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A chance to watch the exclusive book club video interview between Richard and Judy and John Green the author of Spring 2013 Book Club title The Fault in our Stars
Judy: Hi, welcome to the Richard and Judy Book Club, exclusive to WHSmith, and this week's book is The Fault in Our Stars, by John Green.  It's an extremely effecting, sad, but at the same time, sometimes hilarious book about kids with cancer.  Now, we may say straightaway, I'm not sure I fancy that, because surely it's very sentimental, but it's not.  It's absolutely beautifully written and it avoids sentimentality completely and utterly.  It's a story of Hazel, she's 16 years old, she lives in America, and she has terminal cancer.  She knows she's terminal, she's known for several years, but she's been lucky enough to find a drug therapy which works for her purely in terms of buying her some time, but she knows she's going to die.  She joins a group, her mother wants her to join a group called Kids with Cancer, so she can meet other kids in the same boat, and have someone else to talk to, and there she meets Gus, who's another teen--a teenage boy, who also has cancer, but he's in remission.  He thinks he's through it.  Now, Gus and Hazel get on like a house on fire and very, very quickly, being teenagers and everything, they fall madly in love, and it's a very effecting story about their love and how they deal with the question of death and life.  It's very, very cleverly written.  Hazel and Gus are both tremendously intelligent and have a huge sense of humor, and it's a really lovely story.  Well, John Green unfortunately couldn't be with us today, so we sent our cameras over to him.

John: Esther was a reader of my books who I met in 2009 at a Harry Potter conference in Boston, and when I met her, she was already sick.  She had cancer that was originally in her thyroid that had spread to her lungs, much like Hazel Grace in The Fault in Our Stars and we became friends over the next year and a half before she died when she was 16.  The book is dedicated to her because she inspired so much of it.  I'd been trying to write this book for almost 10 years, long before I ever met Esther, but in meeting Esther, my relationship with the story changed so dramatically and so much of what is in the book changed because I met this genuinely empathetic funny, angry, witty teenager who really upended my thoughts about what it's like to be dying and young.

Everything that I do in one way or another is related to the work that I make with my brother.  We've been making video blogs together for six years now, and even though he was 11 when I left home for boarding school, so we didn't really know each other very well as kids, we've become extremely close as adults, and I think it's one of the great pleasures of my life to have my brother as my closest friend and the person I trust the most.  He was an early reader of The Fault in Our Stars and you know, his comments about the book were very influential, but the biggest influence that he has on my work and on my life is that Hank is someone who lives by his values and that really interests me because I want to be that kind of person, but I'm not always, so that's the biggest influence he has on the book and also that he has on me.

Well, I know a lot of really smart teenagers, so that's helpful when you're trying to write about smart teenagers.  I know a lot of precocious young people and over the years, I've been blessed to have a lot of really intelligent readers and I think all of them went into The Fault in Our Stars and the way that I thought about Gus and Hazel as people, their intellectual enthusiasm, their curiosity, their unironic, open grappling with the big questions of our species, all of that stuff was really influential in my thinking about the novel and the characters in it, but the biggest thing, I guess, is my belief that teenagers are every bit as intellectually capable as anyone else.  I mean, as teenagers, we're reading the classics of literature, we're reading Shakespeare and Chaucer and we're reading F. Scott Fitzgerald and William Faulkner, there's no reason why those people can't be every bit as intellectually engaged as anyone else, and I really believe in celebrating intellectualism and the intellectual curiosity of young people.

Well, I think maintain a sense of normalcy is one of the great challenges for parents of sick kids, because it is not a normal situation, and as a parent, the thing that you want most is to protect your child and to keep your child safe, and when you can't do that, it is just extremely difficult, but I've been struck in my interactions with parents and families of very sick children by how heroically they work to maintain a sense of normalcy and to keep, you know, richness in the life of that family.  I worked as a chaplain at a children's hospital in 2000, many, many years ago, and during the time I worked as a chaplain, I saw over and over again parents who found ways to maintain a sense of normalcy and a sense of joy and the richness of life in the lives of their kids and in their families, even amid very serious illness and that was really inspirational to me, and I wanted to celebrate what I see as real heroism there.

Richard: Thank you very much indeed, John, you more than did justice to your story. It--you said, Judy, it's a fabulous tale.  One of the cleverest, most moving books I read for a long time.  Just to mention here, if you do get this from WHSmith or any of our ten books on the current list, you get loads of extra content in the back, you get question and answer session between us and the other, other questions that we didn't discuss there, there's details on how to download our podcast, our app, all of that kind of stuff, but only if you get the book at WHSmith.  Enjoy.