Saturday, February 8, 2014

review: The Fault in Our Stars

Title by Author: The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
Series (if applicable):  none
Publisher: Dutton Books
Publication Date: January 2012
Page Count:  313 pages
Source: a student lent it to me :)
Blurb: 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.

My Interest in this book is:  I had seen SO many positive, 5 star reviews, and a couple of students conspired to get it to me, that I felt compelled to read it.

My Review:
Hazel really only remembers being “terminal” – having had Stage IV thyroid cancer that moved to her lungs – that she doesn’t know what it is like to be a normal teenager.  She can’t really relate to non-cancer kids, and they are uncomfortable being around her.  Even though she is only 16, she is taking college classes and goes to a cancer support group “in the heart of Jesus.”  The usual suspects are there, to include her good fried Isaac, who has cancer of the eye.  But next to him is a new kid who won’t stop staring at her, Augustus Waters.

Augustus had osteosarcoma, which has an 85% success rate of non-recurrence of the cancer.  Augustus is there for Isaac, but seems intrigued by the blonde sitting across from him with the oxygen tank she has named Philip.  One thing leads to another, and Hazel Grace (as Augustus calls her) swap favorite books and start to hang out together.  Hazel doesn’t want Augustus to fall for her, because she is a grenade, just waiting to go off and destroy those around her.  However, Augustus can’t help himself.

When I was given this book by some of my students, they all told me I would cry my eyes out.  I have to say that I had a different reaction than most people who have read this book.  I am not one of those who reads books and sees symbolism all over.  I read a story.  This one wasn’t any different, except that the characters weren’t truly believable to me.  Yes, I do understand that there are some kids out there who are “deep” for their age, and sarcastic.  But the characters in John Green’s book didn’t strike me as being fully themselves (except for Peter Von Houten, perhaps).

I didn’t have the deep sense of loss when one of the characters died, because I didn’t have a vested interest in the characters.  I didn’t cry at the funeral because it wasn't a particularly sad moment (the struggle beforehand might have been, but death was a relief).  Even though the book was about cancer – which is a very sad topic – I was so overwhelmed by the cynicism of Hazel, who does not want anyone’s pity, that you, as a reader, don’t feel sorry for her.  She’s an angry teen, and I understand why she is, but she is also very selfish.  She doesn’t really see the love that her family has for her – just their sacrifice and how shattered their lives will be when she is gone.

The book is realistic, I am sure, especially about the end stages of cancer, or any other terminal disease.  However, it is a story of a girl who hates life, wants so desperately to find out the ending of her favorite book that she is willing to hijack someone else’s Wish, only to be disappointed in the end.  Augustus is a more believable character and I liked him far more than Hazel. He had character, real feelings and wasn’t afraid to feel despite everything.

I am glad that I read this book. It was the first John Green book I have read, but I won’t be rushing out to read any others.  John Green is a fabulous person with a huge brain and I am glad he is reaching out to young adults.  However, I don’t know how well that fabulous brain translates to kids whose prefrontal cortex is not yet developed.  It makes you wonder if they truly see all of the snark of Hazel.  It was a quick read, once I got in to it.  I am glad to have read this, simply for the fact that I know what my students are currently in to, but I would not seek this author out on my own.  Maybe it is me that doesn’t “get” it! 

Favorite Quotes: (funny – both of my favorite quotes are from Augustus)
Do you realize how rare it is to come across a hot girl who creates an adjectival version of the word pedophile? You are so busy being you that you have no idea how utterly unprecedented you are.

 I’m in love with you, and I’m not in the business of denying myself the simple pleasure of saying true things. I’m in love with you, and I know that love is just a shout into the void, and that oblivion is inevitable, and that we’re all doomed and that there will come a day when all our labor has been returned to dust, and I know the sun will swallow the only earth we’ll ever have, and I am in love with you.
When I finished this book, I felt: in the words of one of my daughters – mehh!
Rating:  3 stars
Other books to read by this author or theme:  John Green has written several, and according to some of the other reviews that I read about this book, are similar in composition.
Tag: teenage angst, cancer, friendship/romance, young adult
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