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Reflections on The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

fault in starsAdolescent and young adult cancer in popular culture 

by Dr Anne Grinyer, Faculty of Health and Medicine, Lancaster University, UK

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green (2012) is the fictional account of the love story of two teenagers, Hazel and Gus, both living with terminal cancer. The book is a bestseller and the film topped the box office on its opening weekend. Having been involved in researching the life stage impact of Adolescent and Young Adult (AYA) cancer for the last 15 years, I read the book and watched the film, interested in how issues I had discovered in my research might be addressed in popular culture. However, for many readers and audiences, it will be the first time they have encountered a story about cancer in this age group; if the audience at the screening I attended was typical, many tears are being shed. However, I had been determined not to be moved to tears by what mixed reviews described as a film: ‘sink[ing] slowly into gooey mawkishness’ and a ‘manipulative, lachrymose melodrama’  (The Independent); ‘an effective (and affecting) weepie’ (The Guardian); ‘an emotionally draining movie’ (Natalie Stendall) and the Telegraph review – which  after suggesting that the film draws on moral equivalences that are ‘actively repulsive’ – says ‘there’s fine work here’.

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