12 March 2012
Review 21: The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
Oh my goodness, this book is amazing. I apologise in advance for a review that exists mainly as a long stream of gushing compliments that can in no way successfully show how much I loved this. I will try and form some sensible, well-thought out opinions about why I loved it but I can't make any promises. A cancer book, but not a 'cancer book', so get any thoughts of Nicholas Sparks style tosh out of your head and find yourself a copy of this book as quickly as you humanly can.
First Line: 'Late in the winter of my seventeenth year, my mother decided I was depressed, presumably because I rarely left the house, spent quite a lot of time in bed, read the same book over and over, ate infrequently, and devoted quite a bit of my abundant free time to thinking about death.'
So, firstly the lovely title and cover. The cover is beautiful and well designed and does not feature my pet hate of stock photos/models so bonus points there. The title comes from a quote from Julius Caesar when Cassius says to Brutus, "The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves." which wins points for literary allusions as well as just sounding beautiful. It's nice to have a YA book you can be totally unembarrassed about reading in public because so often good YA fiction is hidden behind horrendous covers.
The Fault in Our Stars is the story of Hazel and Augustus. Hazel has terminal cancer but her life has been uncertainly prolonged by a new miracle drug. However, she knows that prolonged means an unspecified amount of time and she is intensely aware that she will die and the affect that this will have on people she knows which means she does not pursue friendships as she sees herself as a bomb that will detonate and destroy everything around her when she dies. At the support group her mother makes her attend she meets the charming and eccentric Augustus Waters. Augustus is in remission, having lost a leg to cancer, and attends to support his friend, Isaac who has lost one eye to cancer and is having to have the other removed to stop his cancer spreading. Augustus and Hazel share a sense of humour (an actually funny sense of humour) and despite Hazel's best efforts to not let anyone in, they fall in love.
I laughed out loud several times during the first half of this book and I wept through the second half. I don't want to give anything away but this is a book about people with cancer. Most of the weeping, though, was provoked by things other than death, the moments that are littered throughout the novel that really bash your heart; Hazel's heartbreaking conversations with her parents, Isaac coming to terms with life without his sight, the way that Hazel has to deal with carrying her oxygen around. In the sections with Isaac, Green really painfully shows how awful it is for a teenager to have to lose their sight in order to keep their life without descending into mawkish sentimentality, a theme of Green's excellent writing which despite being a tearjerker is not maudlin or manipulative.
I spent most of the first half of the novel laughing out loud as Green manages to create teenagers that are funny, but in an appealing and realistic way. They make jokes that my friend might make and jokes that actually make you laugh. I just loved Hazel and Augustus so much. Hazel is awesome, I will take her over Katniss or Tris anyday. And then I spent the second half of the novel weeping. Pretty much continuously. This book does not have a tearjerker of a final scene that comes out of nowhere (although it is does get progressively more heartbreaking) this is a 200 page wallop of sadness. It is filled with moments of loveliness and moments of tragedy. Everything is just so beautifully written, the characters, their relationships with eachother (Hazel's parents and their relationship with Hazel really punches you hard emotionally), the story and the thoughts of life and death and illness. It also made me donate money to cancer research because cancer really sucks.
One of my favourite quotes (of many) from the book:
'Sometimes, you read a book and it fills you with this weird evangelical zeal, and you become convinced that the shattered world will never be put back together unless and until all living humans read the book. And then there are books which you can't tell people about, books so special and rare and yours that advertising your affection feels like a betrayal.'
Ultimately, I just don't feel able to put into words how much I loved this or really why. Books you love are so hard to review. It falls into the first category from the quote above, but why I really included that quote is because of how well Green has managed to put both of those feelings into words. Read this book as soon as you get the opportunity, there is no way that this review can get across why it is so wonderful but rest assured that wonderful it most definitely is.