John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars is a young adult novel about two kids with cancer. Hear me out, though, it’s actually really well done. Our protagonist, Hazel, is a 17-year-old girl with shitty lungs. They constantly acquire fluid and she needs an oxygen tank and cannula (look it up!) to properly breathe at all times. While she’s grateful to still be around, she’s also a bitter teenager, in a way that isn’t obnoxious. She finds her support group completely depressing and useless, with the exception of Isaac, a boy with one good eye. They communicate during group through sighs and eye rolling. It is at Support Group that young Hazel meets Augustus Waters.
Augustus Waters accompanies his dear friend Isaac to group, and Hazel notices him watching her, staring at her. As she puts it: “He was hot. A nonhot boy stares at you relentlessly and it is, at best, awkward and, at worst, a form of assault. But a hot boy…well.” After the meeting they formally meet and Hazel discovers Augustus is missing a leg from the cancer that once ravaged his body. Augustus is immediately enamored of Hazel and tells her so.
While getting to know each other (not in that way, pervs), Hazel reveals her favorite novel, An Imperial Affliction by fictional author Peter Van Houten. She recommends the book to him, and he gives her his favorite, The Price of Dawn. An Imperial Affliction is about a girl named Anna, who has a rare blood cancer, Hazel connects with the novel because Anna is honest and is feeling everything Hazel feels about her own affliction. Anna’s mother falls in love with the Dutch Tulip Man, but Anna believes him to be a con man. Just as the pair are about to get married, the novel ends in the middle of a sentence. Hazel has her own theories on the probable ending of the tale, but homegirl needs answers. Namely, what the hell happened to Anna’s hamster?
Like Hazel, after finishing AIA Augustus has many questions. He does a little investigating about Van Houten and gets in contact with his assistant in Amsterdam. Thus begins a correspondence between Van Houten, Hazel, Augustus, and Van Houten’s assistant, Lidewij. Yes, that’s really her name. The Netherlands, eh? Hazel receives a letter from Van Houten telling her, “Should you ever find yourself in Amsterdam, however, please do pay a visit at your leisure.” Which of course, sends Hazel into a fit of ecstasy and she tells Augustus of the invite. He asks if she’s used her “Wish” yet, that special wish that all cancer patients receive. Indeed, she has; much to his disappointment, she went to Disney World. It turns out Augustus has yet to use his wish. Guess what he uses it for.
It is decided that Augustus, Hazel and Hazel’s mother will go to Amsterdam to have a magical experience at the expense of the Wish Genies. But before they leave, Hazel experiences a health scare and needs her lungs drained. Yummy. So after a bit of a delay, they head to off to meet Hazel’s idol and do a little sight seeing.
The last half of the book deals with what happens while they are in Amsterdam, and after. I won’t go into because it would give too much away and I hate spoilers. While elements of the novel are highly predictable, I was surprised by how honest it was. There’s a lot of press surrounding the novel already, and rumor is they’re in a rush to make it into a film. (Good luck with that). I promise you it’s not Nicholas Sparks, it’s funny and insightful and worth the time.