on 5 January 2014
Let me start out by saying that this book ripped my heart from my chest, crumpled it and then proceeded to throw it on the ground and trample on it in the most beautiful way imaginable.
I was slightly hesitant going into this book as I don't read many contemporary novels, and it was so hyped up by both friends and reviews I've read/seen about it that I was sure I was in for some major disappointment.
I couldn't have been more wrong. John Green's writing is something I rarely find, the kind where I never stumble over a word in mid-sentence because it flows so perfectly. The story itself was just phenomenal. I fell in love with the characters, I laughed at the dark humor, I cried continuously for a good five or six chapters and no word of a lie I have never cried at a book before (I tend to have somewhat of an ice heart).
Please, please do not be put off by the hype this book has received, it truly is warranted, and even if, like me, you don't tend to read much contemporary give it a go. This is one of those books that I feel pretty much most people could find enjoyment in. I already have a list of friends and family members that I will be loaning this book to because in my humble opinion everyone needs to experience the flawlessness that is The Fault in Our Stars.
I have to admit, even though I'd heard this book was really good, the thought of a young adult novel about teenagers with cancer didn't hugely appeal to me. My initial reactions were also somewhat less than stellar - everyone talks in a razor-sharp, ultra witty way that feels straight out of an Aaron Sorkin or Diablo Cody movie and not even remotely how any 16 or 17 year old I know speaks. I feared that it was going to be all style without substance, bouncing along until a requisite tearjearking conclusion.
I was wrong.
This is a book peopled with a group of characters that you really care about. At its core are the star-crossed lovers, Hazel (with terminal cancer) and Augustus (a cancer survivor). They meet at a cancer support group and become close, despite Hazel's desire to avoid becoming a "grenade" in anybody's life - by which she means someone who will unwittingly cause significant hurt through their passing. They are fantastically loveable characters, who flit between deep conversations about the meaning of life and finding refuge in video games and reality TV shows. I loved them both. Still do.
But the book is more than that. It's about coming to terms with the fact that your life will almost certainly never rise above insignificance - yes, you will matter to your family and friends, hey maybe even write a few reviews that people like on Amazon, but ultimately you probably won't make any life changing impact on the world. It's about the way we shrink from people with terminal disease only to laud them when they pass. It's about the impact that terminal diseases have on the families of those left behind. It's about teenagers growing up and learning to take responsibility for their own lives, defining themselves by who they are not what disease they may have.
I don't know if there's anything life changing here, but it's definitely a moving, entertaining and thought provoking book. Pretty hard combination to pull off. Kudos to John Green.
on 26 October 2014
A copy of ‘The Fault in our Stars’ by John Green was given to me to read by my fourteen year old granddaughter who had seen the film, read the book and was truly captivated. She is not an avid reader and I am grateful to the author for producing a novel that captured her attention and I hope this will be the start of a long ‘love affair’ with the written word.
‘The Fault in Our Stars’ had been on my reading list for some time. Initially recommended by Richard & Judy Book Club and was the ‘Spring 2013 Book Club Winner.’
It has been almost thirty years since I spent Friday evenings with my two daughters watching ‘weepy videos’ whilst eating crisps and ice cream. I must admit since then I steer clear of them, finding them too slushy, sentimental and predictable.
Predominately a Young Adult writer, John Green has written a story that deftly crosses all generations.
I was initially hesitant about reading this book having recently failed to complete a novel about teenagers, believing that at sixty two, I was ‘over the hill’ to appreciate a story involving young girls with a youthful outlook and mannerisms.
How wrong I was!!! ‘A Fault in Our Stars’ quickly became compulsive reading.
Hazel Grace has terminal cancer. When her mother insists she needs to ‘get out of the house and mix with people’ Hazel attends a Cancer Kid Support Group. There she meets Augustus Waters and they fall in love.
Theirs is a poignant love story, it is sad and may make you cry at times however it must be said that it is also touching, funny, uplifting, life affirming and will make you question your own beliefs regarding terminal illness and death, loss and grief.
Although you virtually know the end from the start – this is not a depressing story.
It is about terminal illness and its’ affects on the victims and those closest to them.
‘A Fault in Our Stars’ is a well written, quick, easy read, packed with dark humour.
This is a story suitable for all ages, even if you are ‘not into’ weepy tales, this will surely touch your heart.
Sometimes one needs to read outside their favoured genre/comfort zone to enable a truly unique experience.
