(by the way, all these recommendations can work vice-versa. If you like The Fault in Our Stars you’ll probably like My Sister’s Keeper. I just have to write it in one direction or I’ll be terribly confused.)
I started reading Jodi Picoult the summer after my sophomore year of high school, I think because my mom was reading 19 Minutes and that sounded interesting. But there was a backlog of orders for 19 Minutes at my library, so I settled for another book by the same author, one that I’d heard people talking about.
Before you dive into the world of Jodi Picoult, be prepared for melodrama up the wazoo. In my opinion, her best books involve court cases and minors. (only her first novel, Songs of a Humpback Whale, didn’t revolve around a court case, and only one novel Mercy, didn’t center around a child.) In the case of My Sister’s Keeper, the minor, a thirteen-year-old Anna, is the one who begins the court case, wanting to become an emancipated minor so she won’t have to give her kidney to her older sister Kate, who is dying of leukemia.
Staying on the same theme, The Fault in Our Stars by YA author John Green also revolves around a teenager with cancer, and like the best of Picoult’s books, includes a surprisingly heartbreaking twist at the end.
Faulting the Stars
John Green, known by his readers and YouTube fans alike for an extensive series of online videos he shares with his brother Hank (here’s a link to one where he reads the first chapter of TFIOS) actually has a quote from Jodi Picoult on the cover of The Fault in Our Stars. I did not know about that until I set about writing this. Since the book came out in January of this year, I was in London and ordered it on my iPad, mostly cause I”m lazy. I’m now very glad I did, since having it with me constantly means I’ve read it through three times.
There were a couple of things that came along with the release of the book. One is that John Green promised that he’d sign every pre-ordered copy of The Fault in Our Stars, which meant he signed 150,000 books in a variety of colored Sharpies. My sister’s roommate has found a copy with his signature in every color he signed with, which means that a large portion of their small bookshelf is taken up by bright blue books.
Apparently, there were also 1500 copies of the book release three weeks early. Imagine getting the seventh Harry Potter book that early. People would eat you alive. But apparently John Green has very mild-mannered fans (mostly teenage and young adult girls) who swore not to read the book until it’s official release date, or at least not to leak spoilers online. Good on you, girls. I know I could never do that with a book int he hand.
Why Stars After Sister?
The title comes, as noted in the book itself, from Julius Caesar, when Cassius says ‘”The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars / But in ourselves.” And it’s not just quotes from old plays that makes the prose of this book beautiful. “Some infinities are bigger than other infinities,” is a quote that made it to my huge old Word document of quotes, which is about a hundred pages long.
The Fault in Our Stars could just be another girl dying gamely of cancer, but unlike the flat, delicate Anna in My Sister’s Keeper, Hazel Grace, upon meeting Augustus, another gamely dying teenager, shows a startling interest in living. Or at least in living long enough to go to Amsterdam to meet her favorite author.
Where My Sister’s Keeper is almost overly emotional, ambitiously telling the stories of everyone in the family affected by cancer, The Fault in Our Stars doesn’t try so hard in trying to make you cry. And then does anyway. Even if you think you’re too old for Young Adult books, I’d make an exception for this one. Somehow, the laugh-out-loud funny, ridiculously intelligent dialogue that John Green does so well in Paper Towns and Looking for Alaska comes through in a way that doesn’t make you feel like you’re pointing and laughing at a girl dying of cancer. It’s more like laughing along with Hawkeye on M*A*S*H. These are characters who know they’ve been dealt a bad hand but try to get the most out of it anyway.
Both of these novels will have you grabbing for the tissues or, if you’re like me, just sitting in a chair pretending you’re not about to cry. It’s hard not to be affected by how brief these lives are. Both beautiful novels, coming from authors with other good things to read, jumping from the cancer in My Sister’s Keeper to the cancer in The Fault in Our Stars might leave you emotionally drained, but you will ultimately come out with a love for the new author as well as the new book.