The Fault in Our Starsby John Green Published 10 Jan 2012
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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.
"The Fault in Our Stars" Reviews
I HATE this book. Absolutely hate it. Not just from the bottom of my heart (which would literally mean my ventricles, and so, no) but with my whole heart. I hate it, hate it, hate it.
I hate the fact that it made me laugh, so hard!
I hate the fact that it made me smile, so much!
I hate the fact that it made me chuckle, so profusely!
I hate the fact that it gifted me with so much Laughter, Smiles and Chuckles when I was expecting to come face to face with tragedy at any moment....it changed my expectations, made me believe in Something which did not happen...or maybe did happen.
I hate the fact that while Hazel Grace fell in love the way you fall asleep: slowly, and then all at once , I just fell ...no warning, no time to process the myriad emotions coursing through me, nope, nothing, just a huge endless void-filled fall and then a sudden crash that took my breath away, like literally...
I hate the fact that I fell in love with this bound-to-end-in-oblivion, bound-to-end-in-disaster boy who stared with blue blue eyes and put the killing thing right between his teeth, but never gave it the power to do its killing. (Putting a cigarette right between your teeth and never lighting it, yes, that's Augustus Waters for you, people, a guy huge on metaphors and symbolism...that hopeless boy).
I hate the fact that when I least expected it, the story, the words just grabbed me and pulled me in so deep that even the thought of ever resurfacing never entered my mind.
I hate that the fact that right in the middle of my dance in the rain of laughter, dry wit, and humour without any warning, without any lightning as it's precedent, this thunder would stun me, startle me, wipe the smile right off my face, and sober me up, wake me up from the intoxication of the very real yet false jocularity spun by them, a humour which was nothing but human tragedy waiting-to-happen-and-had-already-happened in disguise and then push me back into that rain to dance again.
I hate the fact that I'm not making my much sense right now....that right now my thoughts are stars I can't fathom into constellations...
And yes, all the hate above is a metaphor, a symbolic word for love... weird, right? But right now I can't bring myself to say that I love this book....I don't, I don't, I don't (yes, I do, I do, I do...)
So, *deep breath*, it's a story of a girl named Hazel Grace Lancaster, a girl diagnosed with thyroid cancer at the age of 13 who's still alive at 16 thanks to a miracle drug which didn't work it's miracle in about 70% of the people but it did work in her.
So, even though her lungs suck at being lungs, she's still alive and well not kicking, but breathing, with difficulty (because remember her lungs suck at being lungs), but breathing nonetheless.
She's been nothing but a terminal case ever since her diagnosis. The doctors are simply finding ways of keeping her alive rather than removing the cancer ridden lungs and replacing it with a new one, because let's face it, her chances of surviving such an operation are like next to nothing and why waste a good pair of lungs on a given, bound-to-fail body?
So, Hazel has never been anything but terminal, her final chapter inscribed upon diagnosis.
Enter Augustus Waters. He's 17, gorgeous, in remission, and very frankly and much to her surprise interested in her.
It's a match made in Cancer Kid Support Group, in the Literal Heart of Jesus (you'll know what that means when you read the book...you'll laugh, trust me, you will).
He is a tenured professor in the Department of Slightly Crooked Smiles with a dual appointment in the Department of Having a Voice That Made My Skin Feel More Like Skin.
He's the unexpected, hot, gorgeous twist in her story...a story which is about to be completely rewritten...
Their story begins with a staring contest...he stares at her...
So she stares back...because let's face it...
(Spoiler Alert: She wins.)
And it progresses into something brilliant, something as bright as the stars, into Something with a capital S....
I hate this book. (This needs indefinite repetitions, I hate it).
I hate the fact that I fell in love with their always. "Okay"
I hate the fact that Hazel Grace took the words right out of my mouth when she said what she said about being a vegetarian...
"I want to minimise the number of deaths I am responsible for,"
and about not knowing what's cool...
