I wish to inspire readers, teachers, and book clubs to bake along with their reading and promote discussion about the books we've enjoyed.
The Fault in Our Stars is a teenage love story about being faced with cancer and potentially dying at a very young age. Wrapped in the sharp, clever humor of the protagonist Hazel Grace are profound thoughts on life, love, books, and all sorts of things she has the time to reflect on, where most other teens do not. She wastes her days watching mindless television, and attending a cancer support group. Then a handsome boy named Augustus appears and challenges the way she lives her life. Gus is the one who claims to love metaphor, but Hazel is forever explaining herself through hilarious, passionate defenses of objects such as scrambled eggs and an old lonely swing set from her backyard that her lungs no longer allow her to play on. This passion, intelligence, and uniquely humorous take on life are the things that intrigue Augustus. These are the things he sees and she cannot—she rants about objects because she doesn’t want to become “a grenade” or a cancer time bomb waiting to destroy his life as she feels she already is to her parents. In the end, Hazel Grace is a girl who opens to vulnerability and as a result, a fuller life filled with adventures, despite faulty stars that condemn her to living with cancer and carrying a breathing tank she names Philip.
The Fault in Our Stars is witty, romantic, clever, and surprising, and will teach anyone how to more deeply embrace whatever life you’re given.
- On the first page, Hazel notes that “Depression is a side effect of dying.” What other side effects are there?
- Why does Augustus fear oblivion? Is that a common fear for teenagers, or is it usually found in the elderly or the dying? Why?
- Augustus says that saying true things is one of the pleasures of his existence. What others do each of the two main characters have,, and why are these important? What are some of yours?
- Have you ever been filled with weird, evangelical zeal about a book like Hazel’s obsession with An Imperial Affliction? Why do you think she feels this way about it?
- What is it about Kaitlyn that makes her difficult for Hazel to relate or grow closer to?
- Can you think of any examples of dysmorphia you may have seen in real life? (hint: people in Walmart, men on the beach) How do people overcome or correct these, or can they at all?
- Does love mean keeping promises no matter what? How would Hazel or Augustus define it? Do you think Hazel would have different definitions at the beginning of the book versus the end?
- As a joke, Hazel and Augustus name some things you never see in Indianapolis. What are some humorous things you never see in your town?
- Have you ever had a moment that you thought you would have felt happy to die, because you couldn’t imagine one better? Which do you think were those moments for Hazel, for Augustus?
- How did you feel about the reveal of the significance of the title, “the fault in our stars”? Do Augustus and Hazel have a right to blame the stars?
- Does Peter van Houten seem brilliant to you, or eccentric, or maybe fatalistic? Why does he prefer the tragic beauty of the living, who can also disappoint us? Can language or a photo, or a smell resurrect the dead for us? Or are they still not resurrected because we only experience the dead in memory?
- Hazel originally names the title of her swing set ad: “Lonely, Vaguely Pedophilic Swing Set Seeks the Butts of Children.” Do you find this to be an accurate title? What would you have named it? What type of title do you think she would have developed for Philip, her oxygen tank, or for Augustus’ trophies?
- Augustus humorously yet wisely states that the swing set is 90% of Hazel’s problem. How does the ad reveal that the swing is really a metaphor, and a projection of her own feelings towards herself?
- How did Hazel and Augustus fall in love slowly, then all at once? Do you feel that it only seemed that way, because it often takes time to notice the act of truly falling in love? What was the most romantic moment or line in the book for you?
- How were the scrambled eggs another metaphor for how Hazel viewed herself? Is the fact that she identifies with them part of the reason why she is so adamant about their need to be free from “ghettoization” and labeling as breakfast food only?
- Are all beautiful things fragile and rare? Is it their fragility or rarity what makes them beautiful or valuable?
- Why does Hazel feel that “easy comfort is not comforting”? What type of comfort is she seeking? What could we do to better help others comfort us when we need it?
- Have you ever tasted anything that felt like you were “tasting the stars”? What made Hazel think that way?
- Do people ever tend to romanticize the dead like Augustus did with Caroline? Why?
- The metaphor in the poem about the blackbird is about appreciating the moment of the blackbird’s song versus the delightful deliberation of it after. Which does Augustus seem to prefer, or Hazel, or you?
Fun Bonus activity: If you have any useless objects in your house you would like to sell or give away, try to come up with a creative ad title for them and share with the group.
