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 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 January 2012
This is John Green at his best and oh is that good. The characters are beautifully drawn and heartbreakingly realistic, Hazel Lancaster doesn't represent anything and her suffering and that of her peers isn't meant to make any kind of point. It's just what it is, suffering. Equally so Hazel is simply Hazel, a girl who watches really trashy TV and loves long novels and poetry.
In being just an ordinary teenage girl she really fancies a boy and here is where we come across Augustus Waters, the boy who clenches death itself between his teeth just to prove it doesn't own him.
Through these two characters we are shown every agonizing moment of living with cancer and the fight not only to carry on living but to stop it from consuming your mind and your personality. The book seems to pose the question, if your entire personality has become nothing but the need to fight and survive cancer and there is no longer room for joy or even love, then in what way is that living?.
A large part of this struggle takes place within family circles, the parallel desperation and monotony of having a child with cancer is skilfully and subtly made evident by Green.
Ultimately Green strives to portray his characters not as those fighting cancer are often shown, forced into playing the role of brave and wise soldiers stoically enduring untold suffering. He shows them as they truly are, just people, beautiful wonderful people but people none the less. They have no choice but to keep fighting because they are given no other option and because to admit defeat means death.
It is not their struggle that defines them but who they are in spite of it, managing to live and to love and even have fun and laugh. They use every moment given to them in the most beautiful way possible and that is what makes them exceptional.
P.S. I didn't get a signed copy and I couldn't care less.
on 2 February 2014
This is the third John Green novel I’ve read, and it’s definitely my favourite. As a character, Hazel captivated me from the start. She’s been terminally ill for several years, so her attitude towards life is intriguing, insightful and believable. Augustus didn’t resonate with me quite so much. He’s a little less believable – perhaps a bit overly extrovert. Nevertheless, I still understood why Hazel was so drawn to him.
The Fault in Our Stars is a quick read; I finished it within a day or two. That’s thanks to its addictive storyline and John Green’s smooth writing style that lets you forget the words and see the world beyond them instead. The direction of storyline isn’t as straight forward as I thought it would be when I first began reading, and I loved that about it. I did figure it out quite early on, but it didn’t matter.
Strangely, considering how much of an emotional wreck I can be, I didn’t actually cry while reading The Fault in Our Stars, which is a bit disappointing. I felt utterly sad, of course, but the lack of real tears tells me that my connection with the characters and their lives was not quite strong enough. I would have liked to have been pulled just a little further into the story, and I think that it was my faltering belief in Augustus that stopped me. I would have benefitted from a better understanding of Augustus, I think, but I just couldn’t quite get to grips with his personality.
That said, I’d recommend The Fault in Our Stars to everyone. It reminds you how precious life is, and how lucky we are to be healthy. It reminds you to take every opportunity you get, and I love that about it. I’m sure The Fault in Our Stars will stay with me for a long time, and I’d be tempted to revisit it again in the future if I feel like I’m forgetting.
on 17 January 2012
"The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars,
But in ourselves, that we are underlings."
- Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, for those wondering about the title.
I do not know where to start with this review. Actually, I will start by saying this review is completely biased as I consider myself to well and truly be a Nerdfighter (Nerdfighters will love the goat soap, and other, references) and, if I didn't live on another continent, I would totally stalk John Green. Nah, I wouldn't, I'm kidding. I'd stalk Hank. I have a humongous crush on Hank.
Anyways. Moving rather swiftly on.
This book is pretty emotional. John Green said on Tumblr that he wanted the reader "to feel all of the things". Well, I felt all of the things. I laughed (well, snorted - I laugh very rarely at books for some reason), I cried (a common occurrence, believe me), I snorted through my tears (flattering, I assure you). My chest ached with stifled sobbing. I couldn't stop myself reading until I had finished the book. And what a book.
It was not purely a Cancer Book. Yes it features a main character with terminal cancer and another who lost a leg to cancer (and a minor character who has lost his eyes because of cancer). But to me it was not a book that was primarily about dying or even living, it was about love. Romantic love, love between family and friends, love for books (Augustus being a bit of a nerd with his book choice and I loved him for it, as did Hazel) and trashy TV and love for living. Cancer did not define these characters.
Hazel was a great character. Her narrative appealed to me. It was witty and sarcastic without being mean. I enjoyed reading about her slowly, and then quickly, falling in love with Augustus and how and why she didn't want this (her cancer made her a "grenade" - something sure to hurt those around her) and then why she did. I think my favourite part about Hazel though, was her fondness for her parents. They, particularly her mother who had taken up the full-time role of hovering, as Hazel put it, clearly meant a lot to her and were possibly what helped her keep going.
I also liked Augustus (hello new book crush) a lot and the blind jokes he cracked with Isaac. As un-PC as they may be, there was a certain realism in that gallows humour that I enjoyed.
This book dealt with death. There's no getting away from it. It revolved around three teenagers with various types of cancer. It was a sad book. It was also a book that made me think. Think about courage, life, death. It mainly made me think about what happens to those left behind and what happens next. That was what was, and is, going through my mind as I read the story and as I write this jumbled mess of a review. I had the most hellish racking sobs when I realised who would eventually be left behind and how unfair that was.
Is it perfect? Nope. I found the plot a bit predictable, and ridiculous, if I'm being honest. Nothing came as a surprise, I saw it coming. The characters dialogue got on my wick a few times. The whole book quote thing and philosophising is fine in small doses but I wanted a few more typical teenagery conversations. These were small, minor niggly things though.
