When I first heard that the book “The Fault in our Stars” was about a girl with cancer, I thought that it was going to be a piece of schmaltzy garbage. When I picked up the book in February, I was immediately drawn in, reading it in two long sittings over the span of about 11 hours. Since that day, I had been eagerly awaiting the movie that was released last night.
I won’t say anything that would potentially spoil the movie until the last paragraph. The theater was one of the fullest I’ve been to in a long time. I felt that this movie was as true to the book as any film adaptation I have ever seen. Shailene Woodley, who plays the book’s protagonist, Hazel Grace Lancaster, had the feel and spunk that you would expect from Hazel. Ansel Elgort plays Augustus Waters and even looks like how I pictured Gus, and was another perfect embodiment of the fictional character. In the book, a love story develops between Hazel and Augustus as they meet at a support group for teens with cancer. Woodley and Elgort had great chemistry on-screen, and the development of their relationship felt natural.
For the book “The Fault in Our Stars,” I feel that it is a great novel that tells a good story. By that I mean the story is good, very good. It’s compelling, there are some great plot twists, and it wasn’t what I expected. But the craftsmanship of the writing is what makes the book great. The writing is beautiful. And to only watch the movie without reading the book, and to only get to know the story without reading the prose shortchanges you on the overall experience of this novel. Yes, much of that great writing is preserved in the dialogue of the movie, but things come rapid fire and it’s not the same as reading the words.
So I would encourage anyone to read the book before seeing the movie. It’s a fast read. To me, what made the book a page turner was how compelling the characters were. The book is narrated from Hazel’s point of view. Despite the fact that she has terminal cancer, you fall in love with her sass. She’s wise beyond her years, but she’s also a normal teenager. She’s not living with cancer in stoic perfection. She hates it. But she also has some degree of closure with her life situation. Augustus is equally compelling. You love Augustus because he loves Hazel, because he’s a genuinely good young man who sees past Hazel’s condition and oxygen tank and who relentlessly pursues her. As the story progresses, when she tries to push away, Augustus never waivers. The love is clear, but when he first actually says it verbally to Hazel in the movie, it gave me chills.
While I’ve already noted how true the movie was to the book, there were still some differences. Most of the things I noticed were minor. And I feel that if everything had been included, the movie would have been four hours long. To the overall flow of the plot, I didn’t feel there were any major elements which were added or deleted.
Spoiler alert: Some differences from the book were that the book went into a lot more detail about “An Imperial Affliction” which is the book that sparks their interest in going to Amsterdam. The book is still very important in the movie. But it doesn’t go into as much detail about discussing the book itself. When Hazel is having reservations about letting herself fall for August because of her terminal cancer, in the book, the reader finds out that Augustus had previously dated another girl with cancer who had passed away. That piece of back story is absent from the movie. Before the trip to Amsterdam, Augustus shows up to pick up Hazel and her mother in a limo. To me, this was the most glaring difference between the movie and the book. In the book, the pick Augustus up at his house and arrive at the tail end of Augustus having a heated argument with his parents. In the book, the scene is cryptic. You don’t piece it together until the end of the trip when Augustus reveals that cancer has returned and its terminal (and the fight was presumably his parents not wanting him to leave in poor health). There are some other differences, but those are the main ones that stuck out to me.