Well it seems that everyone, their friends, their enemies and their enemy’s friends seems to have read, or at least heard of, The Fault in Our Stars. Perhaps you’ve seen the very successful film? I haven’t, I’m just saying you may have. But in any case, John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars has brought him to the centre of public attention outside of his YouTube fame but the question is: is the hype justified? With that said, let’s dive into the obviously WordPress famous obligatory overview (warning: sarcasm may have just been used).
Hazel Grace Lancaster, a sixteen year old girl with thyroid cancer that has spread to her lungs, is made to go to a weekly support group to ease her mother’s anxiety at her seeming growing depression which Hazel sees not as a side effect of cancer, but rather, a side effect of dying. While there Hazel sees the usual faces, a new face, the face of Augustus Waters, hoved into view.
Augustus, whose osteosarcoma caused him to lose his leg, and Hazel immediately bond and, over Augustus’ terrible Cancer Perk driving and V for Vendetta, they talk about their cancers and agree to share their favourite books. After getting Hazel’s favourite book, An Imperial Affliction, Augustus is left irritated by the novel’s abrupt end and, realising Hazel would wish to know how the novel truly ended from the novelist himself, Peter Van Houten, decides to get in touch with Van Houten and, after Van Houten says he will only reveal the ending if they travel to the Netherlands, thus begins the intrepid journey of the two young romantics and the oxygen tank to keep Hazel breathing.
So in case you haven’t noticed, this novel has a lot of cancer in it. But, unlike novels where illness is somehow made to be either a majestic tragedy or a deserved comeuppance, cancer here is treated as just that without any sugar-coating. There’s no guaranteed fairy-tale cure and, for many, there’s no happy ending. It’s very clear early on with Isaac who, in his “Hello this is who I am” part of the Support Group meeting, says:
‘I’m Isaac. I’m seventeen. And it looks like I have to get surgery in a couple of weeks after which I’ll be blind. Not to complain or anything because I know a lot of us have it worse, but yeah, I mean, being blind does sort of suck… So yeah… There’s nothing you can do about it.’
To get this huge information, that a character will become blind very soon, in such a downplayed way that a teenager would definitely use is brilliant writing skill. It still shows the situation to be very serious while having it explained in quite a teenagerish way, especially the “So yeah” part. That epitomises that little introduction. “So yeah” is one of those to almost deemphasise that most people use and, to use it in conjunction with cancer, the loss of his eyes and how that isn’t as bad as what others have, is quite brilliant.
Although I’ve already alluded to this, it must be said that John Green does know how to make teenagers sound like genuine teenagers. There’s no airs or graces with how they speak, for the most part. When Hazel tells Augustus why she got pulled out of school because she got thyroid cancer, she thinks
‘(I didn’t tell him that the diagnosis came three months after I got my first period. Like: Congratulations! You’re a woman. Now die.)’
Believe me when I say that, although not a woman or a cancer sufferer, this is how young people think. Believe it or not, I am one, so I should know. It’s done in a very true style, with phrases ‘but still’, ‘like’ and random references.
But not only that the parents, shockingly enough, are shown to be caring human beings as well. The parents can be overbearingly caring, embarrassing, concerned and as funny as any other person, which is actually quite refreshing, especially when you have parent and child shout at each other, not in anger, just because they want information. It makes the whole thing seem pleasantly real. The parents are clearly concerned about their child’s wellbeing but at the same time are trying to be “normal” as they can for both their child and for themselves.
Also, John Green knows how to be funny. There’s been only a few novels that have brought me to laughing out loud and, with all what I had heard with this novel being an absolute tear fest, I genuinely did not expect for me to laughing. I fear to devalue this example but, just to give a little background, having learned she must travel to Amsterdam to learn the ending of An Imperial Affliction, Augustus suggests:
‘Do you have your wish?’ he asked, referring to this organisation, The Genie Foundation, which is in the business of granting sick kids one wish.
‘No’, I said. ‘I used my Wish pre-Miracle.’
‘What’d you do?’
I sighed aloud. ‘I was thirteen,’ I said.
‘Not Disney,’ he said.
I said nothing
‘You did not go to Disney World.’
I said nothing.
‘Hazel GRACE!’ he shouted ‘You did not use your one dying Wish to go to Disney World with your parents.’
‘Also the Epcot Center,’ I mumbled.
I have never cried at anything, books, films, TV, games, etc. But this nearly, nearly, had me in tears laughing. While this isn’t the only humorous titbit, it really does show how John Green lightens this darker tale. True they have cancer, but they’re still human beings and all right thinking human beings want to go to Disney World. Green is very true to what teenagers and young adults would say, and how they would say it, with the end result being brilliantly witty and charming.
If I were to criticise some aspects of the novel it would be this: the end is no shock. I remember hearing that people were in absolute tears by the end of the book so it may me think “Right, A, B and C are going to happen” and, to be honest, I got A and B and at least got C half-right. While it is sad, truly, and very well written to get your eyes squeezing liquid out of them, it didn’t give me any shock. I sort of read it as “Well, yeah, what’d you expect. It’s a book about people with cancer.” I know I may sound a bit heartless, but that’s how I felt. A bit “So yeah, that happened” rather than “OMFG!?!?” and then screaming/cry around the house and it seemed many were doing at the time.
Also, and I’m sorry to John Green who in all probability will never read this, but Augustus is a bit pretentious. The way pontificates, the cigarette thing, the “OK” stuff, well, it sort of felt a bit too fake. Granted Augustus is the Grand High Wizard of Altruism with his giving nature, but it did make him appear a bit too much like the golden boy. There aren’t any flaws in him which makes him all the more fake. There was nothing lacking in his personality or character which made me feel more and more detached from him. For a fictional character, he felt the most unreal. That was a weird paragraph I’ve just written, but I feel it worthy of note.
However, with all that said, The Fault in Our Stars is pretty much compulsory reading. Green really makes the case that cancer patients are still people and should be treated as such as their disease is not their label, just something horrible that has happened to that person. What with the romance, humour and cancer, while I wouldn’t say it is light reading, I think you’d be hard pressed to put it down once you’ve begun.
Thank you all again for reading, I hope you enjoyed my admittedly rushed review. (There was Wales vs England on TV; I had to watch that… even though Wales lost.) If you liked this review please follow me here on WordPress as well as Facebook and Twitter. Also if you want to see what John Green does writing books, then go to the links below (I wish I could say dooblidoo but I don’t have a dooblidoo on WordPress) aside from My next Febookuary review will be Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto on Monday and, as John Green would say: Don’t forget to be awesome.
VlogBrothers – A vlogging channel hosted by John Green and his brother Hank (who recently interviewed President Barack Obama).
Crash Course – An education channel where you can learn about many wondrous things, sauch as History, Literature, Chemistry, Astonomy and so on!
Mental Floss – A YouTube list show which is trivia-tastic!
SciShow – Not a John Green thing, but set up by his brother Hank and is still pretty awesome.
Project for Awesome – A site dedicated to reducing World Suck.