but through the eyes of a cynic. It was emotional, but so honest. Everything worked, and everything was, in typical John Green fashion, presented as terrible and wonderful as life actually is.

That seems like a good place to leave it. Have a nice day.

7 thoughts on “The Fault in Our Stars is Not About Teen Cancer

  1. I admit, I was skeptical about picking up this book when it started becoming really “big” because most “hyped” books are just that, hyped. But then I fell inside the book (lived inside its pages), and it changed my perspective. A lot. I enjoyed what you had to say about TFiOS, and I’m glad that there is one other person who feels the same about it.

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