Fault in Our Stars, The
What is there to say about this book but that it was beautiful and tragic and I don't know how I got through the last of this book without throwing it across the room
Me: Oh my Goooood. (dabbing my face with a tissue)
Hubby: Are you crying? Wait, you are cr–why are you crying??
Me: This is such a sad book.
Hubby: Well…that’s when you know it’s a good book, right? When you burst into tears.
True, but The Fault In Our Stars is not just a sad book. There is so much right–no, amazing–about this book, that it’s hard to know where to start. In the first chapter, I couldn’t count how many times I laughed out loud. John Green is not just intelligent; he is uncommonly witty, and the humor he infuses into the main characters makes the book a brilliantly entertaining read.
I love that he doesn’t dumb down the teenage main characters. Both Hazel and Augustus (Gus) are insightful and intellectual, confusing even the adults around them. I learned so much from their offbeat ramblings and monologues.
A catalyst for many of the characters’ conversations and actions is the fictional book An Imperial Affliction, written by fictional author, Peter Van Houten. Hazel is beyond obsessed with the book and brings Gus into her crazed fan club. They want nothing more than to find out what happens to the main characters because the book ends in mid-sentence.
Their obsession at one point made me want to scream, “Stop reading that book!” But they don’t stop. They end up traveling to Amsterdam to meet the reclusive one-time author, who you could call a major disappointment. I don’t want to give too much away, so let’s say that Hazel and Gus find other ways to make their trip worthwhile (marijuana not included).
I love how the characters fall in love. And I love that Hazel knows Gus so well that when his body has almost given up on him, she doesn’t treat him like a child like everybody else does. She remains her cynical, opinionated self, not giving him any special treatment, and Gus appreciates that.
I’ve known people who have died from cancer, but no one close to me. The kind of pain that enshrouds such an experience is impossible to replicate in the pages of a book. But I did experience a sense of loss through Green’s incredible storytelling, and it’s a loss that I hope to never experience in reality.
Yes, it is a book about cancer, but it’s also a book about all of us, and about time. From the epigraph in the novel:
As the tide washed in, the Dutch Tulip Man faced the ocean: “Conjoinder rejoinder poisoner concealer revelator. Look at it, rising up and rising down, taking everything with it.”
“What’s that?” I asked.
“Water,” the Dutchman said. “Well, and time.”
–Peter Van Houten, An Imperial Affliction
I can only end by saying I highly highly recommend this book. Expect to cry and laugh till your sides hurt.
Green is a very smart man. He uses a lot of big words (are you allowed to do that in YA?) and he's aware of every trope in our literature and has made it his personal agenda to smash all those tropes to pieces. Which is great.
My only complaint would be, after also reading "Looking for Alaska," that Green doesn't know how to diversify the voices of his main teen-aged characters. Sure, they all have slightly different views of the world, but the way they actually speak isn't so terribly different. They're all just hands-down wit-generating machines.
It also talks about what it's like to live with cancer, although less in terms of gory medical details and appointments (for the most part) and more about what it's like, as a teenager, to LIVE with it. The only people I've known who had cancer were much older, and so this was rather interesting, but sad to read about. We meet some of the supporting people who also have cancer, some of whom don't make it all the way to the end of the book.
I have to say, based on the movie trailer I could tell how the book would end. I wasn't surprised for it to end the way it did, although there were a couple of twists I didn't quite expect. Overall I'm not quite sure it's worth the critical acclaim and I don't feel as sad as others have proclaimed. But it was a well-written and interesting book. I was also pleased to find the main character is a bit of a bookworm. Works for me!
It took me a few days to read but it's probably suitable for a plane ride or long car trip. Depending on the reader, he or she may need tissues throughout the book and at the end.
Ok, so a little background, just to get a base point for some of my reactions to this book. In late 2010, I read Green's "Looking For Alaska". I ended up liking it more than I thought that I would, but for a long time I'd avoided it based on incorrect preconceived notions regarding what the book was about. It wasn't until I'd watched some of John and Hank Green's Vlogbrothers videos that I decided to go for it. And that made a difference. I could see John in the story - in the quirky intelligent teen characters, in the irreverence, and I liked it. After that, I bought "An Abundance of Katherines" & "Paper Towns", but I haven't read anything but their synopses yet.
So, flash-forward to present day. "The Fault In Our Stars" is chosen to be read among friends, and so I read it. And immediately, I'm struck again by the quirky intelligent teen characters, and the irreverence... But now, it's not so different, because now it seems like a pattern. A style. And that makes it less meaningful. When everyone is profoundly quirky and intelligent, it begins to seem a little trite.
