Five Star Book: The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

Despite being told by a bunch of people whose taste I totally trust that I will love John Green, I had never read one of his novels until my book club chose The Fault in Our Stars this month. I had been meaning to read it since The Tournament of Books this year, but it’s really hard to motivate yourself to pick up a book about teenagers with cancer. But I really shouldn’t have waited.

There are two choices when writing about characters with terminal illness. You can write the Lifetime movie version, or you can actively not write the Lifetime version. (Side note: I don’t know why but Lifetime Television for Women seems like it should always be italicized in my mind.) This novel definitely takes the anti-movie of the week stance, but it does become a tear-jerker. If you’re a crier at all you’ll want to read the last sections not in public. I particularly warn against the northbound 22 bus during rush hour on a Friday, just a random example.

The reason I loved this book all comes down to the narrator, Hazel Grace, otherwise known as Just Hazel. She sounds like the best teenage girl in the world, but rather than being the cancer heroine that inspires those around her through constant strength, she is a human being. Green allows her to feel real pain and anger at her fate, and be a real teenager as much as that fate allows. (I was particularly charmed by her America’s Next Top Model viewing habits, who of my generation hasn’t stayed glued to an ANTM marathon even when they know they’ve seen the entire season before?)

I have so much I want to say about the love story between Hazel and Augustus Waters, but I promised Justin and Julia last night that this review wouldn’t have any major spoilers. So instead I’m just going to tell you all to read the book.

One thing that came up at my book club that I would like to address. The few people who genuinely disliked the book, and they did so virulently, made a lot of the fact that no real teenagers talk this way. One, I think there probably are, because (two) these are teenagers who are facing their mortality. They are trying to be both kids and adults at the same time, living life on a really shortened scale. They are, in other words, kids trying to act like the adults they think they will be if they get the chance. So yeah, Gus’s metaphorical “smoking” – hokey, sure. His obsession with metaphor, a bit heavy-handed maybe, but in the end I found it really beautiful. It reminded me a lot of Green’s Author’s Note warning readers against reading the book as a thinly veiled memoir, because made up stories matter. Symbols matter to Augustus, and they matter to me too.

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10 thoughts on “Five Star Book: The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

    • “Painstakingly real” is completely right. Thanks for reading! I’ll definitely check out your review too!

  1. I have had this book in my personal library for quite some time and have not gotten around to reading it. After reading your blog, I am greatly interested in it now (if I can only locate it). I have found myself in a reading rut by constantly choosing the same genre and young adult. Being a teacher, I want to keep up with what the students are reading, but I miss the variety. Thank you for suggesting this and providing some details. I am excited to read something that does not involve the supernatural, Big Brother, or futuristic end-of-the-world scenario.

  2. i love how you summed this up, it really did have me bawling like a baby and i agree with how you defended the book against that certain criticism
    great review 🙂

  3. Haven’t read this but I enjoyed reading your review. The argument about the teenagers not talking like teenagers I think is very valid. Some people are very wise beyond their years, and one can only imagine what would happen when faced with terminal illness. It actually reminded me of a quote from the movie Liberal Arts (ok so it was cheesy but I LOVED it and totally related to it): “I sometimes feel like I’m looking down on myself. Like there’s this older, wiser me watching over this 19-year-old rough draft, who’s full of all this potential, but has to live more to catch up with that other self somehow.” – Zibby

    I think we both know what that feels like…

  4. Pingback: And the Nominees Are 2015: Round 2 | I Get a Bit Obsessive

  5. Pingback: Five Star Book: Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Offill | I Get a Bit Obsessive

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