Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Review: The Fault In Our Stars by John Green

I am often very leery of reading books that involve any type of serious medical conditions or illness. Why? Because books like that tend to make me sad. I have many people I am close to in real life who suffer, or have suffered, from various issues and when I read fiction I tend to want to escape that -- not embrace it.

So it probably seems baffling that, with my grandma just out of the hospital and diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma, that I would even consider touching any book to do with cancer. But here's the thing: I've been so stressed out over grandma that it's been blocking my ability to focus. While everyone else here is struggling externally, I'm doing my best to keep my act together, because someone has to keep grandma smiling.

It's beating the crap outta my ability to create and respond to art, though. Since "How is your book?" and "What are you doing on your blog?" are two of her favorite questions, I had to figure out a way to stick to the program, and reading this seems to have helped.

The Plot: (Summary from GoodReads)
Diagnosed with Stage IV thyroid cancer at 12, Hazel was prepared to die until, at 14, a medical miracle shrunk the tumours 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 tumours 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.

As with most of the contemporary books I have read and loved, The Fault In Our Stars does not have a plot in the conventional way that I am use to thinking of 'plot' when reading stuff like fantasy, paranormal or dystopian. Rather, it feels like we meet Hazel and get to live part of her life with her. Those who don't read contemporary never seem to 'get' this. When I bought this, my boyfriend said, "Oh, God. That sounds depressing and boring." I could not disagree more.

Are there aspects of The Fault In Our Stars that are depressing? Will it make you feel like there is a hand reaching into your chest and squeezing your heart until you fear it might break? Will it reduce you to a sobbing me? Yes, oh yes. But even I, a self-proclaimed hater of books that make me cry, know that sometimes a book needs to reach out, grab the reader's heart, and send it north. Some subjects, some characters and some stories just cannot 'be' without that.

Don't get it in your head that this is just a "crying book", though. The writing in The Fault In Our Stars is truly a thing of beauty. It's honest, real and laugh out loud funny just as often or moreso then it is tear jerking. This is extremely important. The book could not have become what it is to me without either part that makes it whole.

The way that the characters act, the way that they hope and dream and support one another and grow close and struggle and succeed (or fail) ... Real life is not comprised soley of sorrow or smiles and, in wanting to be a mirror for life, contemporary fiction cannot fall into the trap of going too far in either direction. John Green nails the balance perfectly, and The Fault In Our Stars is such a great book because of this.

The Characters: 

The first thing that deserves to be said is this: Hazel's voice was absolutely amazing. I really felt that I got to know her in this book. She felt very real to me and I found myself deeply invested in what was happening to her. I admired her honesty and courage and at the same time liked the fact that her character could have a bit of bite and that she did not buy into any real type of bullshit. 

Augustus Waters is a male lead who is going to stick with me. He's definitely up there on my top five love interests in YA. What I liked so much about him is that he has this very distinct and quirky personality that compliments Hazel perfectly. His moments of strength and humor, coupled with moments of fear and doubt, made him a character I grew deeply attached to and whom I deeply admired.

The other character I really loved in this book is Issac. The role that he plays in the book from where he is at the beginning to where he ends up in the end made me really respect him. While I am not totally blind, his struggle at the beginning of the book is one of the things that initially bound me to the pages and made me feel really invested in what was going on. His struggle was one that I could, in a certain way, identify with.

The Romance: 

I really enjoyed watching Hazel and Augustus together. I think that the pace of their relationship and the way that it progressed was distinct, believable and suited the characters well. I like how everything -- how they felt about each other, how *everything* going on in their lives and how their own unique hopes and fears all added to the trials they faced and to both the joys and sorrows they had in being together. 

I also think that there is this extremely interesting shift where we see Augustus as being the stronger of the two -- more outgoing, hopeful, etc. -- at the beginning of the book, yet as it progresses we see Hazel come more and more into her own and step up to the plate. (Please realize I am *not* saying one grows at the expense of the other, for those who've read the book.) 

Despite the way everything happens in this book, the relationship between Hazel and Augustus may well be one of my favorite pairings that I have read about. Not just in YA, but *ever*. It was just that good, just that honest and just that moving. I loved it.

(SPOILER: I must warn you, if you are a romance reader, that The Fault In Our Stars does *not* have a normal HEA ending. I do not hold this against the book because the romance, while beautiful and moving, is not the main point. Hazel's growth is, and John Green gets that absolutely right.

In General: 

The Fault In Our Stars is a truly beautiful and moving story. But more important then that it's honest, it's real and it holds nothing back. It'll make you laugh, make you cry and make you think about what it means to be alive. Because while there is cancer in this book, while there is struggle and heartbreak, sorrow and tears, what ultimately matters is not that we will all eventually someday die, but how we all consciously, here, today, choose to live. Highly, highly recommended. I cannot praise this book enough.


Now that you've read my thoughts on The Fault In Our Stars, I'm wondering ... What are yours? Have you read it? Did you love it or hate it? If you haven't read it, do you want to read it? Or perhaps contemporary isn't your style or, like me, you're nervous about the subject matter. Whatever your view is, please feel free to speak your mind. 

Sixth Recipient Of...


1. Handles a difficult subject I normally would not touch with grace, style and class. Successfully walks the line between being tasteful about said subject while not drowning the reader in unbelievable mounds of nonsense.

2. A heroine who was distinct, unique and stood behind what she believed in. I really, really liked Hazel a lot.

3. A love interest who will definitely stick with me for a while. Augustus Waters made me smile on many occasions and watching him and Hazel together was awesome. 

4. A blend between humor and heartbreak that kept the book very real, gave it 'weight' and yet never bogged it down. 

5. Beautiful writing that suited the story and characters perfectly but that never got in the way. When I forget I'm holding a book, it's safe to say the author got it right. 

12 comments:

  1. This is one book I'm very hesitant on as I don't usually seek emotionally charged books. I've also never read a John Green book so that's like, almost a sin or something. It definitely sounds like a breathtaking read though I should give it a try. Cute new blog design too, doll!

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