"I take a lot of pride in not knowing what's cool."
I hate the fact that I fell in love with this blue-eyed boy who drove horrifically and his cheesy and yet very endearing attempts to be Prince Charming....(but more so with him...the surprised, excited and innocent side of him..)
"May I see you again?" he asked. There was an endearing nervousness in his voice.
I smiled. "Sure."
"Tomorrow?" he asked.
"Patience, grasshopper," I counseled. "You don't want to seem overeager."
"Right, that's why I said tomorrow," he said. "I want to see you again tonight. But I'm willing to wait all night and much of tomorrow."
I hate the fact that Hazel Grace felt like a grenade and all she wanted to do was minimise the casualities when (not if but when) she blew up...
I hate the fact that I felt sorry for a lonely swing set...a Desperately Lonely Swing Set Which Needed a Loving Home...or maybe it was simply a Lonely, Vaguely Pedophilic Swing Set Which Sought the Butts of Children...and the fact that I absolutely love this sentence....
The Lonely Swing Set...
or maybe Just Vaguely Pedophilic...
And even though I fell in love the way you fall from a cliff or a building, (don't really know how that feels..since I've never done that)..I hate the way she fell in love...
I hate this kiss....because for who so firm that cannot be seduced?
And then we were kissing. My hand let go of the oxygen cart and I reached up for his neck, and he pulled me up by my waist onto my tiptoes. As his parted lips met mine, I started to feel breathless in a new and fascinating way. The space around us evaporated, and for a weird moment I really liked my body; this cancer-ruined thing I'd spent years dragging around suddenly seemed worth the struggle, worth the chest tubes and the PICC lines and the ceaseless bodily betrayal of the tumors.
I hate the love letter she wrote him...(Spoiler Alert: It's a Venn diagram love letter.)
I hate the fact that she did not agree with Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs (in which Abraham Maslow, an American psychologist, claimed that certain needs must be met before you can even have other kinds of needs.) Something like this...
Unless and until your needs of the previous level have been fulfilled, you don't even think about the needs of the next level. Of course, like all psychological theories this one too cannot be generalized or accepted universally. Because if there is one law in psychology then it is that there is no law in psychology, there is no given universal laws for human behaviour or thoughts or anything. Every theory has it's use and flaws, applicable to some while not applicable to others. And this one is not applicable in this situation. Nope, not at all.
I hate the words, the word play in this book... a quantum entanglement of tubes and bodies....triumphantly digitized contemporaneity....
I hate the fact that it made me laugh so much, smile a lot, fall in love so hard only to exact revenge later on for giving in to the false security of humour and love by making me cry....oh god, cry so much....so much...
Because that's the thing about pain, it demands to be felt.
I get it...totally get it...
I hate the fact that I ever read this sentence...
"I lit up like a Christmas tree, Hazel Grace..." .
I hate it, I really hate it (forget metaphorical resonances, forget symbolism, I actually hate it).
I hate the fact that it made me cry so much that the lovers of-god-knows-which-century entwined on my pillowcase were drenched in the torrent of my tears and were probably ruing the fact that there was no umbrella during their time.
I hate the fact that I stayed up whole night reading this book, half of the night crying, and even after finishing it I couldn't go to sleep, so the rest of the dawn just pacing in my room with all these haphazard, desultory stars jumping around in my mind finding absolutely no avenue to become constellations.....and my eyes puffy (Note to self: Do not stay up all night or add crying to it if you do to avoid puffy eyes.)
Why do I do this to myself??
And I absolutely hate this...
I hate that this story is stunningly overwhelming, insightful, irreverent, raw and devastating...and to quote Markus Zusak, it's the kind of story reading which "You laugh, you cry and then you come back for more."
Some infinities are bigger than other infinities... ...I'm grateful for having known this little infinity...grateful for this epic love story of two star crossed lovers....
I like my choices. I hope you like yours.
And by hate you know I meant love, right?
I love this book.
