Pop Culture Advisory: The Fault in Our Stars

The trailer for the film adaptation for John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars went online recently and if you’re reading this, odds are good you’re one of the millions who viewed it (at least half of whom, it seems, immediately tweeted that they were crying at their desks).

But what shall we read and watch and listen to and play until June 6, when the movie comes out in theaters?

Those readers who fell in love with the character of warm, sparky Hazel Grace Lancaster may want to pick up This Star Won’t Go Out, the memoir of Esther Grace Earl, a 16-year-old cancer patient who inspired the author and his legions of fans, the Nerdfighters. A starred review of the audio version will run in School Library Journal‘s March issue.

And there’s a lot of good buzz around the portrayal of friendship in Melissa Kantor’s Maybe One Day, which comes out later this month and will be reviewed very positively in the March issue of SLJ. It’s the story of best friends Olivia and Zoe, who have big plans to tour the world as ballet dancers, and what happens when Olivia gets leukemia.

6a00d83451af1569e20120a531af11970b-piIf you responded to the unconventional, heartwarming relationship between Hazel and Augustus, Rainbow Rowell’s Eleanor & Park or Natalie Standiford’s How To Say Goodbye in Robot are both good choices.

Doomed teen love is always a popular subject; on the 1990s television series Life Goes On high school sophomore Becca Thatcher falls in love with HIV-positive classmate Jesse. Jay Asher’s Thirteen Reasons Why begins after Hannah Baker has committed suicide, leaving 13 cassette tapes for Clay Jenkins as a way to explain her decision.

Of course, it’s hard to beat the Bard when it comes to teens in doomed love. (After all, it’s hard to beat the amount of woe suffered by Juliet and her Romeo.) Claire Danes and Leonardo DiCaprio are appropriately over the top in Baz Luhrmann’s 1996 film version. And there’s plenty of good buzz around the upcoming release of Rachel Caine’s Prince of Shadows, which is told from the perspective of Romeo’s cousin, Benvolio Montague, a thief whose late-night glimpse of his cousin’s first love, Rosaline, sets all sorts of events in motion.

Augustus’s favorite band in the book is called The Hectic Glow. Sadly, THG are only a figment of John Green’s imagination, but there are plenty of talented musicians who’ve died young, including Elliott Smith, Aaliyah, and Big Star’s Chris Bell, whose lyrical discussions of love and oblivion seem like something Augustus and Hazel would have really responded to.

Augustus and his friend Isaac play a lot of a Call of Duty-esque videogame, but there are plenty of games that are closer to the novel in spirit for those who are interested. LJ‘s gaming columnist M. Brandon Robbins offers the following suggestions:

While it’s VERY artsy, Shadow of the Colossus has the doomed-teen-lovers bend to it. A boy known only as the Wanderer takes a young girl to a temple in a remote paradise to bring her back to life. To do so, he must kills ancient beings known as the Colossi. It’s a beautiful game, and actually ends with him ultimately sacrificing his life for her. Again, very artsy, but that narrative hook is certainly there.

While not dealing with cancer, The Cat Lady deals with addiction and depression. It’s darker than drinking vodka at 2 AM while listening to Nine Inch Nails. Part of the game early on is a fantastical look at how addiction and treatment works. It might make a good recommendation for those who want to take the theme of living with an illness to another level.

Perhaps the best game to tie into this theme is To the Moon. The plot of this game is that a company has developed a technology that permanently implants memories into the human mind, allowing for a form of wish fulfillment. Because of the damage this does to the human psyche—the implanted memories contrast with the natural ones—it is only done on terminal patients. As a doctor, you are attempting to solve the mysteries of one patient’s past in order to implant the memories of a trip to the moon in his mind. The patient doesn’t suffer from cancer per se, and actual cancer treatment is not part of the game, but again: it ties into the overarching theme of terminal illness and one’s response to it.

An additional recommendation: while it’s intended more as a way for young people with cancer to understand their disease and its treatment and less as a narrative/game play experience, the Re-Mission series is worth a mention. The games are set inside the human body, giving players weapons like chemotherapy, antibiotics, and the body’s natural defenses to fight cancer.

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Stephanie Klose About Stephanie Klose

Stephanie Klose (sklose@mediasourceinc.com, @sklose on Twitter) is Media Editor, Library Journal.


  1. rachel says:

    Great article – who is the author of The Cat Lady? I don’t think I’m finding the correct one.