A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Fault in Our Stars is a story about teens fighting cancer, and sensitive readers might be uncomfortable with the subject matter and sometimes graphic descriptions of what it's like to die. Hazel has some near-death experiences and also copes with Gus as he vomits uncontrollably, etc. Characters lose eyes, legs, control of their personalities, and more. Also, characters play violent video games and read books and watch movies with high body counts. There's some swearing and drinking, and the two main characters, who are in love, do have (safe) sex, though it's described only briefly. This is a mature and powerful story: Hazel not only provides teens with insight about what it is like to know you're dying -- and to lose someone you love -- but her story is also about deciding to love and be loved, even when you know it will cause pain.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
Hazel knows she is dying of cancer, and even when she makes an instant connection with survivor Augustus Waters at a youth support group, she is determined not to start a romance with him ("I'm a grenade and at some point I'm going to blow up and I would like to minimize the casualties, okay?"). Even so, when he uses his Wish to take her to Amsterdam to meet a reclusive author she loves, it is impossible to deny that he loves her -- and she loves him. And though she soon learns that Gus has a painful secret, Hazel learns that loving others is worth it, even when it leaves a "scar."
Is it any good?
Be prepared: This is a tearjerker dealing with dying -- and surviving the death of a loved one. Parents who read this book along with their teens will be particularly moved by Hazel's parents, who soothe her anxiety by telling her about their plans for after she has died ("Even when you die, I will still be your mom, Hazel ... how could I stop loving you?"). Green wrote this book after making a friendship with a teen with cancer, and his attention to detail is remarkable, from descriptions of equipment to what it feels like to be stared at by well-meaning strangers. Readers may be perplexed about an alcoholic author who begins making appearances in Hazel's life, and may be unsure if he is really there or just a symbol. This decision seems a bit out of step with what is otherwise a realistic and emotionally harrowing book about love and loss. But Hazel's honest narration and her strength to love despite the consequences will capture teens' attention most. In the end, this is a painful book, but well worth it.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about what it would be like to know you are dying. Would you do anything differently? Why does Hazel say she feels like a "grenade" and tell her parents she wants to "minimize the casualties" by staying away from people?
Also, the author's other books, such as Looking for Alaska, are often called edgy. What makes a book "Young Adult," and when does it crossover into being an adult story? Does it have to do mostly with the age of the narrator, or something else?
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