The Fault in Our Stars
January 10th, 2012
Bought on Kindle
Synopsis via Goodreads
Despite the tumor-shrinking medical miracle that has bought her a few years, Hazel has never been anything but terminal, her final chapter inscribed upon diagnosis. But when a gorgeous plot twist named Augustus Waters suddenly appears at Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazel's story is about to be completely rewritten.
*takes a deep breath* So, this review is neither raving nor scathing (well maybe some of the latter), but somewhere in between. I was really enjoying The Fault in Our Stars when I initially started it. But the further in I got, the more it seemed to just...leave a bad taste in my mouth. Especially the more I contemplated what I had just read upon finishing it. I find myself understanding why there is so much hype about it; at the same time, I'm not so sure it deserves it. After all, it is easy to play the right, and best, hand when you've got cards stuffed up your sleeves. (No, I'm not calling John Green a cheater. Just, he knew exactly what elements this story needed to be a big hit, and he used them all: dying teenagers; last chance, whirlwind romance; snark; irony; metaphors; a lot of frikin' metaphors made to make the reader feel smart and the characters seem deep and profound.)
Alright, so, I liked the characters, generally speaking. They were snarky, fun to read about, and I found myself rooting for them overall, though not especially invested in them emotionally. Unfortunately, their personalities were so similar that it was almost as though they were the same person/character/idea represented in male and female form. They made a big show of "not being their cancer" and the whole time I was like, "But you are!" They, and their family, were almost solely defined by the fact that both Gus and Hazel have cancer. I realize something like cancer tends to take over your life and all; I watched my dad die from cancer, so please don't try to tell me I don't know what it is like. However, for example, we know Hazel is taking college classes; why not include more of that area of her life in the story? Even if just a little more. I found it hard to believe that Hazel's one friend from the high school (nope, don't remember her name) was the first person her mom thinks of for Hazel to spend her birthday with, and yet she's almost never around. If she's that important, I would have liked to have seen more of her and what there was of her friendship with Hazel. I didn't feel as though any of the characters under went all that much growth throughout the story. They would appear to, at times, but then were right back to how they were.
As for the overall story line, I felt like it was trying to capitalize on everything that makes a book a bestseller. (See first paragraph). Hazel seems to pride herself on giving an honest, and somewhat brutal portrayal of what cancer is really like. And I'm sitting here thinking, "So it is normal for kids with cancer to fall in love with a hot fellow cancer dude at support group *spoiler* and lose their virginity together in fucking Austria *spoiler*?" Someone please tell me how this is in any way a realistic portrayal of a teen with cancer. I am perfectly willing to admit that my view of this book is probably tainted by the fact that I have personally dealt with losing one of the two most important people in my life to cancer. Although, I actually feel as though I am more enlightened by it, rather than tainted. Because I have seen how ugly and awful the reality of cancer is first hand. And this, this was a very romanticized picture of it that wouldn't have bothered me so much if it would have just owned up to being so instead of trying to tout itself as some eye-opening breakthrough in YA literature on the subject of cancer. (I don't entirely blame John Green for this and realize this has more to do with the marketing of the novel.)
The writing was nice, the pacing very fluid and consistent, with parts of it being very beautiful. I say parts because some of it felt like it was trying way too hard to be deep and profound, while others were genuinely...well...great. That said, even though there were sections of writing that I loved, the words did not feel believable coming from a couple of teenagers (or much of anyone, for that matter) who are supposed to be coming up with this stuff off the top of their heads and using it in everyday conversation. No, they read like a man sitting at a computer, or lying in bed, working over that section of thought countless times in his head until it is perfect. In other words, John Green's writing read like writing, and I often found this to result in my being pulled out of the story as I think, "Who the heck, teenager or otherwise, says stuff like that?"
Moreover, there were times throughout this novel that were prime for hardcore, heart wrenching emotion that were wasted because of a somewhat arrogant obsession with "beautiful, deep, and profound metaphors". I felt Green was too concerned with making things sound pretty and poetic in these emotionally wrought moments, causing the true, and ugly pain of the situations to leave me feeling next to nothing.
The ending, well I saw that coming from a mile off and was not the least bit surprised. When I went to turn the page on my kindle, only to see I had finished, there was a brief "Where's the rest?" moment, but I quickly recovered and shrugged it off like, "Well, yeah. Figures."
This review has ended up being more scathing than I initially intended. I liked the book fairly well while I was reading it. But the more I have thought about it since, the more I want to stick the killing thing between my lips and give it the power to kill me. In other words, it was a very in the moment read for me that I never should have given much thought to upon finishing.
Characters: Snarky and witty, but not very well rounded/developed. I wanted more depth, as opposed to the illusion of depth.
Writing: Occasionally gorgeous and clever, but felt ill utilized in places. Read quickly and smoothly.
Plot: Prided itself on being honest, but didn't feel all that brutally revealing. Very caught up in the romance.
Ending: Predictable and just...meh.
Enjoyment/Likability: I liked it most the time I was reading it. It was decent. Laughed a lot. Never found myself moved to tears though.
Recommendable: Let's face it, you've either read it already, never plan to read it, or know you will read it at some point, regardless of what I've written above.
Overall: In short, this is a good-ish book. Really. Especially if you take it for what it is, see it for what it isn't, and don't dig too deeply. I am definitely a subscriber to the "It's Overrated" club. Despite it falling short of my expectations (seriously, I've been hearing people sing this book's praises since before it ever officially released), I'm glad I read it, and it did get me out of my reading slump. My main issue with this book was that it seemed more concerned with being a bestseller than telling a meaningful story. (Fire up the torches.) I will be reading more of Green in the future, though, starting with Looking for Alaska, which I have heard is better. Also, John Green, I think you are a super cool dude and all. Nothing personal. I just didn't like this book.
Cover: Umm...simplistic? Sure, we'll go with that.
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