So here again we have quirky intelligent characters, including a host of 16 year olds with ridiculously sophisticated vocabularies, and including an "extremely sophisticated twenty-five-year-old British socialite stuck inside a sixteen-year-old body in Indianapolis". These are midwest teenagers who sound like they're members of the Intelligentsia. Everything is profound and has "metaphorical resonance". It just didn't feel realistic to me.
Case in point: At one point there's correspondence with an author of a book that the main characters found profound, and I had a hard time differentiating between the voice of the Profound Author and the teens.
That shouldn't be the case. Ever. When one of the teens mentioned rhetorically whether the other thought they'd made up the Profound Author's letter, whether it sounded like something they'd come up with, I thought, "Yes!"
It's just too much for EVERYONE in these stories to be so quirky. Where are the average teens who just hang out with each other and don't use $10 words to say hi to each other? It was just unrealistic for me, especially in a book trying desperately to show that kids with cancer are just normal kids who shouldn't be treated deferentially just because they are sick. The problem here is that these weren't normal kids. These were extraordinary ones. Like everyone else. *sigh*
It took about half the book for this annoyance to peter out. It was like, at this point, the quirkiness and $10 conversations took a backseat to the story, finally. And that's when I really started to love it. Coincidence? I think not. Extraordinary characters are great and all, when, as a friend put it, they have "an ordinary background to shine against". I couldn't agree more.
I was far more affected and heartbroken by the simple, no-nonsense way that Hazel talked about her parents and how they were coping (or failing to cope) with her cancer prognosis than by her constant multi-syllabic conversations about the metaphorically resonant quality of... whatever.
There was a line near the end of the book that kind of summed this up perfectly:
"He wasn't perfect or anything. He wasn't your fairy-tale Prince Charming or whatever. He tried to be like that sometimes, but I liked him best when that stuff fell away."I loved all the bits of this book that were in between all of the uber-profound stuff. The bits about loving and losing in terms of how much both hurt in stark terms of pure aching. Fancy words are fancy, but sometimes the beauty is in simplicity. When all the pretense fell away, and it was just two people wanting to spend as much time as they had left together, it became the story it always should have been.
This ended up being a moving and heartbreaking book, but I think it would have been a much better one had it been written more simply.
If you don't know the story, I refuse to spoil it for you. Just read it. It's pretty good. And I have read the criticisms that Hazel and Augustus don't talk or act like typical teenagers. It's because they aren't. They are dying, they are a little bit hipster, and they have been forced to look their own mortality in the eye and deal with it. I can't imagine what that would feel like at 16, and I would bet neither can you. Their witty banter and interesting conversations are what kept me from the eye rolling, honestly. The part that bugged me most was her father. Please stop crying about everything around your daughter. Man up, dude. She's the one dying. It struck me as incredibly selfish.
TL:DR. Cancer sucks, and this book is sad.
More about just how good at RB:
I need to preface this review with the fact that it is difficult for me to articulate my feelings on this book. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green has impacted me in so many ways, and is truly one of the great literary pieces of our generation. This is a book that will be read for years to come, and I’m so happy to have had it in my life.Green does an amazing job of telling a human story. This book is about the basic human realities: life, death, love, loss, innocence, and cynicism. Hazel is one of the most intensely real characters I’ve read; so real that at points it made me extremely uncomfortable. But that is what makes Green’s writing so beautiful; he is able to craft a new reality with his words that transports the reader directly into the story.
It’s hard to talk about this book without giving away plot points, but the basic outline is this: Hazel Lancaster, the protagonist, was diagnosed with cancer at a young age. she lives through her formative years dealing with this attack on her body, but she goes into recession thanks to a miracle drug. Living to see her 17th birthday isn’t something Hazel or her parents thought possible before, but now she has the foreseeable future ahead of her. And a part of that future involves one Augustus Waters.
Augustus and Hazel are a match made for the ages. One of the things that Green so eloquently does is show that love, real love, is possible at any age. Augustus is one of those boys who is a melt-your-heart, let-him-be-mine boy. But he isn’t perfect, giving him layers that are needed in this type of book. The same with Hazel. She isn’t perfect showing vulnerability and fear in the face of her life, but also great hope. Hazel is pushed to live again by Augustus, and Augustus is shown the big picture by Hazel. Together they make each other better.
I know there is a lot of talk about this book. It has been on numerous book lists, won awards, and been all over the literary world. But that isn’t without due cause. The ability to capture the human experience and tell a story that reads so much like fact is a gift. This type of book can be used for future generations to look back on and go, “That’s how people thought then.” The Fault in Our Stars by John Green is a transformative work that should be required reading for both teens and adults.