Is Fault In Our Stars Appropriate for Kids?

The Fault in Our Stars parental review

Last night I went with some friends to see the new hit movie, The Fault in Our Stars. Unless you’re living under a rock, you’ve probably heard of it. Evidently it’s the big hit of the summer for teen and tween girls. I have a daughter in 5th grade and a son in middle school so I was curious to see it even though I knew it was going to be a tough one to watch. I haven’t read the book, so I didn’t know much going in — just what I’ve seen in the trailer and read on Facebook.

Hazel and Augustus are two teenagers who share an acerbic wit, a disdain for the conventional, and a love that sweeps them on a journey. Their relationship is all the more miraculous, given that Hazel’s other constant companion is an oxygen tank, Gus jokes about his prosthetic leg, and they meet and fall in love at a cancer support group.

Sounds like a real bucket of laughs, right? Yeah, try a bucket of tears.

Like I said, I new going in what I was in for, and I was game. I brought my handy packet of Kleenex along, and I used every last one. I was only about 5 minutes in when I had to start choking back heaving sobs.

For me, it wasn’t the story of the two teens that really got to me. It was the mom. I could feel her pain and see her dying inside as she tried to be light-hearted and positive for her daughter with terminal cancer. The acting was superb. I felt like I was living the story, not that I’d want to. There was some comedic relief, but not enough. It was really hard not to audibly sob, and there were plenty around us who were.

I don’t want to give away any spoilers so I’m not going to say much else about the plot. If you don’t mind a cry fest, it’s definitely worth seeing.

As for the title of this post, is it appropriate for kids . . . that is a tough call. The subject matter is definitely heavy, no doubt about it. Many scenes are intense as they deal with issues of death and mortality.

But even more concerning than the topic of cancer and death, is the fact that the two teens discuss being virgins and then have sex. Not only do they participate in the act, but the scene in the movie goes a little further than I think was truly necessary and I was uncomfortable with that. From an adult perspective, I’d say it was handled tastefully. But as a parent, I would say use caution when taking your children to see it.

I’m definitely not going to take my 11-year-old daughter to see this movie. My son is 14, and if he wanted to see it, I’d probably let him, but I doubt he cares.

If I had to make a blanket statement and suggest an age at which I believe it is appropriate, I would say it’s fine for ages 13 and up as long as the child is mature enough to handle the feelings it evokes. It’s very intense. There were kids sobbing all around me in the theater. I would also advise seeing this movie with your child so you can discuss it together.

Overall, I thought it was a beautiful movie. I’m actually glad I didn’t read the book first. As with most movies based on books, they left a lot out (according to my friends who saw it with me) and I think I prefer it this way. Will I read the book now that I know what happens? No. I really have no desire. I would, however, read another book by John Green.

For more parental guidance, you can read the reviews of The Fault in Our Stars at Common Sense Media.

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21 Responses

  1. I has the same emotional response–it surprised me that I identified with the mom so much because that was not my response when I read the book. I did take my 12 year old to see it–she read the book in one day! We discussed the sex aspect so I felt okay about it. Definitely a movie where you have to decide what is right for your family.

    1. I agree… we all know our kids best. And I always err on the conservative side of these issues. Funny thing, my 14-y/o son came home right as I was proofing this post and informed me that this book is his required summer reading. I guess I’m okay with that, but now I DO believe I will read it! LOL I’d like to know what he’s reading. Normally I don’t know what he is reading, I can’t stand the types of books he reads (fantasy fiction, mostly.) So this is a good opportunity to read something with him and discuss it.

  2. I haven’t seen the movie yet, but I did read the book in one day. My 13 year old middle schooler was reading it (for school) and I picked it up to see what all the hype was about. I totally identified with the mom and those were the parts that got to me as well. When the question arose of whether a mom would still be a mom if her only child died, that hit me in the gut. My kids are 16, 13, and 9 so the only one I wouldn’t allow to see this movie is the 9 year old. I look forward to seeing it myself. Thanks for your review!

