Monday, June 16, 2014

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

Title: The Fault in Our Stars
Author: John Green
Genre: Young Adult/Drama/Romance

Maturity Rating: 13+
Overall Rating:

My Quickie Synopsis: Hazel Lancaster is a young woman with terminal cancer who has been blessed with receiving ground-breaking medicine that has hindered the growth of her tumors. But Hazel knows that it's only a temporary fix; she doesn't want to get too close to anyone because she feels like a ticking time bomb. That all changes the day she meets Augustus Waters.

Enjoyment Factor:
I finally gave in and read this book, primarily because I was considering going to see the movie. Now that I've read the book, I'm actually wondering if for once the movie might be better. There is a bucket load of pretentious writing in this novel. Granted, being a little on the cavalier side is a popular trait in teens, but this took the cake. The following quotes are just a few nuggets of the philosophical rhetoric that fill the novel:
"My thoughts are stars I cannot fathom into constellations." 
“We’re as likely to hurt the universe as we are to help it, and we’re not likely to do either."
“It seemed like forever ago, like we've had this brief but still infinite forever. Some infinities are bigger than other infinities.” 
“Pain is like fabric: The stronger it is, the more it’s worth.” 
"You're arguing that the fragile, rare thing is beautiful simply because it is fragile and rare. But that's a lie, and you know it."
I'm sure that by now you've seen tons of memes/graphics/posts that spew out these lines. On their own they do hold meaning, sure. On their own they are bright, vibrant beacons of thought provoking sentiments. However, The Fault in Our Stars is drowning in these one-liners and I think that the over emphasis seriously detracted from the story. If the point is to show that you have to live life to the fullest and not let ailments define you, I think the book failed. It's full of defeatist mentality; I'm not buying that the sarcasm of the main characters shows that they are above their predicament. Honestly, the main thing I took away from reading the novel was that I must be a glutton for self-inflicted emotional sabotage.
Except you can't; your tear ducts have been hijacked.
The Fault in Our Stars is probably one of the better crafted contemporary stories out there designed to make you feel. The entire book read like a long eulogy of the reader's heart. Seriously. There's a pretty good chance that you'll cry at the end.
But even with its shortcomings, The Fault in Our Stars is a good read. It's nice to see the ebb and flow of Hazel's relationships with her family, her friends and, of course, Augustus. I enjoyed it, but it's not something I'm too keen on reading again.

Technical Rating:

Character Building:
I think that the character building was fine, although perhaps a bit monotonous. It seemed like the majority of the cast of characters had the exact same personality just to varying degrees. I can't particularly fault the book for that though because in the end, it works.

Plot Strength:
For every strong plot element in The Fault in Our Stars there seems to be an equally weak element lurking nearby. The exposition was great; you get hooked on the characters and their life stories because Mr. Green pulls you in right away. But then the rising action feels lacking; the love story seems forced at times as if we were reading a manual on how romance ought to be. Augustus may have been on a roller coaster that kept going up, but the plot was on a crazy inverted roller coaster of exhilarating highs and sickening lows.

The sincerity of the novel was both a hit and miss for me. Sometimes it felt like I was being artificially manipulated to feel for these characters; there's something to be said for a book that can evoke emotions organically. The story also felt a lot like being talked at, and not in a good way. I would prefer not to be preached at about how we are all simply side effects of dying! That being said, I did get an emotional rise or two out of this book, so I can't completely knock it on the sincerity front.

The editing was fine. I did get the sense that Mr. Green struggled with how to make his characters sound like teens. "Like" and "um" are both peppered throughout Hazel's inner dialogue as well as forced modern euphemisms such as "I'd tap that." Even so, I don't think it was necessarily detrimental, so full marks here.

I think the ending felt a little rushed in spots, however, I think it all goes back to the remark in the book that you get to choose how you tell the story. Here, they chose not to dwell so much on sad times but rather on the happier moments throughout the book. So, even though it isn't what I'd normally say was appropriate, I think the rushed spots were meaningful in their own way.

My Icing on Top:
Honestly, the more I think about it, the more that I believe that this story was meant for one person and one person only: Esther Grace Earl. It was a chance for Mr. Green to write something beautiful for a young woman who passed away without ever experiencing her own romantic moment of happiness. And it was also a way for Mr. Green to pay homage to the time that he worked with ill children; apparently he had wanted to write a story about children as cancer patients for ten years! Perhaps the faults that I found within the book simply stem from the fact that the book wasn't written for me, or for any general audience. It is a tribute piece that isn't for everyone. If you're looking for a young adult fiction with a moving love story, a la Nicholas Sparks, then give The Fault in Our Stars a try!

Check out my informal review on Goodreads!

Happy reading!


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