But do you know what? I don't care. The above issues didn't really dampen my overall enjoyment of this novel and I stick by my rating for it. I loved this book and I will eagerly await the next John Green novel.
Thank you, John Green, for ruining the next few books I read. They will just not compare to The Fault in Our Stars.
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 27 July 2014
Just didn't do much for me at all. I've read a couple of John Green's books (who, as a person, I am a personal fan of) and I feel the same dissatisfaction whenever I finish one of his novels, that "is that it?" feeling. It's a tear baiter. But the bait sucks. The protagonists, I find to be obnoxious and, sorry to say it, very two-dimensional. They're too self-aware, I guess some people like that, and they hold themselves in very high esteem. Give me a reason to hold you in some esteem too. I read the book through intermittent rolls of my eyes. Hazel watches America's Next Top Model. Wow, how fascinating that she dumbs herself down to watch shows that millions of people enjoy. She's so human. Augustus walks around with an unlit cigarette in his mouth for crying out loud. Oh my God that's so ironic and deep. I can't remember his ridiculous reason for why, but all I know is that is some pretentious bullsh*t.
For a book that is so consciously trying to avoid being overtly sentimental, it all came across as crazily melodramatic and a more uptight version of Nicholas Sparks "A Walk to Remember". I was just really, really unimpressed. I'd still like to see the movie, because these kinds of stories play out pretty well on the screen. With a sappy soundtrack and a few heart-wrenching performances it may even get the tears it begging for. However, as I said, I like John Green and I'm glad for his success I will keep reading his books and hoping for better.
At the time of writing this, there are only 21 '1 star' reviews of this trash. What? Are there only 21 sane people left in the universe?
Friends and fellow lovers of the written word, I'm so tired. First came Twilight, which told teenagers that stalking is romantic as long as the guy is hot, that it's ok to sociopathically string along someone deeply and obviously in love with you if you can't be with the person you actually love, and that suicide is the only way forward if your partner leaves.
Then, just as poor Literature staggered to its feet after this devastating blow, came 50 Shades of Grey. As if to mock all who finally believed we'd seen the back of Twilight, here was its dark fanfiction twin in which all the already horrible characters become caricatures of themselves. Dim Bella becomes the chronically thick Ana, her head so filled with her medulla oblongata-dwelling imaginary friends and their props that there was no room for a brain up there, and creeperific Edward Cullen became Christian Grey - the nastiest, most unbelievably abusive romantic lead to get the ladies swooning since Heathcliff. Except, y'know, at least Heathcliff's writer knew he was a monster and didn't try to convince the middle aged women of the world that they should have a Heathcliff of their own!
And now, this. This steaming heap of self-important twaddle that people are claiming 'saved' YA. Yes, of course we've bounced back to the young adult genre that Twilight took aim at years ago now; as if this genre needed any more reasons for everyone to think it's a bit rubbish. Meet Hazel, the most egotistical, sneering depressing blob of a protagonist you'll ever meet. I quickly came to the conclusion that Hazel is not a sour, wallowing, hardened little ball of selfishness and misery because of her cancer, but in spite of it. Augustus Waters is just as bad but for all different reasons. Upon first meeting Hazel, who happens to look just like his dead ex girlfriend, Gus's first response is to flirt with her and then invite her down to his basement. This raises no red flags at all for Hazel, our supposedly intelligent protagonist, who goes along with this because Gus is stunningly handsome. Hazel and Gus quickly realise they have mutual attraction, pretentiousness and a superiority complex in common, and Gus realises he can emotionally manipulate his way to getting laid. They go to Amsterdam, verbally and physically abuse an old man, make out in the Anne Frank museum (I'm not even kidding), and then one of them dies. The only thing tragic about it is that both of them do not die.
You probably think I'm harsh, but these fictional people are more loathsome than Lucius Malfoy and Walder Frey put together. Hazel thinks the world revolves around her, and unfortunately due to the awful, awful writing, it does. John Green never even tries to hide this. Her parents and their supposed concern are convenient pieces of scenery who vanish when the plot demands it; the Contrivance Fairy and her magic wand work overtime to ensure that a non-existent charity for cancer patients funds an all-expenses paid trip for Gus *who isn't even suffering cancer anymore*; and my personal favourite, nobody in-universe ever calls either Gus or Hazel out on their pseudo-intellectual cowpoop, which takes up an eye-watering amount of pages. Every time one of them began to mechanically waffle with something ~deep and clever~ I would skip a paragraph or four, rolling my eyes with an internal 'Oh my god, PLEASE shut up!'. Truly, a pair of angsty, narcissistic teenage brats know more about philosophy, love and pain than the rest of us mere plebs.
Yes - Hazel and Gus don't only love to remind us that they are intellectually and emotionally superior to us, they're morally superior too! Even while strong-arming their blind friend into egging his ex girlfriend's car after a painful breakup! Never mind that the poor chap was getting through the pain in his own way and did not want revenge! Never mind that this poor young girl must have had her reasons for leaving her cancer-ridden boyfriend, such as wanting to preserve her own sanity and well-being! Never mind that none of this is Hazel or Gus's damn business!! I fail to see how so many readers can still fawn over Hazel and Gus after reading of their juvenile, spiteful, vicious actions. I thought they were supposed to be so ~mature & worldly~?
This book disrespects cancer patients, Dutch people, holocaust victims, and even takes a pot-shot at religion too - as Gus says, unless you're an atheist, you're a dimwit! Ugh. I don't understand how this is a bestseller. I don't think I want to understand. I just hope, like all the twihards who woke up and realise that stalking isn't sexy and that vampires don't sparkle, the fans of this book will someday wake up too.