There's no doubting that The Fault In Our Stars will break your heart. John Green's novel is deserving of the generous praise it continues to receive. It's romantic in every sense of the word. Our heroes fall in love steeply and passionately. They frequently lapse into dialogue and narrative description that is most derivatively described as 'purple' but more accurately described as 'beautiful'. It's a wonderful young adult novel (whatever that term actually means).
What's most refreshing is its approach to the romance genre. As much as it manages to keep a sense of poetry and beauty, it also doesn't shy away from the confrontational or uncomfortable. Both male and female protagonists approach the relationship with a sense of awkwardness, and a great deal of emotional baggage. There are times where the couple are put under enormous strain, not only from environmental influences, but from the way they deal with their own inner turmoil. While fictional, it's true. Or at least, there's a sense of truth within it.
The majority of romance stories, especially those told for young people, haven't really grown up since...well, the Romantic period. Ostensibly designed for women, they tell a very simple tale. The woman is most frequently submissive, shy, and emotional. The male is gallant, socially deft, and assertive. Most Disney films are like this, as are millions of other 'romance' stories. These stories are teaching young people how to fall in love. This is often the style of relationship that young people (and even adults) attempt to replicate when finding love. It causes a lot of angst. What is so pleasing about The Fault In Our Stars is it's presentation of two human beings having a very human relationship. No princesses here.
And now, watch this:
Yes of course it's being turned into a film. And yes, this is only the trailer. BUT - it's concerning that our male hero, Augustus, has perfect skin, is appropriately gallant, and possesses unflinching confidence, while Hazel is either smiling or crying. Even if the film portrays the relationship in a manner that is far closer to the source material, it's telling that 20th Century Fox have chosen this trailer to lead their marketing campaign. It only goes to show how little Hollywood has grown into the 21st Century, and how much we all still value fairly ancient gender ideals. It'll probably be a very enjoyable film, but I hope that people go and read the book first.
Young men, embrace your awkwardness, be emotionally honest with your partner, as ask for their support. Young women, do the same. Falling in love is as simple and complicated as that.