On exploring the reviews there appears to be a relatively large amount of young adults who loved this book and anything that encourages young people to embrace the ‘written word’ has a ‘thumbs up’ from me.
on 30 June 2014
This was a book I'd heard so much about with people raving about how brilliant and heartbreaking it was but to be honest I wasn't impressed. It's a fairly easy read with a smooth writing style so it makes for decent holiday reading and while on the whole it was disappointing it did have some funny/endearing moments. However my main issue was I didn't like the characters, especially Hazel, as they often seemed pretentious and unrealistic with the dialogue leaving my eyes rolling away in my head and me wanting to tell them to get over themselves. As an 18 year old I can say that I don't know anyone who talks like that and quite frankly I'm glad of it. So in my opinion John Green failed to write a convincing book from the view of a 17 year old and that ruined it for me.
on 15 January 2013
Hazel was diagnosed with metastatic thyroid cancer at the age of thirteen. Three years later the disease is being kept at bay indefinitely thanks to an experimental new drug. Her days are spent carting her oxygen tank between college, home, and Cancer Kid Support Group. Her treatment regime means that she has little time for friends her own age, and besides, now that she's a Cancer Kid most of them don't know how to behave around her anyway. So she is intrigued to say the least when an attractive and witty young man named Augustus Waters turns up unexpectedly at support group one week.
The predominant niggle that stopped me from really losing myself in this book is that Hazel and Gus just don't come across as realistic teenagers at all. They both have this incredibly verbose, Dawson's Creek-esque way of speaking that is laden with cheesy metaphors. The whole thing is narrated by Hazel, and the insight that that gives into her thought processes and inner dialogue makes her just about relatable, but Augustus feels like he's reading from a script the whole time. I had this sense that for every frank exchange of emotions between them, they had spent five minutes flipping through a thesaurus beforehand. I found this really annoying to the point that it prevented me from becoming emotionally invested with either of the characters.
What it does really well is illustrates how immensely trying it must be to be a sick teenager, be it with cancer or any chronic disease. I believe John Green drew on his experiences of working as a chaplain at a childrens' hospital to write the novel, and he has certainly made plenty of astute and unsentimental observations about the realities of living with illness. At just the age when you should be finding your independence and forging a groove for yourself in the world, you are forced to rely more heavily on the adults around you than ever. A 16-year-old in the UK is legally allowed to get married or join the army but when it comes to making decisions about their own healthcare the law is complex. They can give consent to medical care but if they want to refuse a particular treatment their wishes can be overridden by their parents or doctors. It's no wonder that Hazel talks about herself and her fellow Cancer Kids as feeling experimented on. And she's got the extra burden of guilt of knowing that her parents have to forgo treats and holidays because of the costs of her medication and care.
The tragic relationship between Hazel and Augustus is what this book is all about - there's a slightly strange side-story about taking a trip to Amsterdam to meet Hazel's favourite author, but other than that there is not much plot to speak of. It's for that reason that I think so much of a reader's enjoyment of this novel will depend on their own personal world view and experiences of cancer, illness, and losing loved ones. The subject matter is so emotive that it's bound to provoke an almost visceral response that runs much deeper than any assessment of the words on the page. It wasn't for me, but you can't argue with the widespread acclaim it has received that shows it has tugged on the heart-strings of many.
on 12 December 2015
There's been so many reviews given for this novel. I therefore think it's unnecessary to give a detailed synopsis of this book by John Green.
Given the hype surrounding TFIOS, I was aware of the content in advance. My initial thoughts were that a fictional account of the trials and tribulations of two American teenagers suffering from cancer would not be a story that would appeal to my tastes. I'm a guy in my late fifties, so felt I would be out of tune with with the characters of Hazel and Gus. The truth is I actually warmed to these 'guys' very quickly and was with them every step of the way as they dealt with their illnesses and embarked on an awkward and challenging relationship. There are some very moving moments in the novel and readers would have to possess a heart of stone not to be affected by them. The book is smart, poignant, funny and tragic.
