Saturday, May 17, 2014

The Fault in Our Stars Review

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
Published:  January 14, 2013 (originally published January 2012)
My Rating: 3.5 of 5 stars (I rounded up on GR since you can't do half stars.)
Synopsis from Goodreads: Diagnosed with Stage IV thyroid cancer at 13, Hazel was prepared to die until, at 14, a medical miracle shrunk the tumors in her lungs... for now.

Two years post-miracle, sixteen-year-old Hazel is post-everything else, too; post-high school, post-friends and post-normalcy. And even though she could live for a long time (whatever that means), Hazel lives tethered to an oxygen tank, the tumors tenuously kept at bay with a constant chemical assault.

Enter Augustus Waters. A match made at cancer kid support group, Augustus is gorgeous, in remission, and shockingly to her, interested in Hazel. Being with Augustus is both an unexpected destination and a long-needed journey, pushing Hazel to re-examine how sickness and health, life and death, will define her and the legacy that everyone leaves behind.

I want to start off by saying that this was my first experience reading a John Green novel and I did like this book. I really did. It was touching and emotional and tragic (though it did not make me cry). However, regardless of any of that, I have mixed feelings about it. I really wanted to LOVE this book and give it five stars. It seemed everyone else does and day in and day out at my job and all over the internet people are raving about how beautiful this book is. Still, after finishing it, I just thought it was okay. Not like Hazel and Augustus' "Okay? Okay." kind of way but just okay.

SPOILER!! : I borrowed this book from my cousin and before even starting it I asked her, "Augustus dies doesn't he? No, don't answer that but he does, doesn't he?" She didn't answer but lo and behold, I was right. All I knew before picking up the book was that it was told in Hazel's POV, Augustus was in remission and she was not, and they fall in love. Obviously one of them was going to die and it would be too obvious if it was Hazel and therefore, I predicted how the book would end even before starting it. It read a lot like a Nicholas Sparks novel where you know that by the end someone is going to die tragically you just don't know when. It was predictable and sad for the sake of being sad.

I feel as though John Green was trying to make this book be more than it was. What I mean by that is, it's as if he wanted to imbue life lessons and deep meaning through the book but the approach to achieving that didn't succeed as fully as was intended. By making Hazel and Augustus wise-beyond-their-years characters who spewed metaphors and poetry, they came off as pretentious and sometimes annoying rather than truly wise or remotely realistic. I would have rather had Augustus light the cigarette and just smoke it as a challenge somewhere along the lines of him having beaten death once so he could do it again rather than Augustus walking around pretending to smoke because it's a metaphor. I say this as a non-smoker who fully believes in the vices of smoking and who never has and never will purposefully inhale smoke into my lungs. I think any meaning that could be taken from this book could have been achieved without the pretty SAT vocabulary littered across every page and random allusions to poetry and literature (real or not) shoved in between. Without all the pomp and circumstance, Hazel and Augustus would have seemed more realistic as teenagers and their situation would have become more sincere and authentic.

Again, I want to say that I did like this book. The idea of looking for hope, goodness, love, and happiness in an otherwise hopeless situation and then choosing to live for the good over the bad is a wonderful sentiment and one worthy of a book. I understand that TFiOS is based on the life of Esther Earl though I did not read This Star Won't Go Out. John Green's writing is beautiful even if it is much too heavy on the metaphors. However, I stick by my opinion that the topic and moral of the book could have been conveyed more genuinely had the characters and writing been less pretentious.

I would recommend this to any young adult looking for a quick, sad book to read (because sometimes you just find yourself in the mood for a quick, sad read). However, I would not recommend this to anyone who has had personal experience with cancer or a child's death from cancer. I don't believe the moral is delivered strongly enough to be learned through the overpowering writing.

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