One Classic/Contemporary Novel pairing for middle school or high school
Bibliographic Information: Green, John. The Fault in Our Stars. New York: Dutton Books, 2012.
Hazel Lancaster, a teenager with terminal cancer, attends a cancer patients’ support group and befriends Augustus, who lost his leg to cancer. They agree to read each other’s favorite books. Augustus does not like that the book he read ends abruptly, and begins corresponding with the author and tells Hazel. They have questions, but the author will only answer them in person. Augustus gets tickets to meet the author, who lives in Amsterdam, but Hazel’s family is reluctant to let her go. She realizes she loves Augustus, and fears hurting him with her death. In Amsterdam, Augustus confesses his love for Hazel. The meet the author, who turns out to be a very mean drunkard; his assistant was the one they were actually corresponding with. Hazel and Augustus visit the Anne Frank House; she struggles with the stairs, and they share a kiss at the end of the tour. They make love. Augustus confesses that his cancer has relapsed. They affirm their love. The author attends Augustus’ funeral, trying to make up for his previous behavior. Hazel later learns that Augustus might have been writing a sequel to the story for her; he’d sent the pages of his story to the author, for him to make a well-composed eulogy for Hazel, his final goodbye.
Quantitative Reading Level: Lexile: 850; Accelerated Reader: 5.5
Qualitative Reading Analysis:
This book is written in first-person from Hazel’s perspective, with the expected vocabulary of a teenage girl. The author writes differently in various parts; some parts read like a diary, some like a conversation out loud, and others like a script. Those differences may be distracting to some readers who are not used to works formatted in this manner.
Content Area: English, Diseases/Disorders-Cancer
Content Area Standard:
- CCSS for Reading for 6-12: #2 Determine theme or central idea and analyze in detail its development; #3 Evaluate various explanations for actions or events and determine which explanation best accords with textual evidence, acknowledging where the text leaves matters uncertain; #4 Analyze complex characters; #6 Analyze a particular point of view or cultural experience; #10 Read and comprehend literature in grade level text complexity range.
- CCSS for Writing for 6-12: #9 Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.
- CCSS for Language 6-12: #3 Apply knowledge of language to understand how language functions in different contexts, to make effective choices for meaning or style, and to comprehend more fully when reading or listening; #4 Determine or clarify the meaning of unknown and multiple-meaning words and phrases; #5 Demonstrate understanding of figurative language, word relationships, and nuance in word meanings, such as interpret figures of speech.
This is a great contemporary book to use as part of a core English Language Arts Curriculum. It is best suited to 9th grade and above. Pair this book with The Odyssey, as they both explore themes of journey and gaining the courage to face your destiny. It also explores themes like the power of cunning over strength and the pitfalls of temptation.