Literary Movies: The Fault in Our Stars
Welcome to Literary Movies. In this blog, college student Karina compares books to their film versions. Is there a book you’ve been meaning to read before seeing its theatrical counterpart? Check here first to see if the book and movie are worth your time and money!
Movies and books never make me cry.
Okay. One time, eight years ago, Click tugged at my heartstrings. But I had never cried from a book until I read The Fault in Our Stars by John Green on a fifteen-hour train ride from school for a weekend with family back home. PSA: The Fault in Our Stars will make you cry in public. I am not a softy at all, but I couldn’t help but bawl like a baby even though I was on a crowded train. (Amtrak does attract interesting kinds of people, however, so maybe it was a blessing in disguise that I didn’t look approachable.)
This bestselling novel is the love story of Hazel Grace Lancaster and Augustus Waters, whose young love begins at a cancer support group. Hazel has thyroid cancer, which has found its way to her lungs, making her dependent on the oxygen tank that she wheels behind her. Augustus has lost a leg to cancer but seems to be in good health and spirits.
This book has been so appealing and popular because of how thought-provoking it is considering it’s a young adult novel. Hazel and Augustus discuss their thoughts on life and death, and both have very memorable voices that are very mature for their ages. Green doesn’t question the intelligence of his audience, and this is something that teens can definitely appreciate. I think more young adult authors should create articulate, intelligent protagonists that teens can look up to.
Augustus and Hazel’s attitudes toward cancer are a memorable part of the novel. Hazel acknowledges that her cancer has spread to her lungs by saying, “My lungs sucked at being lungs,” and Augustus deems his leg amputation “an excellent weight-loss strategy.” Although this may seem like a lighthearted depiction of cancer, it encapsulates their personalities and attitudes. They are both incredibly sarcastic with dry senses of humor, so it makes sense for them to depict their experiences with cancer in this way.
I was embarrassingly excited for the movie, in which Shailene Woodley plays Hazel and Ansel Elgort takes the role of Augustus (the two played siblings in Divergent…weird). I grinned from ear to ear on the drive to the theater and through all of the previews. I felt calm, cool, and collected and was ready to chuckle at all the pre-teen girls crying over fictional characters. I overestimated my strength and was sobbing with the rest of the audience. The fact that Hazel and Augustus’s love story has a clear, unavoidable expiration date makes everything seem more meaningful as well as undeniably heartbreaking.
It’s risky to say anything negative about Augustus Waters, the beloved seventeen-year-old boy who lost a leg to cancer. But I don’t see how viewers interpret his cockiness as charm. Sure, he has some sincere, charming moments, but for the most part I was annoyed by his attitude in the film. I think Augustus is much more endearing in the book than the movie.
The way that Green deals with talking about cancer has received mixed feelings from fans. Personal experiences with topics will influence the way we perceive the quality of a story, so I’m sure there are infinite interpretations of how tactfully or poorly Green represented cancer patients. I can’t imagine what it’s like to have your own cells mutating against you, but as Hazel says, this isn’t a “cancer book.” It’s a love story about two people who happen to have cancer. But their cancer isn’t romanticized either. There are scenes where we see Hazel suffering as she struggles to get air into her lungs; there’s vomit, pain, and tears. The toll that cancer physically takes on the characters is clearly visible, unlike in other movies where the characters are still constantly flawlessly beautiful despite their current illnesses.
I recommend The Fault in Our Stars to anyone and everyone. But it will make you sob, so plan accordingly. You’ve been forewarned!