The student news site of Los Altos High School in Los Altos, California

The Talon

The student news site of Los Altos High School in Los Altos, California

The Talon

The student news site of Los Altos High School in Los Altos, California

The Talon

‘The Fault in Our Stars’ Is An Infinitely Deep Story

“I’m not a mathematician, but I know this,” 16-year-old Hazel Grace Lancaster states. “There are infinite numbers between 0 and 1… Of course, there is a bigger infinite set of numbers between 0 and 2.”

The problem is that Hazel has lung cancer, which causes her to be constantly short of breath and as a side effect, short of days as well. “There are days, many of them, when I resent the size of my unbounded set,” she says. “I want more numbers than I’m likely to get.”
So begins Hazel’s search for a “forever within the numbered days” in John Green’s latest book, “The Fault in Our Stars.”

Against her wishes, she finds this in Augustus Waters, a boy at a cancer support group that her mom forces her to attend. After joking about the support group leader’s misuse of literality (“we are standing here in the Literal Heart of Jesus”) they become friends (with none of the annoying cat-and-mouse flirting games so often found in chick lit).

He’s also a osteosarcoma survivor with a prosthetic leg. “An excellent weight-loss strategy. Legs are heavy!” he quips.

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But beware, this isn’t your regular chick lit where the (usually jaded) main character ends up surviving against all odds and rides off into the sunset with her boyfriend. Green doesn’t attempt to sugarcoat or ionize reality. He simply lets the world do its work and presents reality as it is. There are awkward oxygen tank and tubes that get in the way of kissing, and the main characters are well aware of how little time they have left.

But that’s not to say that “The Fault in Our Stars” is your typical depressing “cancer book” either. In fact, Hazel states that “cancer books suck.” Her favorite book, “An Imperial Affliction,” follows the life of a cancer victim who decides to go against cancer book canon and create a foundation for People with Cancer Who Want to Cure Cholera.

It is this book that unites Augustus Waters and Hazel, as they travel to Amsterdam (using a Wish from The Genie Foundation) to meet the cynical recluse of an author, Peter Van Houten. Even though the meeting doesn’t go as expected, they soon learn that there are days that no one can take away from them.
“The Fault in Our Stars” is incredibly readable and accessible to teenagers in a way that many books by adult authors aren’t. John Green doesn’t need to bend down to look you in the eye (he’s of average height, after all). And instead of the author having to try to reach out to teenagers, it feels as if he is used to being surrounded by thousands and thousands of them on a daily basis. And he is. It’s no wonder that this is the author who also has millions of views on his Youtube channel, vlogbrothers, which he produces with his brother Hank Green. They and their followers call themselves “nerdfighters,” people whose sole mission in the world is to “increase awesome and decrease suck.”

The prose is easy to read, but it isn’t dumbed down either. Green easily mentions Kierkegaard and Williams Carlos Williams while integrating philosophical discussions inside complicated syntax and mathematical musings. It’s quirky, funny and refreshingly interesting.

The book also delivers a fulfilling sense of pure, undiluted emotion and strays far from the typical sentimentality doled out by similar books in its genre. It achieves this by staying true to the reality of disease and teenage life (this is the first young-adult book I’ve read where the male teenage character actually plays video games. I mean, come on!).

There are no cliche Last Words, nor does the book seek to give a definitive ending to death or grieving. The only thing it seeks is to give meaning to the infinity of emotions and sensations within our own finite existence. And that alone is enough.
“Some infinities are bigger than other infinities,” Hazel says.

I’ve heard my math teacher say this before, but it never made sense until now.

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