There are no beautiful creatures with magic superpowers in his best-known book. Just ordinary kids.
The setting is not a dystopian future. The setting is right now, in a part of middle America not unlike Springfield, and the characters are two young people fighting for their lives in a battle with cancer.
And nothing catches fire, except youthful stirrings of first love.
The book is The Fault In Our Stars, published two years ago by thirtysomething wunderkind John Green (motto: "Don't forget to be awesome"), who based the story on his experiences working as a very young chaplain in a Chicago children’s hospital.
And that poetic title? With the hint of tragedy? It comes from a Shakespeare play that’s often assigned to high-school readers: Julius Caesar. In Act I, Scene 2, the nobleman Cassius says to Brutus, “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, / But in ourselves, that we are underlings.”
The Fault In Our Stars is the sweetly sad story of 16-year-old Hazel Grace Lancaster. While she’s not exactly a Shakespearean “underling,” she is an underdog, having been diagnosed with end-stage thyroid cancer as a child. Hazel Grace accepts the reality of this terminal disease until a happenstance meeting with 17-year-old Gus Waters -- an amputee who also attends her cancer support group -- leads to a new relationship that causes both teens to take a second look at love, loss and the many meanings of life.
Far from being a complete tearjerker, TFIOS is filled with humor and has broadly appealed to teens and adults alike. If you have not yet read this extraordinarily moving book, now’s the time. The Fault In Our Stars, called simply “TFIOS” by the legions of internet-connected nerdfighters who love this book (side note: just like Lady Gaga has “little monsters”; John Green has “nerdfighters;” the rest of us might call them “devoted fans”), is being made into a feature film coming to movie theaters June 6, 2014. Already one of the most anticipated films of this year, TFIOS the movie promises to expose John Green’s writing to a much larger audience.
In the meantime, This Star Won't Go Out: The Life and Words of Esther Grace Earl is a nonfiction work published January 28. Written by Lori and Wayne Earl, the book details their daughter Esther’s experience with thyroid cancer before she passed away at age 16. Esther got to know John Green at a Harry Potter convention, and this friendship helped spur Green to write TFIOS (though the stories of Hazel Grace and Esther Grace are pretty different).
Here are the links you’ll need to become a nerdfighter:
John Green’s Author Website
John Green on Social Media
vlogbrothers (John Green’s video blog with his brother, Hank Green)
Project for Awesome (John Green charity project)
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