Right now, my thoughts are too jumbled up...
EDIT: Changed the rating because it's gotten to the point where my sister and I have inside jokes on how stupid and shallow this book is. I can't think about this book without getting angry.
I have a history with pretentious people.
My biggest mess involved two boys in particular who were so incredibly full of themselves that for the first time in my life, I openly expressed my dislike to them. They know that I couldn’t care less about their “hotness” or just how amazing they were. So goddamn full of themselves, spoiled rotten, just overall horrible people.
In short, my personality clashes with theirs entirely and there really is no chance of a friendship. I’d dive into it, but then this wouldn’t be a book review.
And so I move on.
The Fault in Our Stars is my first John Green book.
Yeah, I know, but I didn’t really get into reading up until maybe four years ago. And I’m not too into contemporary, but the opportunity presented itself and I took my first dive. My sister is a fan of John Green. She really loves Looking for Alaska and Will Grayson, Will Grayson and finds Paper Towns to be LfA’s quirky New Girl twin that doesn’t own up.
I almost feel bad for disliking this book, but that’s strictly on the idea of cancer. Cancer is horrible, unpredictable, and the worst part is that it’s your own cells mutating against you. That’s why it’s so hard to defeat. That’s what I wish this book was about: dealing with the cancer that wants to kill you. Instead, I get a book about a fictional miracle drug that keeps Hazel alive so she can have a boy love her [spoilers removed].
I came into this book with an open mind, I assure you. But I ended up really wanting to put the book down several times. From the first few pages, I felt something was actually wrong. Like I didn’t know what I was getting myself into. Having finished this book, which, to me, was such a chore to do, I think I’ve stumbled upon decent reasons as to why I really can’t give this any more than two stars.
If you didn’t know by now, The Fault in Our Stars tells the story of Hazel, a girl whose thyroid cancer has ceased to grow thanks to a magical miracle drug. But because her cancer life is just so boring, a boy has to make it better.
Because that is the only way anything gets better in life.
Cancer People, Dear Readers
This was by far the largest problem I had. Larger than Hazel saying, “I wanna tap that” about Augustus on page 8. This prose was not the voice of a real teenager. It tried, but this did not sound like a teenager suffering from cancer. This was the voice of a teenager who liked to say, “You know what sucks? Cancer. You know what else sucks? Dying.” Why? So the reader could laugh.
And wouldn’t you know it every line is like that. There is no rest for any real emotion or interest. It’s all laced with some one-liner or trying to be hilariously philosophical when it’s just trying way too hard to keep a reader interested. And this alone, made me find great distaste in the character of Hazel.
She is not believable because I never learned anything about her. She just hates Support Group and adores Augustus for reasons that were never clarified throughout the book. Oh you like Gus’s smile, his laugh? The idea that he thinks of basketball really as a nod to a baby toy? The idea that he spends money just so he can conduct a metaphor that doesn’t do anything but make him look like a pretentious asshole?
Oh who am I kidding. This entire book was shallow and pretentious. Everyone thought they were so hilarious because did you know that eggs are restricted to a breakfast food? Those poor scrambled eggs! No, I don’t give a flying fuck about scrambled eggs and their apparent oppression. But think about it! We only have eggs for breakfast! Because you choose to point it out as such.
Or get this, how about the hurdles event in track? You know what Augustus says about hurdles? He says this after that beautiful basketball connection to a child shoving cylinders into circle holes:
“And I wondered if the hurdlers ever thought, you know, ‘This would go faster if they just got rid of the hurdles.’”
THIS IS ONE OF THE STUPIDEST THINGS I HAVE EVER READ IN A BOOK.
Augustus Waters, actual athlete, says something like this about a sport. Sports are a very healthy way to escape stress. If anything, Augustus and his philosophical ass should be wondering what the hurdles represent to the hurdlers. HURDLES ARE A SPECIAL EVENT. The hurdlers are probably doing a running event too! They CHOSE to run the hurdles for the challenge.