So why not five stars? Although this is a well crafted piece of fiction and contains some wonderfully structured dialogue, I just thought it fell short on a couple of points. First of all, I accept that teenagers (that are afflicted with potentially terminal illnesses) must have to sometimes act beyond their years to deal with the emotional and physical stresses they are faced with. However, I felt that Hazel and Gus did, at times, demonstrate the wisdom of people well into their 30's which just didn't sit right with me. Another issue concerned the conclusion of the tale. Given the quality of the writing throughout, I think the author could have given the story a much more satisfying ending. That said, this was still a fine book that played with my emotions and was well worth spending a few hours with.
on 31 May 2015
Hazel is our main character, she is seventeen and has thyroid cancer with mets and her mother decides she needs to go to a weekly Support Group to beat depression. Hazel has an almost non verbal friendship with Isaac whom she meets at group, both frustrated with the group lead and share looks and sighs with each other. Isaac's friend comes along to group one day, Augustus (Gus) Waters and Hazel can't help but notice him, he is hot and won't stop staring at her. They strike up a conversation, friendship blooms and the two quickly become inseparable. What follows is a journey between two people, brought together by friendship who go through and share so much in a limited amount of time.
I hadn't heard of this book until recently, it is now out as a movie and getting much interest and reviews although it has been around since 2012 I believe. For two young people our characters are very deep thinkers, Gus has theories and philosophies and shares them with Hazel, whom he refers to as Hazel Grace throughout. This is a beautiful story that, looks at friendship, suffering, loss, emotions, humour, attraction and death. Hazel is terminal, she is on a new drug that will buy her some time but ultimately she will die, this sees her holding back from Gus.
Hazel shares her favorite book with Gus, it ends abruptly and Hazel would love to know what would have happened to the other characters. Gus and Hazel set out to get some answers and try and track down the author whilst courting and getting to know each other. The story covers a range of emotions and I found myself moved a few times throughout. The two main characters are only seventeen and sometimes you felt they were very advanced emotionally however maybe due to what they have both been through the author done this on purpose? I would have read this in one sitting however I started it on my phone and only got it on a proper device today and I finished it that way.
I found it a really engaging read, it is a hard topic, young people dealing with cancer, young Isaac has it in his eye, he is in the book for small portions as is Hazels other friend (who doesn't have cancer), but mostly the focus is Hazel and Gus. Gus lost a leg to cancer and Hazel knows she is on borrowed time however I think the balance of the book is well done, the impact it has on the people within the circle of the person who has it. I did see how the book was going at one point but don't think this took anything away from the story to be honest. I hadn't read this author before and I would read him again. It is worth noting that this is listed as teen fiction but I would say it is more than suitable for adults and that at times you forgot the characters were meant to be teenagers. 4 out of 5 for me and I think I will need to be seeing the movie too, definitely worth a read.
on 2 March 2015
I'll start by saying I'm not really a reader of YA, but, I've heard so much hype about TFIOS that I thought it worth a read, despite the fact I'm probably at least 20 years older than the intended audience. And I think for me that difference shows, and so despite my 3.5* rating, I do have reservations.
Most readers are familiar with the story - girl with cancer meets boy in remission with cancer at cancer support group. Mutual attraction, and a slow burning romance because she's not keen on hurting anyone, because she doesn't know what her future holds. I thought this part of the story was handled well. There was humour, a lot of it irreverent, and I suppose a different approach to more serious books on cancer and serious illness. I do think that the author is brave to have handled a topic like this and this has to be commended and I'm sure will appeal to many YA audience, perhaps dealing with these issues, or having family or friends dealing with cancer. In my teens I read the likes of Judy Blume who also tackles "real" issues and in a similar way I see value in her books, I see value in this.
The bits I was less keen on were, for example, at the start I found the conversations between Hazel and Augustus a little too pretentious. It didn't work for me in the way I'm sure it works for many other readers. But, they as characters, warmed, but I never felt an emotional connection with them, and at no stage in the book felt close to tears (perhaps I'm just cynical...). I didn't really engage with the story within a story - the Van Houten story - I can see what the author was trying to do but it didn't appeal to me. I understand it he was using it as a vehicle to share important issues, but to be honest, I fast read over those bits.
Overall, I think this book is worth a read. Maybe the hype is warranted given the subject matter and the way it's handled? The romance? It was ok, but I'm judging this by the fact I don't read a lot of romance or chick-lit, and generally read contemporary literature, which is more gritty in it's tackling of relationships.
