Award-winning young adult author John Green’s newest novel, The Fault in Our Stars, has only been out one week, but the story has been 10 years in the making.
Green first started the book in 2000, after working as a student chaplain at a children’s hospital. He wasn’t able to make the story work then — he wanted “a funny, honest story that wasn’t too sentimental or self-indulgent,” so he put the book away and went on to write several hugely popular titles; Looking For Alaska, An Abundance of Katherines,Paper Towns and Will Grayson, Will Grayson, which he co-authored with David Levithan.
Years later he met Ester Earl, a 16-year-old girl battling thyroid cancer, who re-inspired him.
"The inspiration she gave me was not about her illness, it was about her empathy," Green told The Seattle Times.
The Fault In Our Stars follows a teenage cancer patient and cancer survivor — Hazel Grace Lancaster and Augustus Waters, respectively — through the arduous tasks of living and falling in love while battling a life-threatening illness. Hazel, the narrator of the story, is a smart, cynical, funny and at times rightfully angry 16-year-old who’s been on the cusp of death and knows what it’s like to live surrounded by the dying.
While the story doesn’t skip out on the tragic reality of cancer — pain, shame, anger, depression — the strengths and, largely, the weaknesses of these two characters are what connects you to what is ultimately their love story.
In the end, The Fault In Our Stars is beautifully written, showcasing Green’s typical style of prose; philosophical undertones, a lot of humor, endearing characters and a big twist. The story is heartbreakingly devastating yet filled with hope, love and more laughter than you would think possible from a book about young cancer patients.
Green, along with his brother Hank, created a YouTube channel called Vlogbrothers that passed the 500 video mark earlier this month. The Vlogbrothers (originally titled Brotherhood 2.0) began in 2007 as a way of communicating long distance with each other through videos instead of by text or phone. Topics have ranged from Phineas Gage and the odd mating habits of animals to the last words of famous people and the top 10 weirdest diseases.
The channel now boasts over 600,000 subscribers and has garnered its own secret (or not so secret) community called Nerdfighters. Nerdfighters is an open-to-all Internet community with members all over the world who are united in decreasing "WorldSuck" by donating money, time and awareness to organizations and foundations that help people in need.
Green has seen the power of social media — with over one million Twitter followers and 75,000 Facebook fans — the good that can come from uniting a community and how one simple act of kindness can snowball into something great.
It’s not just about selling books or how many views you have on YouTube; it’s about helping people and using whatever it is you have — no matter how big or small — to make a difference.
On Jan. 21 at 7p.m., Green and his brother Hank will be making their Austin stop at the Westlake Community Performing Arts Center as part of their off-site visit through BookPeople. Tickets are still available, they are $25 and includes a signed copy of The Fault In Our Stars and a guaranteed seat at the event.
Here's a FAQ video on everything Nerdfighter: