“I’m on a rollercoaster that only goes up, my friend.”
Living with terminal cancer, Hazel Grace Lancaster is forced to attend a support group, with her parents believing that it will help with her depression. Trudging herself to one, she meets the intriguing Augustus Waters. During their time together, they muse about life, death, and the significance of existence; and they begin a relationship that will change both their lives in ways they cannot imagine.
Hazel Grace Lancaster, the Imperfect Constellation
What struck me the most about Hazel was how authentic she was – coming to terms about her condition in the most honest way possible, and accepting that her life was going to be what each day she was able to get gave to her. She is also one of the few within the support group who does not see the need to put up a front, speaking her mind or maintaining an honest outlook within her head (I will trade my strength for your remission – something she said to a fellow support group member), probably coming off as blunt or direct in the process.
She is also incredibly concerned by the welfare of the people around her – especially people she loves. Her parents’ seeming inactivity, or their behaving as if their world just revolves around her, disturbs her greatly. Even Augustus, who remains concerned about leaving his mark on the world even in his last days, causes her worry when anything happens to him, causing her to bolt out of the house the moment he calls for her.
Despite it all, it does show that she tries to live her life as much as she wants to – from just wanting to watch reality tv marathons to going out and about to support group, and with Augustus and Isaac.
Augustus Waters, Hazel’s Galileo
First appearing as a charming person who seemed to have life more or less figured out, Augustus wastes no time in portraying himself as a person who will spare no resource to reach for the stars. In the case of this novel, the stars, his constellation (whether or not he realized it before), turned out to be Hazel.
While he chases after his legacy, he does it in the most honourable way – preferring to think of the other instead of glorifying himself. And while he may or may not realize it, Augustus Waters becomes a change agent for his friends’ lives. He shows Hazel another path of happiness, one that is outside her built world of ‘An Imperial Affliction’. He also gives Isaac a new view in life, especially after his operation and changes in his social circle. He even applies it to his video game tactics, preferring to sacrifice his own character for the betterment of fictional hostages.
And as much as he had lamented not leaving his mark before leaving the world, it is still questionable whether he had made peace with the fact that he has, indeed, left his mark.
One of the main themes that stood out from the start of the book was probably the theme of legacy.
Starting with Augustus’s fear of oblivion, the book does mention the truth of individual insignificance in the greater scheme of things – that we will all die and our lives will be but a speck of dust in the massive void. Despite that, we, or in this case, Augustus, does his best to ensure that he is remembered or makes a huge difference – leaving a legacy.
However, the definition of legacy gets shifted as the story progresses. Juxtaposed by Augustus’s want and self-imposed need to leave a legacy remembered by all, Hazel presents another definition – mattering and being remembered by people, people who you remember and matter to you.
This is further shown through Augustus listening to both his friend, Isaac, and Hazel speak about him should he leave the world. Despite him seeing himself as insignificant in the greater scheme of things, he slowly realizes that leaving a legacy was not necessarily something one left for the entire world. And that while he might mean little to the world, how he led his life and how his presence meant the world to someone who thought little of leaving her own mark.
Style & Structure
First person narration brings a personal touch, making it relatable as readers are able to experience the story as the narrator intends them to. At the same time, it gives us a glimpse of how Augustus and the world are seen from Hazel’s point of view.
From such a stance, it can be said that despite all the circumstances, she continues to tell her story, with the hint that she continues to be as alive as she is until her story ends.
The Fault in Our Stars was written by John Green. To take a look at the other novels he has written, click here.
In the meantime…