Review: ‘The Fault in Our Stars’ by John GreenPosted: May 24, 2014
Despite the tumor-shrinking medical miracle that has bought her a few years, Hazel has never been anything but terminal, her final chapter inscribed upon diagnosis. But when a gorgeous plot twist named Augustus Waters suddenly appears at Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazel’s story is about to be completely rewritten.
Insightful, bold, irreverent, and raw, The Fault in Our Stars is award-winning author John Green’s most ambitious and heartbreaking work yet, brilliantly exploring the funny, thrilling, and tragic business of being alive and in love.
A little while back, one of my Aussie Owned co-bloggers, Emily, reacted with total horror when I told her I hadn’t read The Fault in Our Stars. I told her it was because a) I don’t usually read contemporary, and b) I don’t want to read a book that’s going to break my heart and make me all depressed and mopey.
She promised me this book is just as funny and poignant as it is sad, and bossed me into buying a copy. She has powers like that, you guys. In the meantime, I read The Problem With Crazy by Lauren McKellar, which is both very sad (but also poignant) and also contemporary.
And since I’d already broken my rule and survived Crazy, although it BROKE MY HEART INTO A THOUSAND MILLION PIECES, I figured I would be able to handle Stars.
I was right. Sort of.
Emily was right too. Some of the moments in Stars are hysterically funny. I love the banter between Hazel, Augustus and Isaac. It’s often classic gallows humour, and although some people may find it shocking, if anyone is entitled to it, it’s those three teens, all with cancer that has cost them big time. When it’s not gallows humour, it’s still clever and wry. The scene where the two boys egg the car was sheer, hilarious genius.
The romance between Hazel and Augustus is very full on very early, and although I usually hate love at first sight, this had just enough kinks in it that it felt real, more like the sort of mad crush a teenager is likely to get. At one point Hazel even acknowledges that if they’d had more time maybe they would’ve grown out of that mad love stage.
I didn’t go totally fangirl over the book though. For example, I didn’t love everything about the characters. Augustus’s thing with the cigarette was totally pretentious, but it was clear how much it meant to him, especially by the end. So I can forgive him that. And the sad bits… well, they made me cry, no doubt about that. But Crazy was sadder. I howled like a baby, reading that. (And loved every minute. I think I want to have Lauren’s babies.)
But here’s what made The Fault in Our Stars special to me. I saw some negative reviews of it that criticised Hazel and Augustus for not talking like normal teengers, as though cancer made them somehow special, “more than”. But I think it goes deeper than that. These two kids would be special even if they were 100% healthy; I mean, Hazel is 16 and already doing university courses. Augustus is also extremely bright, although there’s no doubt his illness made him really look at the world. The fact they both read and analysed a literary novel that (from the description) I’d throw against the wall in the first five minutes is a flashing neon sign that these aren’t normal teenagers. They are precocious.
And that’s a good thing. I’m not saying we shouldn’t read about normal teenagers, but, as anyone who’s argued for diversity in fiction would attest, there are already so many books about the normal out there. The white character, the straight character, the gender normal, average, preppy, pretty, whatever character. The character that holds a mirror to a huge proportion of the reading public.
Hazel and Augustus are super-bright nerds. He and Isaac are gamers. It’s not that John Green failed to write teenagers, it’s that he wrote different teenagers, struggling with awful problems and (for the most part — because they are also realistically portrayed) managing to handle them better than some adults would. They aren’t mirrors that reflect me, because I think literary fiction sucks. But they reflect someone, and that someone no doubt appreciates it.
And that is why I’m giving this book five stars.