Thursday, July 31, 2014

THE FAULT IN OUR STARS by John Green - Book Review

Rating: 3.5/5 - Great if you’re in the mood for it, only okay if you’re not.

Title: The Fault in our Stars

Author: John Green

Format: ebook

Published: 2012

Young Adult

  Dutton Books

Landed in my hands: purchased myself

Summary (from

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.


Here’s the thing: I found this book to be highly predictable. I reached the 75% mark on Kindle and I knew exactly what was going to happen next. Actually, I predicted how the ending went down. About the only thing I didn’t predict was some of the snappy dialogue.

Why do I think it was predictable? I figure it was because I’ve lived it. (Figuratively, of course.) Having a loved one struggle with cancer allows to you realize that everyone battling cancer has a story of tragedy, one that involves a struggle for meaning in a meaningless world.

Yes, there is that much desperation and sadness walking around you. Yes, there are that many people contemplating the meaning of life, death, and whether a handful more days is worth the torture of having more poison injected into them.

That's the reality of cancer.

And I’ll grant that that’s the strength of this book—bringing identifiability to cancer victims. If readers discover themselves empathizing more with those with the illness, seeing a bit of Hazel or Gus in someone else’s disease-ravaged frame, that might be a good thing. I’m all for the general public learning compassion, and if The Fault In Our Stars brings a bit of humanity to the story of others who could use some compassion, well, good job and rock on, Mr Green.

I was pleased to see he dabbles into the semi-taboo realm of morbid humour that often accompanies terminal illness. It's a quirk that many adopt when dealing with mortality, one that can be off-putting to outsiders. It's well portrayed in the novel, especially a passage late in the narrative, when the teens’ sarcasm bounces back and forth, peppy and realistic, illustrating well the gallows humour that accompanies the situation. As subscriber to gallows humour, I loved it.

But again, though I’ve heard people rave about this book, I found it felt contrived. For example (without getting too spoilery), the dichotomy of Augustus' name—how Hazel splits him into larger than life Augustus and regular, touchable Gus—it was great until the split was forced into the reader's view by another character mentioning it. Then it became clunky. I've always preferred subtlety and trusting your reader is intelligent enough to piece together what you hand them.

Granted, this is a young adult novel, but I don't believe that is an excuse.

Though I’ll give Green props: he’s only included details that are pertinent to the story—nothing appeared random or superfluous to distract from the narrative—and it tied up into a tidy little package with nothing left dangling. Though perhaps that’s where the predictability comes into play. I’m still not entirely sure if it’s because I’ve seen someone battle cancer up close and have realized that these questions of morbid depth are ones that are asked when swimming in terminal waters, or if the story itself was predictable on its own.

Overall, this novel is highly readable, but that snarly predictability is the source of my rating: great if you’re in the mood for it, only okay if you’re not.

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