50 of 60 people found the following review helpful
Good, but not great,
This review is from: The Fault in Our Stars (Paperback)
Given the hype surrounding this book, and my liking of John Green, I have to say I was a little disappointed with this book. The concept itself of two star-crossed lovers is hardly novel, and I didn't find much in this book that hadn't already been done many times before. In this way, the plot was rather boring. I cried when Dobby died in Harry Potter, I wept like a baby when Amy and Rory left in Doctor Who, but The Fault in our Stars left me feeling rather cold. I felt that Augustus and Hazel had little depth to them, and due to this I failed to connect with them as characters. They seemed, more than anything, to be canvases for Green's philosophical views to be published on, and the problem with this is that if you have disagreements with Green's views, the book feels almost preachy. To me, the passages of this book that most found profound to me either seemed obvious or fundamentally wrong. I don't mean this in an arrogant way, nor do I wish to claim that my views are in any way superior to Green's. All I'm saying is that if you've though about this stuff in the past, 'profound' passages risk no longer being profound. If your views are different to John's, passages can feel preachy (this is too harsh, but I lack a better word), or even annoying. If you've reached similar conclusions, passages can seem obvious. Another problem with canvassing Hazel and Augustus is that it makes the characters less real. Being Augustus's age, I don't deny that teenagers can think philosophically. However, the sheer volume of philosophy and wit that almost bombarded me as a reader felt artificial and prevented me from connecting with the characters. Hazel's obsession with finding out the fate of 'an imperial affliction' 's characters also annoyed me. If we're led to believe that she is this intelligent, and such a deep thinker, I just don't buy that she'd care much about the characters when, from what we hear about the book, they are almost an irrelevance in its larger meaning.
John's writing is undoubtedly strong. Despite my previous comments, many passages in the book were effective. I was particularly stuck by Hazel's frank way of dealing with death. However, when John he tried to become too philosophical for his own good, this strong writing sometimes lost its way. John's frequent referral to the different sizes of infinity in particularly felt tacked on and unnatural to me. The dialogue similarly also sometimes felt a little lacking. I was especially not a fan of the play-like method of presenting dialogue (the whole Hazel: - Mom: - Augustus: - thing).
I did like this book, despite the overtly negative review. It's just much easier to write negatives than positives, and I don't have the way with words that John does. Thanks for anyone who read this - I'd be interested in your opinions, as I'm sure most of you reading this will disagree with me.
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Showing 1-6 of 6 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 29 Apr 2013 21:34:14 BDT
I read this review with great interest and I really liked it. Not only do I agree with your view on the book but like the way you put your criticism into words. It seems to be a rare gift to being able to point out negative aspects of something without bashing it or the people who have a different opinion. You seem to be able to do this, which made your review an enjoyable read. Thank you for this!
Posted on 2 Aug 2013 16:16:51 BDT
Last edited by the author on 2 Aug 2013 16:19:33 BDT
I agree. I think you pretty much articulated everything I feel about this book into an open-minded, honest and well-expressed review. I enjoyed it but I admire John Green so much and watch his YouTube videos I definitely felt distracted from the characters, because I felt like I was reading Green's views in a book or an extended vlogbrothers video in written prose. I couldn't agree with you more when you said it was difficult to connect to them as characters and they did have little depth to them. I felt like because I feel like I've gotten to know his personality so well through his videos his personality just seemed to come across too strongly in the book and it didn't feel like I was reading through the eyes of a 16 year old girl, I was reading through his eyes and thats what was distracting and THATS why I couldn't connect with them as much as I would have like to.
"However, the sheer volume of philosophy and wit that almost bombarded me as a reader felt artificial and prevented me from connecting with the characters" - YES. Again character connection issues.
