I read John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars a couple years ago. (Another author I got to know through Calvin College’s Festival of Faith and Writing. Even if you have never attended, the booklist on their site is a great place to pick up recommendations.) I haven’t yet gotten to the theatre to see the movie everyone is talking about (Christianity Today gives it a 3-star out of 4 review), but I thought you might be interested in what I wrote about the book in 2012:
As I listened to the audio version, I was following Caring Bridge updates on the chronically ill grandson of friends. The Fault in Our Stars gives me new insights into what this family is dealing with and how this child may feel as he grows toward his teen years.
Hazel’s voice is strong, outspoken and unorthodox. She speaks frankly of the "perks" of cancer, and the number of people she knows (met in support group or hospital waiting rooms) who are dead. Cancer kids aren't saints. The disease is anything but heroic; those who live with it struggle for dignity and dream of living a life that matters. Hazel and Augustus give voice to the struggle against what they see as inevitable oblivion.
Green writes against a backdrop of church, the source of the support group where Hazel and Augustus meet, but the faith of the religious characters is hollow. Hope in an afterlife is a sweet, but unrealistic, sentiment that has nothing to offer dying teens. The philosophy presented is strongly existential. I would want to ask Christian teens reading the book, How does your faith differ from Patrick's endless concern for the way people feel or from the “encouragements” Augustus's parents have posted around their house? How do you think Jesus would respond to Hazel and Augustus's emotional outbursts? What answer does the Bible have for their desire to notice and be noticed by the Universe?
Green writes a powerful story. I fully expect that teens in similar situations will identify as intensely as Hazel and Augustus do with the imaginary book, An Imperial Affliction. I half expected this book to end in mid-sentence as that one does.
I have lived in Indianapolis where most of the action takes place and easily recognized the setting, but it is their visit to Amsterdam that is most vividly portrayed. Not a lot of explicit material, but sex is assumed to be the natural culmination of a loving relationship.
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LeAnne Hardy has lived in six countries on four continents. Her books come out of her cross-cultural experiences and her passion to use story to convey spiritual truths in a form that will permeate lives.
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