I spent an entire year mentally preparing myself for The Fault in Our Stars. I read some terrible books, awesome books and your classic “meh” books. And whenever I’d go to decide which book I wanted to read next, I’d glance at The Fault in Our Stars’ spine and simply turn my head away. To be completely honest, I don’t think I have ever truly went out of my way to avoid a book like this and it’s unlike me to do so. I usually tackle things head on, showing no fear, but with this book I had to approach things differently due to its subject matter. But then Jenn from The Bawdy Book Blog threw this in as a review suggestion, because obviously I needed some John Green edumacation. And I’m so happy someone finally pushed me to read this book because it did not disappoint. Well, not exactly…
It’s easy to see why John Green has the following he does. There is just something magical in the way he strings his sentences together that I can’t help but admire it. It’s simple, deep and humorous all at the same time. And the biggest thing I worried about when diving into this book was the sadness. You go into the book knowing the characters are terminal and I didn’t know how I would fare connecting with a character, loving a character, to ultimately have them suffer and die. I’m a really easy crier and I don’t like seeing people (fictional or real) suffer. But somehow John Green manages to take a cancer book and fill it with the sweetest memories.
For a good portion of The Fault in Our Stars, I found myself chuckling at Hazel and Augustus’ dry humor. The first half was generally light-hearted despite the grim situation the characters were in. Even when things got more serious, the humor was subtly there as a convenient ice-breaker of sorts. If I could describe it, I’d liken it to a grandparent making a joke about their impending death. It’s awkward and uncomfortable, but oddly reassuring that it’s possible to joke about something so morbid. Life goes on.
The plot was simply “ok” for me, never wowing me or keeping me on the edge of my seat. It, at times, seemed to just float by with occasional things happening. There weren’t many plot twists or “ah ha!” moments because you could tell from the beginning how it would end. You knew from the subject matter that it would be sad, and yet… I did not really cry. I did shed The Lonely Tear, but it wasn’t for the characters. It was because of the situation they were in. It was because cancer sucks. Don’t get me wrong, this is a beautifully written book, but the problem I ran into was the questionable authenticity of the protagonists. They never felt like teenagers. I get that they were intelligent and spent a lot more time contemplating life than your average teen, but they never felt real to me. Now, I’m not exactly a stranger to John Green himself. I religiously watch his history webshow on Youtube and I’m often amazed at this guy. But it was like he sat down and created mini-Despicable-Me-minon-like John Greens for this novel. They are all witty, super intelligent and too pretentious for their own good.
Further, it was almost like Green relied on the severity of the ending and the character’s intelligence to jar emotion from the reader. Clearly, this worked since two weeks after finishing, I cried while making pancakes just from thinking about Augustus’ letter to Hazel. But again, this was not for the characters. It wasn’t remotely similar or as powerful of an emotion that I’d felt after I read A Walk to Remember where I cried in my 8th grade English class under my desk. I’m talking about complete and utter sorrow for Landon and everyone else. DON’T JUDGE ME.
Anyway, while I remain conflicted on how I feel about the characters, it doesn’t negate the fact that this is a fabulous, smart read that I’d recommend to others.