Friday, January 4, 2013

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

The Fault in Our StarsDescription: Diagnosed with Stage IV thyroid cancer at 13, Hazel was prepared to die until, at 14, a medical miracle shrunk the tumours in her lungs... for now. Enter Augustus Waters. A match made at cancer kid support group, Augustus is gorgeous, in remission, and shockingly to her, interested in Hazel. Being with Augustus is both an unexpected destination and a long-needed journey, pushing Hazel to re-examine how sickness and health, life and death, will define her and the legacy that everyone leaves behind. 

Stats: Young Adult, 313 pages, First published by Dutton Books January 2012.

"You have a choice in this world, I believe, about how to tell sad stories, and we made the funny choice" - page 209

Chapter Twenty-Two. The house phone was ringing. It was nine AM on the dot, but it hardly felt like a moment since I had woken up at five and begun reading. It was the ringing of the telephone that made my world catch up with me. All of a sudden my room went from a completely undisturbed silence of pages turning to the sounds of a phone ringing, and a dog moving, and a voice talking, and cars driving through the rainy street, and the squeak of the bus coming to a full stop. 

I don't know what evil possessed my Aunt to call at nine in the morning, our house is not a nine AM sort of house, but regardless of her reason, after that it felt different. I was very suddenly reminded that I was reading a book. A book with an author, an author who is not in fact Hazel Grace. 

John Green is a guy that I very much look up to. Before I came across him I had somehow decided that authors were not so much people as engines. They didn't so much as live lives, but existed only to create lives for my own imagination. When John Green writes he normally sounds very much like himself. His words scream, "I AM JOHN GREEN. THAT IS MY NAME. THIS IS MY STORY." Which I do enjoy, but here it didn't feel like that. You could still see him in the Venn diagrams, the quotes, the shining intelligence of teenagers, and musings on the insurmountable universe, but this was a story of the created, not the creator. All I saw was Hazel Grace.

There were so many moments that made me laugh. So many moments that made me stop and re-read what I had just read. When it ended I didn't want it to be over. I read the author's note silently wishing for more.

Back when I first got a copy (I had pre-ordered and everything) I was worried when I first realized that absolutely everyone was saying that this is a good book, a great book. I got rather frightened by the praise it was getting and then despite my concern of my own expectations I reached out to read it and it was gone. poof. gone. Somewhere in the shuffle of its trip upstairs, then downstairs, then upstairs, I had lost The Fault in Our Stars. I take losing books very seriously. It sucks. Time passed and I stop looking hoping that my not looking would result in finding it. Finally, yesterday, I found it sitting on the stairs, not knowing whether to go up or to go down. So out of love and as an apology for my abandonment, I read it and did not stop. As you can probably tell I enjoyed it. There were so many moments that I cursed my inability to dog ear the pages as quotes after quote were just too perfect to not somehow note. 

I loved this book. I give this book an enthusiastic five stars and a room with a view on my favourites list! I would not be surprised if I re-read this again before the year is over.
The characters are just so captivating. Our girl, Hazel Grace has this amazing feeling about her, she invites you into the story and keeps you riveted to her life.

But let's also talk about our other characters. 
First we have Isaac. Isaac is another boy in Hazel's cancer support group and he is a secondary character that shines. I didn't expect much from him. When he's first introduced I could feel my automatic dismissal kick in, this person, who is not the Augustus Waters I have been promised, is thus meaningless to me. Just as I was shooing him into a dark corner, he turned around and said, "I shall not be shooed woman, read the god damn story, I'm important, okay?" 

And then there is Augustus Waters. Wonderful, glorious, Augustus Waters. He struck a delicate balance of humour and self awareness, as well as vulnerability and intelligence. All these things together can so easily go wrong, the cake can not rise, but he feels effortless to me.
Then there's the romance and the battle between life and death and meaning. It is deep without leaving you swimming. It talks about death without making you feel hopeless. Most importantly, The Fault in Our Stars is about dying.

Dying and Death are two surprisingly different subjects. One is present, the other is past. Dying is a subject that I personally feel doesn't get enough attention in YA. There are plenty of books out there about the afterlife. You can find books on Reapers, angels, demons, ghosts, and DEATH, but so few are actually about dying. Dying of the body, dying of the mind, dying of the spirit. So many aspects of dying are tackled in this book. So many moments that in the real world can leave you feeling raw.

This all sounds very awful. A book about dying. A book about illness. A book about love and illness and dying. It all sounds very depressing, which is part of the reason why I was so surprised that when I finished reading, I wasn't depressed. Books have left me depressed before, but here I was sad. The good sort of sad. The sort of sad that I only know how to extend to fiction characters.

To put an end to this, remember the quote I started this review with so long ago?  When it comes to The Fault In Our Stars I don't think anything could apply more.

"You have a choice in this world, I believe, about how to tell sad stories, and we made the funny choice" - page 209

Long live Hazel Grace.

1 comment:

  1. This book forces you to think hard about the world and our place in it. It is a story that will fill you with hope and break your heart at the same time. Reading this book will take your emotions on a huge roller-coaster ride. I very stongly recommend buying The Fault in Our Stars.