For our first book selection of the year, we read “Fault in Our Stars,” a young adult novel written by John Green. i was excited to read this one because: it’s short, which works well with my current reading schedule of ten minutes at the end of the day after 12 or so exhausting hours of chasing a crazy two-year-old; it’s a YA novel which, for me, means that maybe there’s a chance my tired old mind can follow what’s going on; it has like over 10,000 reviews on Amazon and an average rating of 5 stars, so it must be good. And it was!!
Ok, confession: I didn’t LLLLOOOOOVVVVEEEE it like so many others. I liked it a lot. Would I re-read it again and again? No. Would I recommend it to a friend who was looking for something fast, easy, and inspiring? Yeah. And if I were teaching high school, I’d make sure to have lots of copies to loan out to students. It’s a great book. Let’s discuss.
So, because the novel is so popular, there are tons of discussion questions around the web. Since I’m feeling lazy — see 12 hour days of chasing a crazy two-year-old above — I have borrowed some of the more interesting questions (with some editing by moi) I found to help guide our talk. Please feel free to answer these or pose your own or just talk about what you liked or didn’t like about the book. (And so as not to clutter this post, I’ll share my answers in the comments).
1. Do you think the author, John Green, a man in his 30s, did a convincing job of writing in the voice of a teenage girl?
2. Green spent some time as a chaplain and after that experience he said he believed that “life is utterly random and capricious, and arbitrary.” Yet he also said, after finishing The Fault in Our Stars, that he no longer feels that life’s randomness “robs human life of its meaning…or that it robs even lives of people who don’t get to have full lives.” Would you say that the search for meaning — even, or especially, in the face of dying — is what this book explores? Do you think Gus and Hazel found meaning in their lives through their relationship with each other?
3. In support group, Hazel says, “There will come a time when all of us are dead. All of us. There will come a time when there are no human beings remaining to remember that anyone ever existed or that our species ever did anything…maybe that time is coming soon and maybe it is millions of years away, but even if we survive the collapse of our sun, we will not survive forever…And if the inevitability of human oblivion worries you, I encourage you to ignore it. God knows that’s what everyone else does” (13). Do you worry about oblivion and/or death? Or do you ignore it?
4. What effect does the mingling of normal teenage problems (break-ups, coming of age) with a terminal diagnosis create in the novel? For instance, do you think it is realistic that Isaac would care more about his break-up with Monica than about his blindness?
5. Do you believe it’s possible for teenagers to be in love as truly as adults? Do they have to have “adult-like” experiences, like cancer, in order to love as deeply as an adult?
6. At one point, Hazel’s father says: “What a day. If we lived in California, they’d all be like this.” Hazel’s mom replies: “Yeah, but then you wouldn’t enjoy them.” Hazel thought she was wrong, but she didn’t correct her. What do you thing about the theory that “without pain, we can’t know joy”? And did Hazel only think her mom was wrong about not enjoying California weather because her cancer has taught her not to take anything for granted, even/especially endless strings of beautiful days?
7. What do you think about Peter Van Houten, the fictional author of “An Imperial Affliction”? John Green, has said that Van Houten is a “horrible, horrible person, but I have an affection for him.” Do you agree?
8. Hazel was desperate to know what happened to the character in her favorite book, An Imperial Affliction after the book ended. What do you think happened to Hazel after the ending of The Fault in Our Stars?