Friday, August 1, 2014

Weekly Book Review: The Fault in Our Stars

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The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
Released: January 10, 2012
Genre: Young Adult / Romance


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.

[From John Green's official website.]


If you've read anything about The Fault in Our Stars, you probably know that it's an emotional read. I'm here to confirm this. This book made me cry in full view of every patron of a bustling Wendy's. I tried to stop it, but the floodgates, once opened, would not be closed. To be fair, I knew what I was getting into when I picked up the book. It's a cancer book. Stories about cancer, for a variety of personal reasons, make me cry. I should've taken measures not to be caught reading the sad parts of the book in a public place, but I didn't. So there I was, oversalting my french fries with tears.

This is a novel rife with moments of beauty and genuine emotion. Amid that emotion, however, are a few dissonant notes that disrupt the experience, however slightly. Though its fans may clamor otherwise, The Fault in Our Stars is not a perfect book.

Hazel and Augustus are a charming pair, full of Whedonesque quips and adorable quirks. For this very reason, they ring a little false. Teenagers in general don't speak in platitudes and clever, quotable witticisms. I've been a teenager. It wasn't all that long ago. I'd have liked to converse like Hazel and Augustus do. I'd still like to. Unfortunately, coming up with that kind of material in time to keep up with a conversation isn't as easy as our star-crossed duo make it seem. It can be fun to read, but it risks disturbing the reader's immersion.

Luckily, Hazel's narration doesn't suffer the same problems as her spoken dialogue. Writing, unlike speech, can afford both time and thought. The writer can pause over a single sentence for hours without disturbing the flow of the work as a whole. If it sounds premeditated, that's fine, because it is.

This is another one of those books where the parents aren't absent, dead, or uncaring, so it gets extra points just for that. Though none of the parents impact the plot in any significant way, their quietly supportive presence adds an extra dose of pathos to the teens' afflictions.

The Fault in Our Stars has been heralded as one of the best YA novels of the past few years, and it very well may be. It does not, however, rank amongst my personal favorites. I read it quickly, I enjoyed it, and I can see why it's inspired such fervor amongst the YA crowd, but perfect it is not. Still, it is a strong novel from a writer whose popularity is largely deserved. YA fans should definitely check it out.

You should also read:

Looking for Alaska

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