The World Is Not A Wish Granting Factory: A Story of Life, Love, and Loss

Green, John. The Fault In Our Stars. USA: Penguin Group, 2012.

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“That’s what I believe. I believe the universe wants to be noticed. I think the universe is improbably biased toward consciousness, that it rewards intelligence in part because the universe enjoys its elegance being observed. And who am I, living in the middle of history, to tell the universe that it- or my observation of it- is temporary?”

Sixteen year old Hazel in John Green's The Fault in Our Stars, has cancer which, as she puts it, is just a side effect of dying along with depression. As a result of the cancer and these side effects, the doctor prescribes weekly Support Group, where Hazel not only meets Issac, but also the one who changes the world as she knows it--Augustus Waters.

Both characters are witty and bright and many times have conversations that are deep for young adolescents. They discuss the after life and leaving a mark on the universe. They are realists who accept and embrace the "suckiness" of cancer, rather than acting positive. They especially connect through the book, An Imperial Affliction by an author named Peter Van Houten. This book is about a girl herself who struggles with cancer, but it ends abruptly and Augustus and Hazel are more than eager to know what happens.

After several attempts to write Peter Van Houten himself and discover some answers, they receive the same response from him--he will not reveal the ending unless he has a secret meeting with them face to face, and he lives in the Netherlands. Augustus had saved his wish from the Make A Wish Foundation and they make arrangements to go meet Peter Van Houten to find out the ending of a book that resonates with both of them.
Although they do not find their answers, they find a deep connection with each other and fall in love. Augustus's cancer returns, making the bond between them even stronger than it was before. Will Augustus survive this next round of cancer?

Green has created a raw and captivating book. While the subject of cancer and death can be a plot that is found in literature many times (think Jodi Picoult's My Sister's Keeper), he has put a twist to the plot that makes readers think about the deeper issues of life. Themes of self-identity, worth, love, this fragile life and how death effects it. Green also brings readers into the world of teenagers with cancer and how their life is different because of it. The Fault in Our Stars refers to old literature and mythology, and the characters are developed well throughout the book. Hazel and Augustus's conversations are complex and the language that Green uses it makes this book suitable for not only adolescents, but also for adults. Readers of the book will laugh and cry along with Augustus and Hazel as they are thrown into a story of not only teenage cancer patients, but "star cross lovers" and realists with some unique takes on life.

Recommendations for Teachers
The Fault In Our Stars is filled with literary references and allusions. It's very rare for a young adult novel to be filled with high-level vocabulary and mature emotional content. Therefore, it's important that teachers shed light on these hidden treasures . Green clearly respects the intelligence of both his characters and his readers, and it is because of this that he earns their admiration.

This book would be a great way to engage the students using Friere's idea for Reading Texts, Reading the World. On p. 153 in Teaching Literature to Adolescents (2nd ed.), he says that "Being an enlightened witness, possessing multiple ways of seeing means understanding the nature of ideology". Green's work is full of serious and prevalent issues involving the coming of age as a teenager with cancer. The themes of the book- teenagehood, cancer, love, loss, and living with it all- require students to put one foot in the characters' shoes while also taking perspective into account. They will be able to draw connections with Hazel, Augustus, Isaac, and their families while still being able to empathize with those whose situations are different from theirs.

To further this idea, Wilhelm states that it's good to get students involved by having them take a "participant stance" through activities like role-play. When students take on different perspectives of characters, they provide students with multiple personal opinions. According to Wilhelm, students will be "provided with a dramatic situation and something to discuss, achieve, and be able to deliver or report on after the role-play".

Another way students can put their feet in the characters' shoes would be through what Wilhelm terms "Freezing the Action". For example, in The Fault In Our Stars, when the narrator Hazel says, “There was quite a lot of competitiveness about it, with everybody wanting to beat not only cancer itself, but also the other people in the room. Like, I realize that this is irrational, but when they tell you that you have, say, a 20 percent chance of living five years, the math kicks in and you figure that’s one in five . . . so you look around and think, as any healthy person would: I gotta outlast four of these bastards,” reading will stop, time will "freeze", and students will be asked to do a free write and on how they'd feel if they were in this situation, possibly followed by a large group discussion.