    1. Can’t wait to hear what you think! Yeah, 13 and 16 should be fine. I just feel the need to discuss the issue of teens having sex. I resent that almost all adolescent lit presents this as what kids do. Because a) it’s not and b) it shouldn’t be. The more they read it, the more normal it becomes, and that’s wrong. Anyway, off the soapbox. This is the world we live in, so I guess we have to work extra hard to instill our values.

  3. There’s so much hype about the movie, I decided to buy the book. It’s on my coffee table, unread. ha. I might end up seeing the movie instead, but not sure who I can bribe to go with me. I’m uncomfortable crying in front of most people, so, we’ll see if I go – because I’m certain I would be a sobbing mess.


  4. Thanks for this post. I read the book a while back but I am holding off on allowing my almost thirteen year old read it. I’ve been asking around to see what age people thought the book and the movie were appropriate so I appreciate the movie review. I tend to be a bit more conservative as well so I think that we will hold off for a bit longer with this one. Love your topics lately! I feel like you blog about many the things I am curious about most weeks! 🙂 Happy weekend!

  5. My 15 year-old went to see it with her friends. She didn’t even want to see it because of the sad subject matter. We tend to be pretty conservative too but usually check the online reviews for parents before allowing them to see it. Our daughter is very sensitive to violence and disturbing subject matter so I try to shield her from that in addition to the other “stuff”.

    1. My 13 year old (who was not quite 13 when she read the book) and I saw the movie on opening day. She had read and loved the book and insisted that I read it immediately, so I knew there would be a “questionable” scene in the movie. We did talk about it a little bit afterwards, but to her that scene was such a small part of the story that I think I made it a bigger deal than she thought it was.

      I am happy to say that both of my kids are readers. They devour books like candy! My 13 year old has read several “older” teen series (Divergent, Hunger Games, The MazeRunner) but her group of friends are also readers and they have book club discussions at lunch. My (almost) 11 year old has not read TFIOS and I did not take her to the movie. Like you stated, we all know our own kids, and she is not ready for this book/movie. Although she has just finished all of the Harry Potter books and I will be allowing her to see the movies (with me) She is reading at a 7-8 grade level, so it is getting harder to find age appropriate books that are an interesting read for her.

  6. I am really glad you posted about this movie! My 15 year old daughter read it & then I read it afterwards. I was disappointed by the language in the book. There’s not a TON, but we don’t live like that, so it was a bit hard for me to handle. Curious if there’s a lot of language in the movie?

  7. As you know, I work in a bookstore. I have read the book. I haven’t seen the movie yet(and probably won’t get to for a while). I am head of the Children’s Department/Teen Department, and I have seen many girls of all ages buying the book. With their parent with them. And each time, I have to say to the parent: Do you know there are adult themes in this book? As in personal physical relations? Most are like ok. I don’t agree. I think this book should be classified as adult fiction, not teen.

    Okay, off my soap box.

  8. Completely agree, although I did go see it with my 13 and 15 yr old daughters. The sex scene bothered me as well. I had a lengthy discussion with my two girls afterwards. I will say this,..I do believe though that the movie portrayed what true “making love” should be…although they were young. Taking away the age in have to admit I thought it was a beautiful portrayal. I hated the recent movie “Endless Love” – hated it! I hated the way they portrayed sex! This was movie was very different although I still hated that they were young. It did allow me to discuss further with my girls about how important it is to their future husband to wait until they get married to have sex. Anyway- thanks for your review!!!

  9. My 12 year old (headed to 8th grade) and I have read the book. She kind of wants to see it but we probably will wait for video. She’s actually more excited about How to Train your Dragon 2. As for reading, she’s a much bigger fan of Hunger Games and Divergent type of book. She read TFIOS because of the press but the themes were a little old. She has always been a skilled reader but often books of the appropriate skill are too old theme-wise.

