Betsys5Avengers #CBRIV Review #1 The Fault In Our Stars by John Green
John Green’s books never cease to disappoint me. I’ve read them all: Looking for Alaska was a decent first effort, but disappointing. I hated An Abundance of Katherines with a passion, and the beginning of Paper Towns had promise, but ran out of steam in the second act. I did enjoy David Levithan’s half of Will Grayson Will Grayson, I was unsatisfied with Green’s. Unfortunately, The Fault in Our Stars is no exception.
I don’t get it. John Green is similar to Neil Gaiman in that he is an author I’m supposed to—and really want to—like. The premises of his novels sound great (which is why I always run out and buy them), and I love watching his “Vlogbrothers” and “Hank Games without Hank” series on YouTube. He always comes off as funny, honest, inventive, and thoughtful in his videos, and while all of these traits are evident in his writing, it is not nearly enough for me. However, The Fault in Our Stars is easily his best.
I won’t bore anyone with a plot summary, since this book has been reviewed on CBR IV already by people who are much better at writing reviews than I am, but TFiOS is centered on two teenagers who meet and fall in like (and later love) in a cancer support group. Eighteen-year-old Hazel Grace Lancaster has thyroid cancer, and Augustus Waters had a bone tumor that resulted in the loss of a leg (I think. I’m not entirely sure). Green’s first achievement was not making this a story about disease. The characters have universal issues and concerns: overbearing parents, stumbling over condom use during first time sex, video game suckage, and friends who aren’t completely genuine. Yes, Hazel and Augustus are sick, and yes, plot points involve around their illnesses, but TFiOS is not about cancer. It’s about what all John Green books are about: teenagers on the brink of discovering who they are, who they love, how they feel, and, ultimately, how they fit into the universe. Often times, it involves some kind of scavenger hunt, road trip, or foundation. In TFiOS, Hazel and Gus go to Amsterdam in search of their favorite author, Peter Van Houten.
I liked The Fault in Our Stars better than Green’s previous works because of the characters. This is the first time Green has had a female narrator, and I think he is much better at writing well rounded girls than his milksop-y boys. Hazel, Gus, and the supporting players (particularly their friend Isaac, another cancer survivor) are brilliant. They are intelligent, witty, extremely charming, believable, and, okay, a little precocious. They somehow manage to jump of the page and come alive, which is why the ending is…erm…sad, to say to the least.
However, the rest of it kind of fell apart for me. I’m honestly tired of the “Let’s go on a trip to find ourselves!” device, and while I like that John Green dares to be philosophical, he often makes a point, states the theme, or has the characters learn a lesson, only to repeat it over and over (and over) again. The repetition made it extremely hard to finish, and I sort of felt like the book was about twenty pages too long.
That said, I recommend The Fault in Our Stars. It’s far from perfect, but it is an engaging read about two amazing people. A warning: the more sensitive folk among us should keep a box of tissues on hand, just in case.