But this falls on the level of those scrambled eggs. Hey! If we talk about this and make it sound funny, it’ll be deep! It’ll really scratch the heads of the readers! This just shows how silly and thoughtful Augustus is! Don’t you guys just want to get with him and his awesome cigarette metaphor that HE SPENDS MONEY ON FOR NO FUCKING REASON?
Guh, you fucking stupid ignorant son of a bitch. This was the line, by the way, that got me in that level of dislike for Augustus that I got on with the asshole dudes that exist in my life. And Hazel just sort of accepts this. Like, what the hell is everyone thinking in this book? What universe are they in? Because this is not a real universe.
I think now I’m tracking into character territory so here:
Hazel was the girl who referred to testicular cancer as “cancer to the balls” and then she sees Augustus Waters on page 8 of this book and goes,
“Look, let me just say it: He was hot. A nonhot boy stares at you relentlessly and it is, at best, awkward and, at worst, a form of assault. But a hot boy…well”
Remember, if you’re not drop dead gorgeous, men, your nice glances are only awkward. That’s it. You can never go farther, and your delicious insight on life will never win the heart of a girl. Because you are just not sexy enough or Augustinian for it. Hazel likes to do this. She likes to put down other guys for her Gus, even though they still BARELY knew each other.
I met Kaitlyn and her (cute but frankly not Augustinian) boyfriend for coffee one afternoon.
LOOK AT THAT. What. What is that? This was a nice guy and Hazel’s like, “Well he’s not a fucking Greek God so no thank you.” But what about Augustus, Hazel? You went to his house to watch a movie that you decided was just a silly boy movie that you knew you wouldn’t like because you were a girl. MOVIES DON’T WORK LIKE THAT. What are you even doing!
You know what I just realized? Hazel is a lot like Mary in The Forest of Hands and Teeth. She hates one thing and loves only one material thing. Hazel hates the cancer support group, and loves An Imperial Affliction. Mary hates the Unconsecrated, but loves the ocean. That’s all they have to their name. Which is AMAZING to me that Augustus finds something to love about Hazel. All it is is her John Green wit.
If you asked Gus what else was there to Hazel besides this one book thing and her wit, I bet you a hundred dollars that he would respond as Derek in Swan Princess did with “What else is there?”
Because that’s all their love is. They’re not bonding over the fact they have cancer. They bonded over An Imperial Affliction then experienced an intensified Hey Arnold! Episode about visiting the author who, to no one’s surprise I hope, was a complete jackass then makes a 180 because…because. Who needs reasons.
HOWEVER, the half star is devoted to Mr. Peter Van Houten, who was the only actual character in this book. Everyone else was flat and pretentious assholes. When Van Houten did it, there was history behind it and a REASON. He actually had an arc! He did things! Despite my lack of care for Augustus and Hazel, the way Peter treated them was abhorring and the only way for me to fix that was to stab the man in the eye. But he changed, and revealed WHY he acted the way he did and there was sense made and he was a good character.
Structure was fine.
Still flowed okay despite my need to be done with this.
I honestly thought everything was funny. I laugh at a loooooot of stuff. This, whatever this is, is not really that funny. It’s shallow, and not really geared to people who want to know the world of cancer and stepping over the obstacle. It’s a cancer-filled girl loving [spoilers removed] a cancer-filled boy. Oh and they meet their favorite author who’s actually an asshole. Cancer is the backseat, and I almost find it insulting.
I don’t understand why people love this. Tell me all you want that Augustus is a beautiful boy and Hazel just wanted something different in her life, but don’t you DARE tell me that this is deep. This is not a deep book, there’s nothing that touches my heart except shallow wit and a poor man suffering from the cancerous death of his 8 year-old ray of sunshine.
I could go on, but I think this is enough. If it isn’t, well that’s your opinion. This is mine. You are just gonna have to deal.
