Overall Impression: Intelligent writing with poor execution which sacrificed the integrity of the characters.
The Fault In Our Stars, adored by readers everywhere. I have been aware of this books presence on the internet for what feels like an eternity. I avoided picking it up for a long time because hello, epitome of the hype monster! Also, one of my best friends may or may not have threatened to de-friend me if I disliked it. She takes the life of a nerdfighter very seriously. With the release of the film adaptation right around the corner I finally gathered the courage to open the first page and begin to read.
But after closing the last page, I found myself a little baffled. It seems once again I am out of step with the rest of the bookish community because when it comes to this novel I keep hitting up against an imaginary brick wall of okay. Not heartbreaking or adorable, okay. Ironic, considering the front cover and the importance of the word to the two leading protagonists.
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.
Hazel is a terminally ill teenager with cancer who needs a cannula and an oxygen tank to stay alive. When Hazel’s mother decides her daughter is depressed she sends her to a Cancer Kid Support Group in the hopes that it will help. Support Group is Hazel’s idea of hell, but when a witty, attractive boy in remission named Augustus turns up suddenly everything becomes a bit more interesting. Augustus has a truck full of charm and the best part is, he’s interested in her. But Hazel is worried about her grenade like status and is determined to hurt the least amount of people around her with the remnants of shrapnel.
However, Augustus’s charm is tough to resist and with the help of a book in common named An Imperial Affliction and a magical trip to Amsterdam, Hazel may just change her mind.
John Green’s writing style was okay, with the occasional hint of genius showing though. Having watched a lot of his Youtube video’s I had a reasonable idea what to expect. It turns out, he writes exactly the same way he speaks. Green has an unusual way with language that is somewhat awe-inspiring. He is good at twisting a string of words together in a way that is insightful and funny, which also enables him to expertly switch the tone from sad to happy. Green is a witty, witty man and king of intellectual flirting, Hazel and Augustus’s banter back and forth was fun and cheesy grin inducing which suits a romance novel, especially a romance novel aimed at nerds (seriously, the bits about THE LITERAL HEART OF JESUS had me cracking up). John Green also seemed to know everything about everything. You can tell whist reading he has a huge knowledge base on a wide array of topics and he definitely does his research. I could have greedily devoured this novel in a day if given a chance, it was so easy to read and the pages flew by, but here’s the catch, his writing uses my number one pet hate. It’s pretentious and over the top which is something I never get on with. I don’t believe that John Green is pretentious, but his story and its characters came across that way to me. Many of his word choices had me squinting at the page thinking ‘Really?’. I felt he was trying too hard to be clever to the point of ridiculousness and it kept throwing me out of the story and worked as a barrier which prevented me from becoming emotionally invested. I found most of the famous quotes really irritating and there wasn’t one line I felt the need to write down because it inspired or resonated with me.
The plot of The Fault in Our Stars was okay. Throughout the first third of the book I was enthusiastic about where the story was going to go, anxious to see what would happen and share in the tribulation of the characters. I liked how cute Hazel and Augustus’s first encounter was and the way they bonded over the discussion of a book that they were both passionate about. There were some interesting points on mortality and I especially loved the sections pondering what defined a life well lived. I found it interesting how even though most of the characters in this novel had been dealt a hard blow in life and resented that the world was not a wish granting factory, there was still this element of hope and positivity weaved throughout the novel. The problem was that as the story continued my interested deteriorated. The book began to drag and I became fed up with Hazel and Augustus’s repetitive philosophical musings far beyond their years. By the time the characters reached Amsterdam my interest had dwindled. Also, I found the whole Anne Frank scene weird. It didn’t help that I saw the so-called ‘twist’ coming from a mile off either, it lessened the shock impact on me.
As the novel continued and events escalated I squeezed out a few tears but didn’t weep or become heartbroken. I’m the kind of person that sobs at Disney movies and regularly mists up when watching TV, and there can be knock on sadness for hours afterwards. Cancer is one of those horrendous topics that gets me every time, but with The Fault in Our Stars there was a short initial reaction and then I moved on with my daily life unaffected. I felt weirdly disconnected from the whole thing. It failed to get me deep in the gut, and I need that connection from the books I read. No matter how much I looked for it, this feeling never surfaced.
I think one of the reasons this book missed the mark for me was because I was comparing it to Before I Die by Jenny Downham (also turned into a film named Now is Good starring Dakota Fanning) which I read when I was 15. That book felt like such a harrowing and realistic portrayal of a teen with cancer and covered many of the themes The Fault in Our Stars did, love, hope, what it means to be alive. I read it at such an impressionable age as well and it absolutely wrecked me emotionally. It was subtle but excellently done. As the only other cancer book I have read, I was bound to compare the two and The Fault in Our Stars didn’t have even close to the same effect on me. This is an issue that lies with me rather than the book, and I can hardly blame John Green for it!
Finally, the characters were you guessed it, okay, but they were probably the biggest disappointment for me overall. I liked Hazel, her sarcasm and spunk was fun to read along with her flair for the blunt. I found her belief that nearly everything was a side effect of dying funny and weirdly accurate. Unfortunately, I also found her quite annoying and stuck up. Some of her everyday ponderings were plain stupid to me. I had a similar problem with Augustus, he had some great one liners and was irresistible in many respects but in other ways he annoyed me. I didn’t find the cigarette metaphor remotely cute or amusing, I have a feeling it was supposed to be super insightful or something but I just thought it was pretentious. Most frustrating of all was the unrealistic dialogue between the two because while it was fun, it didn’t work for me. I get that this book has been hailed and praised as intelligent YA, but I don’t want the intelligence of a book to affect the integrity of the characters. I understand that fiction often means we have to suspend our belief, but in a very specific way. I don’t have any problem with dragons and vampires or special powers as long as they are written in a way that makes me believe as if they could truly be out there, even if it is entirely impossible. John Green failed to do that for me with his dialogue, although I’m sure he has succeeded for a multitude for other readers.
The Fault in Our Stars was an unusual case where I preferred the minor characters. Isaac, who had lost his eyesight due to his battle with cancer made for an interesting read. He had some great lines, but realistic ones, and the egg throwing scene was my favourite in the entire novel. His pain felt raw and heartbreaking, he was only character that made me tear up and I wish I could have discovered more of his story. Peter van Houten the author came in close second, he was vile, mean and blunt but in an oddly appealing way. He’s a character you could imagine running into in real life. Someone who isn’t afraid to slap someone with the reality of life.
I wish I could have loved this novel. Maybe if I hadn’t already read and adored Before I Die, if John Green’s writing style hadn’t been so pretentious, if I had been younger or I hadn’t read so many other stellar books in a row. If, if, if…. But ‘ifs’ are no good to me because here I sit in reality world, and in reality when it comes to this book all I feel shamefully indifferent about the whole thing. I know this review will probably turn heads but I never have and never will apologize for being honest about my thoughts on a book, no matter how well-loved it is because it’s not in my nature! I would recommend this book to males or females 13+ who enjoy tales about first loves, loss and hope with a side of intelligent bookworm banter.
Writing Style: 3/5
Character Development: 3/5
Would I recommend this book? Meh.
Overall Impression: 3/5