If I remember right, I was sent a galley of John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars before it was published in 2012. It didn’t seem like the book for me. YA? Cancer? Pass. I donated it.

But after seeing some of John Green’s Youtube videos, and realizing he was friends with my friend Claire Zulky, and that the book was being turned into a movie AND that I had marked it “to read” on my Goodreads page, I decided to give it a go. And I am so glad I did.

The Fault In Our Stars is told from the point of view of Hazel, who should be dead. She almost died when cancer took over her lungs, but was saved by a miracle drug that keeps her tumors from growing. So she is alive, but constantly attached to oxygen and knows that the drug could stop working at any moment.

At group therapy for cancer kids, she meets Augustus, who has lost part of a leg to cancer, and Isaac, who is about to go blind because of it. The book is what happens to the trio, though Isaac is the third wheel in this situation.

Yes, parts of this book are extremely funny, but it’s a sad novel. As I finished the book last night, I thought about books I loved as a kid, and realized they all are, too: Where the Red Fern Grows, Bridge to Terabithia. Even Old Yeller.

They’re so good because they deal with real life, which isn’t always about dating and fun and parties. And vampires. Sure, those books serve their purpose – just look at how I enjoy a romance novel every once and a while, and as a kid I read about every Sweet Valley book I could get my hands on – but books like The Fault in Our Stars is a reminder that kids can and want to read books that deal with heavy topics. Because their life is not unencumbered.

Now I want to go hug a puppy.

I read this book on my flight home from Chicago with the beginnings of a head cold that stopped me from running a half marathon today. The flight home was much better, in part because on this reward ticket, I was put in first class. At first, I felt strange reading a YA book around an entire first class cabin of business men, but not so much when the guy next to me started snoring loudly.

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Jen Miller

Jen Miller

Jen A. Miller is a an author and freelance writer. Her memoir, Running a Love Story, was a Philadelphia Inquirer best book of the year. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, SELF, Buzzfeed and the Guardian, among others.


  1. Elizabeth D on November 11, 2013 at 11:50 am

    My favorite book of 2013 so far. So glad you're with me on this!

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