It has a massive, crazy hype surrounding it, stellar reviews, number one on the Amazon book charts and Nerdfighters on YouTube worship John Green's books (and because I watch the videos I hear TFiOS praise CONSTANTLY, I'm 18, people within my age demographic obsess over it, its just MAD. and yes that has now become an acronym) for all these reasons I got really excited but once I finished it I felt like I was missing out, like surely if it's created such a buzz and not nearly enough nerdfighters won't stop praising it then surely I've read it wrong, it must be me not the book, I must have read it with the wrong mindset or something, but I do agree with you, you've reassured me. I'm reading it again to see if I appreciate it any more. I love John Green and I must stress it was a good read but those issues you raised were hard to overlook for me, especially whilst studying A level Eng Lit, they did prevent me from enjoying it a LOT more. Good review :)
Posted on 24 Jan 2014 08:28:53 GMT
I. Ng says:
You point out some things I'd rather not know because I absolutely adored the book. But it's true, some aspects of philosophy was lost on me and I've never been a philosophy fan (as in, I like to think deeply about things but I don't like it when its pure philosophy - I always need a real situation to think within). Having said this, your comment comes across as though you've either thought about similar things addressed in the book, or else you've actually been through some of it. This probably has a dramatic impact on how you perceive the book, as you also implied. I'm not someone who's come across cancer personally, nor have I thought much about death in this regard, and so for me, Green's views were eye-opening. So I think it depends on your background a little, precisely because Green addresses such intimate issues and addresses them so honestly, so personally - that's skill, because it's hard to pour your heart and soul out sometimes and he does just that - and because of this I think it is natural that some others may have negative reactions to it. When it comes to things close to your heart, you always have strong reactions, after all, so I think even your comment is testimony to just how well handled the book was. I would disagree that it's preachy, although I get what you meant - mostly because I do not feel the need to agree with everything Green believed (there's no doubt much of the book is his true views on death and cancer and how cancer is dealt with by healthy people). I see it as an intimate... disclosure, shall we say, to the inner thoughts of John Green, and it's such a personal book that I don't feel I should judge, or can judge. It's like when someone's expressing themselves to you - they are not asking for an opinion, they simply want to pour out their souls, and I honour that. That doesn't mean I agree with everything he said, but I value his honesty.
In reply to an earlier post on 24 Jan 2014 08:35:15 GMT
I. Ng says:
Try reading it again a few years later, like, when you're 23 or 25 or something. I'm 26 and I find things that I LOATHED with a passion when I was 18, 19, 20, are things that I've come to appreciate now at 26. The faults I saw back then are still there now, but you see new things, and other times you know what you should let go of. When I was 18-21, I was far too critical for my own good - a necessary process, and I have not lost that critic in me, it is easily switched on lol - but it did blind me to some innocent delights at the time, I believe. Books, I find, are things that change with time, because their meaning is always relative to how we perceive the world, who we are right now. The Fault in Our Stars is one of those books that I believe whose meaning will change over time, and it's one of those that should be reread to get everything out of it. But there's no rush - let it sit for a few years and then come back to it with fresh eyes. It might surprise you, I think :)
In reply to an earlier post on 25 Feb 2014 10:42:27 GMT
J. Nichols says:
I also agree. One of the book's weakness'es I believe was this constant re-iteration (through Hazel's stream of consciousness) of the importance of Peter Van Houten's magnum opus "The Imperial Affliction".... It gets to be both boring and improbable. I mean how can such an intelligent girl really find meaning in what happens to the hamster, or whether the "Dutch Tulip Man" is a fraud and a con and whether Anna's mother ends up hitched to him ? This emphasis, this aggrandizement of that novel in the teenager's mind ends up a huge yawn, particularly as Van Houten turns out to be such a huge disappointment - even if his alcoholism can be reasonably acreditted to the loss of his daughter at age eight - and the break-up of his marrigae.
Posted on 30 Dec 2014 16:15:33 GMT
I like your review, you give fair criticism to the book and I enjoyed reading it! I agree with a lot of what you say (even though I really like this book), especially the jarring script-scenes and how much philosophy is loaded onto the readers - like you, it stopped me from feeling like we are reading about a 16-year-old and a 17-year-old. Though I also agree with I.Ng, in that I found the philosophy itself interesting and eye-opening.
Although, when it comes to Hazel's obsession with finding out what happened to the remaining characters in 'An Imperial Affliction'... this might be grasping at straws, but it seemed to me like Hazel wanted to know about everyone else because she wants to be reassured of a happy ending for everyone else in her own life. 'An Imperial Affliction' could be a parallel to her real life, where she worries about her parents and friends, and whether they will ever be happy again after she dies. It could be that she's looking for reassurance from the author who is the 'deity' of the universe she's become so wrapped up in.
I do agree with the sense that the philosophy came across as 'this is right and everything else is wrong' sometimes. Though to me, the saving grace from the 'preachiness' was Hazel's dad toward the end, where Green writes a character who disagrees with Hazel's/Gus's/Van Houten's world views and makes an optimistic, humble statement about the universe wanting to be appreciated - whilst being recognised as being smart and not being 'wrong'.
Thank you for writing a review which disagrees with the general opinion, you've made some excellent points :)
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