About Name of Author

John Green is best known for his novels Looking for Alaska, Paper Towns, and An Abundance of Katherines which have qualified him as a New York Times bestselling author. The Fault in Our Stars is his latest novel which has already made it as a #1 New York Times bestselling novel and Time Magazine called "damn near genius." Green was also the recipient of the 2006 Michael L. Printz Award and he was a 2009 Edgar Award winner. On top of these accomplishments he has also twice been a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize.

What makes Green truly unique is the video blog he started with his brother Hank that served to replace textual communication between them. These videoblogs are available to the public on YouTube and they have produced quite a large group of followers. Their Youtube channel, vlogbrothers, has received over 75 million views and although the two brothers have resumed textual communication, they continue to upload three videos a week to one another. (Click here for YouTube channel). Their consistency has resulted in countless loyal fans, known as the Nerdfighters, that tune in to each video and strive to push John Green's cause of fighting for intellectualism.

John Green currently resides in Indianapolis, Indiana with his wife Sarah and their son Henry.

Multimedia (Video or Audio)

Author John Green reads the first chapter of The Fault In Our Stars.

John Green talks candidly about The Fault In Our Stars on "The Interview Show"

The Fault In Our Stars publishing company Penguin Group's book trailer for the novel

Additional Resources:

  • John Green's Blog - If you want to learn more about author John Green, check out his blog. Riddled with his vlogs, twitter feed, and an FAQ, fans can get to know the author of The Fault In Our Stars.
  • NPR Books' Review of "Fault" - In NPR Books' review of The Fault In Our Stars, you get a feel for how impressive Green and his writing is.
  • John Green Book Covers Tumblr- This fan-made blog is "a collection of fan-created cover designs for John Green's novels".
  • John Green's Twitter-Readers who enjoyed The Fault in Our Stars will also enjoy John Green's Twitter, which currently has almost 2,000,000 fans. John Green continues to be his witty self by posting steady tweets and links for fans.
  • Vlog Brothers-The YouTube page by John Green and his brother. For those who have extra time on their hands or are big fans of John Green, the brothers provide fun and laughter through their videos.
  • "Fault In Our Stars" Movie- The Fault In Our Stars is set to be adapted for the screen by the producers of the Twilight series.
  • //Fault in Our Stars Quotes// Page-The Fault in Our Stars has lots of wonderful quotes on Good Reads. This gives readers a taste of how complex some of the language is.
  • "//The Fault in Our Stars// Is Not a Cancer Book"-USA Today wrote an article with an argument about how John Green's book has characters with cancer in it, but it is not a cancer book.
  • Barnes and Noble Review of //The Fault in Our Stars//-Barnes and Noble wrote an interesting review about The Fault in Our Stars, no spoilers.
  • First Chapter of //The Fault in Our Stars//-An old article by USA Today, they include an excerpt of the first chapter from The Fault in Our Stars.
  • John Green's Tumblr-learn more about John Green through his Tumblr account. Includes many references to The Fault in Our Stars
  • Washing Post Review-Review of The Fault in Our Stars from The Washing Post
  • Teens Living With Cancer-A website dedicated to information and support for "teens living with cancer". Informative and relatable to The Fault In Our Stars. It could be a good resource for teachers who are looking to educate their students more about cancer.
  • John Green's "Nerdfighter" page-Nerdfighters is what John Green and his brother call themselves. This website has quirky images and articles and is available for anyone to join. This page is John Green's where students can find extra videos and post their opinions of John Green's books.
  • //Entertainment Weekly// Interview with John Green-Entertainment Weekly interviewed John Green about The Fault in Our Stars. Catch some of what he was thinking in this article.

Steph Hagger
Katherine Blumenstein
Erin Toth

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