The Fault in Our Souls

John Green's book, The Fault in Our Stars, is not to be taken lightly. Over 10 million copies of the book have been sold to date. It is currently ranked the number one best seller on Amazon and has been followed by a recent blockbuster movie. The book's target audience is young adults and teenagers; the theme of the book is about two terminal cancer patients who are teenagers -- not exactly what one would expect to be a winning formula. Green is a talented writer. The story is written in the voice of Hazel, a 16-year-old girl diagnosed with terminal cancer. Her life is transformed when she meets Gus, a 17-year-old boy who has already lost a leg to cancer. The plot plunges headlong into the world of the terminally ill. Hazel and Gus give no effort to make themselves or others comfortable with their cancer. They offer no apologies for who they are and want no sympathy from others. For them, life is it what it is. Terminal cancer is the card they have been dealt.

This directness is what makes the book appealing: having terminal cancer does not make someone less of a person. Green's characters refuse to meet the expectations of other people extending sympathy to them. But for them, life does stink -- at least for Hazel. Then she and Gus meet. We get to see the relationship flourish in the soil of terminal illness. These two teenagers are intellectually super-charged. They want meaning for the immediate issues and interests of their life since there might be no tomorrow. Life still stinks for tomorrow, but today brings the joy of romance, understanding, and closeness with someone in the same sinking boat.

But for Green and his two teenaged creations, what is now is all that there is. For an existentialist, now is all that matters. For example, while talking about something difficult that happened to himself, Gus says:

"Not your fault, Hazel Grace. We're all just side effects, right?"

"Barnacles on the container ship of consciousness," Hazel responds. Later, regarding death and the impersonal god of the existentialist, 16-year-old Hazel writes this about the death of 17-year-old Gus:

We live in a universe devoted to the creation, and eradication of awareness. Augustus Waters [Gus] did not die after a lengthy battle with cancer. He died after a lengthy battle with human consciousness, a victim -- as you will be -- of the universe's need to make and unmake all that is possible.

[Read the rest of the article at Shepherd Press.]