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Book Club: The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

Where: MEMBERS ONLY 
When: Tue Mar 20    
Contact: Contact Form  
Public details: From the NYT book review: Hazel Lancaster has thyroid cancer that has spread calamitously to her lungs when she meets Augustus Waters, a former basketball player who has lost a leg to osteosarcoma, at a support group for cancer kids in Indianapolis. Augustus lends Hazel his favorite book, “The Price of Dawn,” the “brilliant and haunting novelization of my favorite video game,” so she lends him hers: “An Imperial Affliction” by Peter Van Houten, about a girl who has cancer. Van Houten ends his novel abruptly in the middle of a sentence, and Hazel is obsessed with finding out what happened to the characters. Augustus, too, becomes riveted by “An Imperial Affliction,” and uses his “wish” from “The Genie Foundation,” an organization devoted to the cheering up of sick children, to send himself and Hazel to Amsterdam to meet Van Houten.

At first Augustus, like Asher, seems too good to be true. He’s sexy and smart, and he appears to want nothing more than to do nice things for Hazel. But we come to understand how Gus’s illness has forced him to confront the big questions of life and death. Over the course of the narrative, his appealing exterior breaks down; his flaws, fears and humiliations are exposed, yet he is all the more lovable for his frailty and heartbreaking humanity. This is a love story, but it is also a book by John Green, author of “Looking for Alaska” and “Paper Towns,” and it is written in his signature tone, a blend of melancholy, sweet, philosophical and funny. When Hazel decides to give away her childhood swing set because the sight of it depresses her, she considers this headline for the Craigslist ad: “Lonely, Vaguely Pedophilic Swing Set Seeks the Butts of Children.” Green’s characters may be improbably witty, but even under the direst circumstances they are the kind of people you wish you knew.

“The Fault in Our Stars” is all the more heart-rending for its bluntness about the medical realities of cancer. There are harrowing descriptions of pain, shame, anger and bodily fluids of every type. It is a narrative without rainbows or flamingoes; there are no magical summer snowstorms. Instead, Hazel has to lug a portable oxygen tank with her wherever she goes, and Gus has a prosthetic leg. Their friend Isaac is missing an eye and later goes blind. These unpleasant details do nothing to diminish the romance; in Green’s hands, they only make it more moving. He shows us true love — two teenagers helping and accepting each other through the most humiliating physical and emotional ordeals — and it is far more romantic than any sunset on the beach.

 
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