Perfect for fans of
- John Green
- Teen romance
- Teen dramas
- Romantic dramas/comedies
- High School drama
- Cancer stories
This recipe was chosen because of Hazel’s insistence that eggs should no longer be classified as a strictly breakfast food. Also, bacon and cheddar cheese are mentioned as foods you can get anytime, but according to Augustus, you add scrambled eggs, which “have a certain sacrality to them,” and “they’re important!” (102). So make sure you do not eat these for just breakfast, or you too will be guilty of contributing to the ghettoization of scrambled eggs. ;-)
The bacon can be left out for a vegetarian option, cheese left out and milk substituted for almond milk for a dairy-free option, and you can add whatever chopped, cooked vegetables you prefer, from green pepper and regular onion to diced tomatoes, spinach, or kale. Feel free to adjust this simple recipe to your preferences.
Cheesy Bacon Egg Cups
- 8 eggs
- 1/4 cup milk
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon pepper
- 1 tablespoon chopped green onions
- 3/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese, sharp or mild, depending on what you prefer
- 6 slices of bacon, if using peppered bacon, don't add additional pepper
Cheesy Bacon Egg Cups
- Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Place the bacon on the tray and into the cold oven. Turn the oven on to 400° F and bake (yes, including warm-up time) for 21-25 minutes, depending on how chewy or crispy you like your bacon (less time for chewier bacon). (You could also fry the bacon instead if that’s what you prefer). Remove from oven and allow to cool. When bacon has completely cooled, crumble onto a plate or small bowl.
- Prep a regular muffin tin by spraying with cooking oil spray, or you can use the reserved bacon grease and a basting brush to grease the insides of the muffin tins. In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs and milk for at least one full minute, or up to two minutes (longer whisking equals fluffier eggs). Add in salt, pepper, half of the crumbled bacon, and the green onions (and any other cooked vegetables you would like) and stir. Mix in cheddar cheese. Scoop mixture using a large ice cream scoop or small measuring cup into the muffin tins, filling each 2/3 of the way. Top with crumbled bacon (and more cheese if desired). Bake in the oven for 15-17 minutes (or until the eggs are cooked through). Makes 8-10 egg cups.
Cheesy Bacon Egg Cups
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If you like John Green’s style, his other books are just as entertaining and well written. Read next: Looking for Alaska (soon to be a major motion picture), Turtles All the Way Down (his newest novel, also with a similar protagonist who struggles but with a mental disorder), or An Abundance of Katherines.
Hank Green, the author’s brother, has just written his first novel, titled An Absolutely Remarkable Thing. It’s part sci-fi, part sarcastic comedy, part drama.
Five Feet Apart by Rachael Lippincott is also about a girl with a severe medical condition that inhibits her in high school, in her interactions with other teens, and even limits her physical contact. Her life is changed when a boy with the same condition is admitted to the same hospital she is for a month.
If you want to read a book from the perspective of another snarky, intelligent female, read Sloppy Firsts by Megan McCafferty.
If you like the profound discussions and introspections of the young, as well as their poignantly realistic view of what can be a dark world with unfortunate circumstances, read The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky. (I recommend reading it BEFORE seeing the movie).
For another book on the importance of things that others deem small, such as books and films, and especially music, and the way those things translate into and sometimes define our relationships and moments in our lives, read High Fidelity by Nick Hornby.
“Sometimes, you read a book and it fills you with this weird evangelical zeal, and you become convinced that the shattered world will never be put back together unless and until all living humans read the book.”
“Some infinities are bigger than other infinities.”
“The world is not a wish-granting factory.”
“Without pain, how could we know joy?' This is an old argument in the field of thinking about suffering and its stupidity and lack of sophistication could be plumbed for centuries but suffice it to say that the existence of broccoli does not, in any way, affect the taste of chocolate.”
“It's a metaphor, see: You put the killing thing right between your teeth, but you don't give it the power to do its killing.”
“Because you are beautiful. I enjoy looking at beautiful people, and I decided a while ago not to deny myself the simpler pleasures of existence.”
“As he read, I fell in love the way you fall asleep: slowly, and then all at once.”
"I'm in love with you, and I'm not in the business of denying myself the simple pleasure of saying true things. I'm in love with you, and I know that love is just a shout into the void, and that oblivion is inevitable, and that we're all doomed and that there will come a day when all our labor has been returned to dust, and I know the sun will swallow the only earth we'll ever have, and I am in love with you.”
“It would be a privilege to have my heart broken by you.”
“Maybe 'okay' will be our 'always.”
“You don't get to choose if you get hurt in this world...but you do have some say in who hurts you.”
“The pleasure of remembering had been taken from me, because there was no longer anyone to remember with. It felt like losing your co-rememberer meant losing the memory itself, as if the things we'd done were less real and important than they had been hours before.”
“You have a choice in this world, I believe, about how to tell sad stories, and we made the funny choice.”
© 2019 Amanda Leitch
Naude Lorenzo on March 25, 2019:
One more interesting book and delicious recipe, congrats Amanda, keep it coming, thanks.