Title: The Fault in Our Stars
Author: John Green
Published: January 10th 2012
Publisher: Dutton Books
Synopsis: Diagnosed with Stage IV thyroid cancer at 12, Hazel was prepared to die until, at 14, a medical miracle shrunk the tumours in her lungs… for now.
Two years post-miracle, sixteen-year-old Hazel is post-everything else too; post-high school, post-friends and post-normalcy. And even though she could live for a long time (whatever that means), Hazel lives tethered to an oxygen tank, the tumours tenuously kept at bay with a constant chemical assault.
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.
I have a bit of a difficult relationship with this book, which is why I gave it only 3 stars. Not because I didn’t like it, because I did, believe me, but there are some things that just don’t sit quite right with me.
First of all the beginning of the book. I read this on my kindle, and I was very much put off by, roughly, the first 10% of the book. The use of language, the typical teenager, MTV-esque way of speaking, and the overuse of the word ‘like’ in a sentence almost made me put the book down and not finish it. But I didn’t, because I don’t like to leave books unfinished unless it’s pure drivel (like Fifty Shades of Grey, but that’s a whole different story). And I’m very glad I didn’t, because the quality increased so much after that. It still wouldn’t be my book of choice, but I began liking it.
This is not your standard book about brave people dealing with a life-threatening illness, who are fighters and are brave until the very end. It’s not like, say, My Sister’s Keeper. I’m sure Hazel would hate that book. This is what’s so refreshing about it. This book tells the story of ordinary teenagers who want to do ordinary teenage stuff, but happen to suffer from this very annoying, inconvenient thing called cancer. But they will not let it define who they are.
But no matter how refreshing this may sound, I do have a slight problem with it as well. I know some of you will probably think I’m nagging too much already, but it’s the way I feel. I can’t help feeling that the author is sometimes trying too hard to make this story not about cancer. Sometimes it feels as though the author is trying with all his might to make sure the book is the complete opposite of all those soppy, dramatic, tragic, and heartbreaking books that are about the disease and nothing else. To me it feels like he’s trying too hard, some of the time, but at times he gets it just right.
And then there’s Peter van Houten. I like the fact that Hazel and Augustus bond over a book that she loves and he comes to love, and the fact that Hazel’s story ends in the same way as An Imperial Affliction does is a nice touch, and very realistic. However, and this is me nagging again, I don’t really get the van Houten character and what he brings to the book. They way he behaves when Hazel and Augustus are in Amsterdam, as well as at Augustus’ funeral is to an extent incomprehensible. The fact that he was never the same person after he lost his daughter is something I can definitely understand. But this is exactly the reason why I don’t understand why he refuses to tell Hazel what happened to the characters after the book ended. I’m sure that if it had been his daughter’s dying wish to hear her favourite author tell her what happened to the characters of her favourite book, he would’ve wanted nothing more than for her wish to come true. Which is why I don’t understand why he’s so self-absorbed and self-pitying that he can’t fulfil the wish of a terminally ill girl who has travelled thousands of miles to see him. Other than adding even more anger and frustration to the story, it doesn’t really add much. The upside to that part of the story is that Hazel and Augustus got to spend a few lovely days in Amsterdam.
I know this review may sound negative and nagging at times, and might give the impression that I disliked the book. However, this is not the case, far from it. It’s a book I definitely enjoyed reading, and I’m glad I gave it a go. I didn’t take an instant liking to most of the main characters, but I grew to love them as the book progressed. By the time I reached the part about Augustus’ funeral I was crying my eyes out (I’m a very emotional person). I know a lot of people think it’s a brilliant book, and have listed it as one of their all-time favourites. But I’m afraid it’ll never be one of my favourite books, and I hope that people will respect my opinion, even if it differs from their own. I did enjoy reading it, if enjoy is the right word to use for a book which is essentially about children dealing with cancer, and I would definitely recommend it to others.
(Review previously posted on Goodreads)