I’m going to tackle a major pop phenomenon by reviewing John Green’s story of star-crossed cancer patients almost a year after the movie came out. And my opinion will probably differ vastly from the scads of teens who flocked to theaters and as well as the confirmed “Nerdfighters” dedicated to the 2012 book.
The Fault in our Stars is a sweet romance between two teens with cancer. Green does a marvelous job getting us inside Hazel’s head and creating not just sympathy (that’s easy) but relatablity with a character who totes an oxygen tank and participates in experimental cancer treatments. Her boyfriend, Gus, an athlete who survived his carcinoma but lost a leg in the process, is hugely likeable. Their relationship is quirky and unrushed, their dialogue witty, and I was cheering for them both all the way.
If that’s all it was, a teary little romance, I’d give it a glowing review. I really did enjoy the story. But I have three strong cautions for you, moms. Hazel and Gus do have sex. Just so you know it’s in there. And the book includes a good deal of language, including a vast amount of profanity involving the names of God and Christ. The last one is a little more sneaky but not at all subtle. That would be the deeper philosophical issues expounded upon at length. Basically, Green has created two kids facing untimely death and used them to write an emotional theology for atheism.
A few quotes: “I’d always associated belief in heaven with, frankly, a kind of intellectual disengagement.” “I fear your faith has been misplaced–but then, faith usually is.” “You are a side effect of an evolutionary process that cares little for individual lives. You are a failed experiment in mutation.” And “I am in love with you, and I know that love is just a shout into the void, and that oblivion is inevitable, and that we’re all doomed and that there will come a day when all our labor has been returned to dust, and I know the sun will swallow the only earth we’ll ever have, and I am in love with you.” Getting the picture? It’s a veiled reincarnation of the age-old question, “How can God be real if there is so much suffering in the world?” John Green’s answer? He can’t be. We are just by-products of the unfeeling course of the universe.
Meaningless, all is meaningless.
That’s the book in a nutshell. And while I found Hazel and Gus’s story engaging and beautiful, their conclusions were utterly hopeless and depressing and contrary to everything I believe. This one will not be getting passed along to my daughter.