    Since you said that you want to read another. I have read Looking for Alaska and have told my daughter, she may not read it yet. There is a lot of behavior depicted that I don’t want her to think is appropriate or typical.

  10. Like you, I thought it was intense in subject matter for kids. I read the book at the suggestion of my 13 year old daughter and went to see the movie with her. She reads at a college level so I was comfortable with her reading it and seeing the movie. I absolutely sobbed when reading the book and knew I would throughout the film as well.
    The story evoked such strong emotions and all I kept thinking was “thank God I have healthy children” because I cannot imagine what it must feel like for a parent whose child is suffering with cancer.

    Having said that, it is very intense subject matter for children to deal with but my daughter handled it well and I think I made a bigger deal about discussing the sexual content than I needed to. It wasn’t really a factor for her, it was more about the story of Gus and Hazel. I’m glad we saw it…I think the book was better than the film but isn’t that usually the case?

  11. I’ve been wondering about this …. have heard it is crazy sad and to expect outright bawling and sobs from moviegoers (which would probably be me if I went, lol) I’m more conservative, too, so your soapbox comment I totally agree with. I don’t have young children or anything, but even for anyone, I prefer to just skip those sections…I think there is a way to hint or whatever (if they really feel the need to actually have that in the storyline) without having it a “scene”. Anyways, I’m not sure if I’ll see it…maybe will wait until it’s out to rent.

    1. I now, I always say, why can’t they leave more to the imagination… really!? It was beautiful and I get that it made their relationship more poignant, but it could have stopped a bit sooner, imo.

  12. I have no desire to see the movie. First reason is I am already manic depressive & the last thing I need is a “tear fest”. Second, I have spent too much time is hosptials & recovering from my own illness…that is just upsetting for me to watch anything of the illness/hospital/dying in the plot line. Third, is that I have made the personal choice to refuse any cancer treatment if I have or get cancer. I want to live what life I have with quality & not ill from the treatments & in hospitals. That all said…I repeat I will NOT be watching the movie nor reading the book!

  13. My 16 year old bought the book and now wants to see the movie, but not with me. She says that it would be too embarrassing. I haven’t read the book as a friend is borrowing her book. I don’t know if I want to read it since it’s too sad, and I prefer to read more upbeat books. My 21 year old read the book and has no desire to see the movie as she cried enough when she read it and doesn’t want to do it again.

  14. I have a 10 year old who has been invited to a birthday party which includes the viewing of this movie. Her friends have read the book (they are all 10) and say they loved it. One of the girls said her mother taped a few pages together and told her daughter not to read them – I imagine they were the sex scene that a few have commented on. I don’t want my daughter to miss out on a gathering that means so much to her, but I am concerned about the sex conversation and scene. I will read the book ahead of time to make up my own mind, but we have not had the full sex talk with her yet as there hasn’t been a need. I’m sure the subject has been discussed with her friends at some point but she hasn’t yet asked any questions. I have always felt this subject should be discussed on a ‘need to know’ basis and even though she is a mature 10, I didn’t’ feel it was necessary to discuss it now. I am feeling a bit pressured now that she wants to read this book and see the movie. I note that many comments said that this scene wasn’t such a big deal for their child, so I don’t want to make a bigger deal of it than it needs to be. I think I have a few months before this party and I have the reference material I need for ‘the talk’ but I just don’t want to push it on her if I don’t really need to. I would love some opinions/comments from other parents of 10 year old girls…

    1. Yikes. Ten is really young for this movie — more than the sex scene, the subject matter over all is heavy. My daughter is 11 and I haven’t let her see it, but really, the scene in the movie isn’t explicit. He removes her shirt, and then the rest is left to the imagination, so I don’t think it warrants “the talk” — although, I would say that at 10, it’s probably time for “the talk” anyway. She will get it soon in school (if she’s in public school… and don’t get me started on THAT. Ugh.) Anyway, it’s tough, this parenting gig!!! Hang in there!

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