what i'm reading: the fault in our stars, a truly great novel for youth and not-youth

I am in the middle of reading The Fault In Our Stars by John Green, a book almost too painful to read but impossible to put down. It's achingly funny, profoundly insightful, and utterly heartbreaking, all at the same time. The Fault In Our Stars is supposedly a youth novel, but please don't let that stop you from reading it. It is simply a wonderful book.

Hazel has cancer, and her life expectancy is short. Augustus is a cancer survivor, and has the prosthetic leg to prove it. Hazel and Augustus, two smart, funny, and otherwise ordinary teenagers, fall in love.

How do you cope with cancer as a teenager? How do you cope with love when you have cancer? How do we humans love when we know that our loved one will one day die? Why are we so helpless when our loved ones are in pain? Hazel and Augustus live through all the universal questions of love and loss, and all the universal questions of adolesence, all at once, and with a pronounced urgency. If that sounds sad, it is. But it's also witty and irreverent and funny, and wonderfully sweet, although never sentimental.

Indeed, The Fault In Our Stars is anti-sentimental: it is something of a fiction version of Bright-Sided, skewering society's standard responses to cancer, especially to sick children. Green digs deeper to expose the guilt, the fears, the isolation, and the other-ness faced daily by young people with illness and disability. I found these moments searing in their accuracy.

At the same time, Green reveals the love and joy that might be otherwise obscured by our sadness and sympathy.

The story is narrated by 16-year-old Hazel, and the voice feels unerringly authentic. Hazel Lancaster joins Roddy Doyle's Paula Spencer as Exhibit A in the Good Writing Knows No Gender proof.

When I put this book on hold at my library, there were more than 200 people waiting to read one of the 30 copies in the system. IMDB tells me that the movie adaptation will be released next year. I hope John Green makes a big pile of money and continues to write such masterpieces.

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