I may read more of the author's work, but it wouldn't be immediately.
on 2 July 2014
My main concern regarding The Fault in Our Stars was that it would not – or perhaps could not – live up to the myriad of glowing reviews streaming from pretty much every kind of media at the moment. When a book elicits over three thousand five star Amazon reviews, one’s initial expectations are set just a little bit high; my cynicism radar, however, was coolly informing me that I was unlikely to experience the somewhat clichéd and melodramatic revelations that so many reviews have promised. I didn’t think that I would Laugh and Cry and then Laugh Some More, or Be Profoundly Affected, or even Have My Mind Opened – namely because this is a New York Times bestseller we’re talking about, not an encounter with a religious deity or a trip to space.
Having now finished the book, I’m not ashamed to admit that some of my preconceptions were very wrong, although this is namely because my core ones were probably right. The premise of TFIOS has been run through so many times in other reviews that I won’t say much about the storyline here; it should suffice to say that the narrative follows Hazel, our endearingly honest 16-year-old narrator who also happens to have cancer, after she meets the implausibly named Augustus Waters at Cancer Support Group. The book itself is generally not, contrary to what I had expected, clichéd or particularly unoriginal; indeed, Green seems acutely aware of the ‘conventions of the cancer kid genre’, seeking to slalom around them and redefine the genre so as to make it more believable and true to the often less polarised realities of cancer.
Green crafts, through Hazel’s narrative voice, a gritty and frank narrative without being depressing or disinteresting, and he tackles this tricky balance admirably well. My main reservation is that, in attempting to be different and original, Green sometimes swerves too far from the conventional and ends up careering into the realms of either the entirely implausible or the (perhaps worse) trying-too-hard-to-be-quirky. I did, for instance, find certain aspects of Augustus Waters unconvincing and irritating, namely his stilted ‘kooky’ dialogue style – e.g. “’Hazel and I are going to watch V for Vendetta for she can see her filmic doppelganger, mid-two thousands Natalie Portman’” – which might have been endearing if it wasn’t such a frequent occurrence. In trying so hard to make Augustus different, Green ends up inadvertently creating precisely what he was presumably attempting to avoid; an artificial character nearly as difficult for the reader to believe (and thus attach to) as the implausibly stoic and two-dimensional cancer kids inhabiting the more clichéd realms of the genre.
I’d encourage those with a penchant for light-hearted and optimistic reads to give TFIOS a go; there’s very little to lose – the book is easy to read and not a huge time investment, and whilst I personally wouldn’t say that it’s a life changer, it’s certainly satisfying and entertaining. Overall, Green takes a big step towards refining a difficult and often frustratingly unoriginal genre – and for that, he is to be commended.
You think you've read/seen it all before - two precocious teenagers with cancer falling in love sounds a bit too familiar ("My Sister's Keeper", "Now Is Good"), but the latest book by John Green (and somewhat typical of him) still stands out.
Now that I read it, finally, after hype about it died out (on holidays, in one morning, shedding silent tears in the end), I think "The Fault In Our Stars" is very worth reading. You will appreciate discovering for yourself the witty and loveable and beautifully drawn characters who you will love and deeply care about. I did, anyway.
"The Fault In Our Stars" is the novel about acceptance, about significance of life and love and connection between people, the importance of family, full of characters whose personalities shine through the pages and reach out to you (a word of warning: perhaps it will take you some time to fall in love with them, but you will!).
And it is not just a cancer book. It's a great love story with the beginning, the full on romance and the climax.
The book snaps, every page is full of electrifying dialogue which might feel occasionally a bit childish (okay, young adult), but is really enjoyable barter nonetheless. The dialogues change from being simple and funny to the full on contemplation of life.
And these somewhat unreal dialogues for 16 years old (e.g. when Gus declares his love to Hazel) bothered me a bit. All the witty dialogues (and the paragraph-length monologues!), all the philosophising, however enjoyable, are not what you would expect of teenagers...
But who cares? John Green makes you laugh in the most wonderful way, in rather unexpected places of the narrative. The other thing I'm prepared to overlook is the whole Peter Van Houten obsession, although the book he wrote sounds really good, with the superb twist in the ending. "The Fault In Our Stars" has its own twist, of course, which you kinda have to expect. The book is not perfect. The plot and the inevitable twist are both a bit predictable. In any case, despite my minor disagreements with the style of writing, I found this book a good and heartfelt love story (it's not a simple coming of age book). And not only for young adults. If you are a sucker for romance (and I mean it good-heartedly) - read it! I am sure it won't leave you disappointed, teary-eyed, maybe, but also somewhat elated and thoughtful and thankful of all the good things you have in life.