Wednesday, June 4, 2014
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
I'm not going to summarize this one. I probably shouldn't even write a review for this book; It's been reviewed over 700,000 times on Goodreads, so I most likely have nothing exciting to contribute to the conversation. It's also not a new book, but it is enjoying a resurgence due to the movie coming out this week. And finally, it's YA, which, while I have no one specific qualm with the genre, is something I honestly just can't get into and is something I do not want to get into the habit of reviewing. Despite all of this, I still wanted to say something about this novel. I think secretly, in my prepubescent heart (why is my heart prepubescent?), I kind of just want to talk to someone about this book, and perhaps cry a little.
Let's start with the things I didn't like about this book, and knew I wouldn't like about this book.
Hazel and Augustus are pretentious. Really pretentious. Sometimes they're pretentious in fun, cute ways that make you happy that they're too smart to handle themselves without letting it seep all over, but most of the time you're wondering how these people exist and how no one ever told them to just shut the hell up, cancer or not. Hazel was worse than Gus, probably because she was less "socialized" since she had been out of school for so long. If you can justify something horrible about a character due to something that actually happened in the book, does it make them less horrible? I'm not sure. I just didn't like her as much as I felt like I was supposed to. She was Juno, without the things that made you like Juno.
I didn't like Isaac. I'm not sure what his role was supposed to be. To offer a subjective view of Hazel and Gus? To foreshadow brokenheartedness? To be some heavy-handed metaphor about the blindness of humanity? I just couldn't figure it out. He introduces Hazel and Gus, and then proceeds to be mostly boring for the rest of the novel.
I thought the book drawled on a little longer than necessary after Gus's death. I wanted some ambiguity. I wanted to be angry.
I guess I disliked less about this book than I thought I did.
So what I liked were the descriptions of Amsterdam, Hazels' dedication to An Imperial Affliction and how she still loves the book even though the author is a horrible person.
John Green is a very good writer. He makes the most vague, strange things sound simple and true. However, he is also very good at catchphrases and literary one-liners, which make for nice gifs and phone case designs and t-shirts and - let me just say that this man knew what he was doing.
But what I liked most, even though it's a little pretentious, is this:
"I believe the universe wants to be noticed. I think the universe is improbably biased toward the consciousness, that it rewards intelligence in part because the universe enjoys its elegance being observed." I shared that line with someone who I care about and who I don't want to think I read YA, so I had to preface it with, "So, this is embarrassing, but, I'm reading this chicklit book and..." I almost feel bad for presenting it that way (almost).
Honestly, if I had read (or listened to - I listened to this book on CD in my car) this book at any other time, I probably wouldn't have enjoyed it as much. But I am particularly vulnerable right now, and this edged itself right in. I think I'm at a point where, after some relationships that were so sad that I can't even really think about them, I kind of just want to be loved, and to have someone to appreciate things with. Hazel and Gus were good at appreciating things together. For all of their snark and pessimism, they liked the things they liked. Their love was simple, even though their predicament was not.