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Knowledge of our past is our inheritance. What we do with that knowledge will shape our destinies...

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Book Review: The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

Okay, so I've had all KINDS of issues with this book review. The first time it went up, I created the post but hadn't finished the book yet and so hadn't actually filled in the review part, and somehow, accidentally published it. Then I wrote the review and published it for real, but for some reason, it wasn't showing up right on the blog. It's still looked largely blank. Why? I have no idea. I'm sure it was an operator problem. My life has been crazy lately and I haven't been putting the time and energy into my blogs that I should. This is me, trying to remedy that. So, here's the review. For real this time. I hope. *crosses fingers*

I finally read this book! I wanted to get it read before I saw the film. Though, admittedly, I don't know when that will be.

**No real spoilers here, but I do discuss a few plot points in some detail, so if you want to know nothing, then skip this review.**

Summary:  Hazel is sixteen and has a terminal case of cancer. Though at this point in her life, she is doing okay, she and her parents know that she probably won't live into adulthood. She meets a boy named Augustus Waters in a cancer support group. He's one leg short but in remission, and the two connect in a morbid-cancer-humor sort of way. They just get one another and soon begin to date.

Characters: I thought both main characters--Hazel and Gus--were pretty good. This is definitely a YA book, which means they're teens. But, because they've both been sick most of their lives, they aren't as whiny and angsty and teen-drama-ish as most YA characters are. They're also both very intelligent. Again, as a result of their respective illnesses, they haven't had the ability to do much except sit around and read, watch TV and play video games. They both have very rye, overblown (albeit morbid) senses of humor, which I enjoyed immensely.

They're also both very human. John Green can write raw human beings like nobody's business.

Plot: In seeing promos for the film, I've heard several people say that this isn't a story about cancer. Rather, it's a love story between two kids who just happen to have cancer. I both agree and disagree with that. It's true in that cancer isn't really the point. Their relationship is. Yet, cancer is a big part of the plot; a big part of their relationship. In many ways, it defines their relationship. They connect, not because either of them is sick at the start, but because they've both been sick. So they both see and understand the world in a way that others, including parents and those who've been by their side throughout the illness, don't. 

So, to my mind, the book is about cancer, just not in the way people think. Just as a relationship that takes place in medieval Russia will be somewhat defined by the fact that the two people live in medieval Russia, or the relationships between our favorite kid wizards were somewhat defined by the fact that they went to Hogwarts, or Katniss and Peeta's relationship was somewhat defined by the Hunger Games themselves, so the relationship between these two was defined by their illnesses.

Ending: So a big part of the book talks about Hazel's favorite book, which ends--literally the narrative just cuts off--because the main character/narrator dies. There's a lot of talk about that format by the author and what might have happened to the characters in that story, because there's no closure. 

Now, I'll say that The Fault in Our Stars does not end that way, but it's an established theme/motif throughout the story. Because of that, there's not a whole lot of closure at the end of this book. Normally, I would probably hate that, but because of the established motif, it actually works pretty well here. Just don't expect tons of closure at the end of the story.

Title: Just wanted to say a word about this. The title is much more tragic than is apparent. For those who don't know, it's taken from Shakespeare's play, Julius Caesar. "The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars. But in ourselves..." Shakespeare was saying we need to take responsibility for our destinies and not blame some unknowable, unfathomable fate. I assumed John Green was using the same idea as the title for the book. Nope. The only reference to the title is in a letter which talks about how wrong Shakespeare was, and how there is plenty of fault to be spread around in our stars. Such are the lives of those who survive cancer, or who survive loved ones who don't win their battles against cancer. Really it's a horribly tragic title.

Overall Thoughts: As most of you know, I am very picky about YA. I actually really liked this, despite its YA status. It's a very sweet story and I'm glad I got to read it. I do want to see the film, now. But, it wasn't earth-shattering for me or anything. I can see that, for teens and young people it probably would be mind-blowing. For me, it was just a touching read.

Who else has read this book? What did you think of it? Anyone seen the film yet?


  1. I saw this pop up on your blog a few times Liesel, so it's good to see it up. It's funny the things that blow our minds when we're young. I'm wishing you an exceptional day.

    1. BTW my wife really wants to see this movie, so I'll see if it holds up.

    2. Thanks Maurice! You'll have to let me know how she likes the movie. I haven't seen it yet--and I'm not sure when I'll get around to it--but I want to. :D