This book should have been about what happened to Peter Van Houten.
It’d be perfectly parallel to that Hey Arnold! episode I mentioned, but it’d be better than what I read.
OR, this book should have been about Hazel WITH THE TERMINAL CANCER. Because her inner conflict with cancer would better clash with her ability to be with Augustus and it would've fleshed her out a hell of a lot more than giving her a magical miracle drug.
It seems silly that I have to say this, but I've seen many a negative review of this book met with backlash from John's nerdfighter fans, so I want to make one thing clear: I like John Green. You'll find plenty who worship him as a god amongst men and many who are highly critical of him, I fall into neither of these categories but I do like him and I enjoy watching his videos. I find him funny and I agree with a lot of what he stands for; I also appreciate the amount of charity work he does and the way he helps the "nerds" feel better about themselves and make it out of high school a little less scarred than they might have been. I like John Green.
But I do not particularly like this book.
There are plenty of people raving about this book on goodreads, on Kirkus, in various magazines and newspapers... so I realise I am in a tiny minority. I will also admit that I might not have felt the same if I hadn't already subjected myself to numerous "cancer books" but, as it is, I do not feel anything that unique or interesting has been brought to the table here. For the first half (approx), despite my lack of enthusiasm, I expected to give it three stars because I didn't consider it to be a bad book and it was well-written enough; however, as the book wore on, I began to realise that I was growing more and more bored and found myself struggling to read on. This was something I hadn't anticipated. I'd prepared myself for many different possibilities: heartbreak, a changed perspective on life and death, disdain, annoyance... but not bored indifference. Hence the lower rating.
One of the first problems I encountered was that the kids were wise beyond their years. And I don't mean intelligent, I mean wise. They came out with things that really only suit people who've been alive a few centuries - like Dumbledore or Gandalf - or at the very least people who are sat comfortably in middle age. I like that Green doesn't patronise his readers by oversimplifying things or dumbing down characters in a condescending effort to appeal to teenagers, but these characters behave in a way that is unnatural to the point where sometimes it is verging on ridiculous. It's not completely unbelievable that some kids exist who are actually like this, but they definitely don't all speak and behave in this way.
The characters are all, in one way or another, John Green. They all have his quirkiness, his sense of humour; I was picturing several John Greens sat around having a conversation while I was reading The Fault in Our Stars. In fact, reading this book was a little bit like watching one of Green's vlogs, which might have worked well if JG hadn't dampened the humour with philosophical musings. As it was, I had a book that was trying so very hard to be both funny and sad at the same time and ended up failing to deliver either one as successfully as I would have liked. The dialogue felt false and scripted because of the teens' tendency to showcase their depth and intelligence. Natural conversation between anyone of any age doesn't work like this and I couldn't shake the feeling that there should be a laughter track playing in the background.
The Fault in Our Stars, in my opinion, would have been far better if Green had stuck to humour like Andrews did in Me and Earl and the Dying Girl. I believe that the exaggerated characters and their unrealistic conversations would have been fine in a straight-up humour book because that's not supposed to portray something real and deep and moving. But Green loses it by trying to be philosophical and, in the end, I think he has produced a book that is as melodramatic and message-driven as any other on this issue. And his attempt to balance humour and sadness left me somewhat devoid of emotion throughout and provided fewer laughs than I'd hoped.
Ultimately, I feel that JG sacrificed humour in order to be deep and philosophical - perhaps this book tried to be too many things, perhaps JG tried to be too clever. But Me and Earl and the Dying Girl was a much better book, in my opinion, because it did the whole serious illness + humour thing but didn't over-complicate things by being philosophical. Like I said near the beginning, perhaps I am just tired of these books and The Fault in Our Stars needs to be appreciated by someone who has not already exhausted themselves on similar efforts.
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I must be clear from the beginning. This is perhaps the most personal review I have written. My choice of stars was difficult for this. I am a self confessed John Green fan, I believe he is amongst the best of, not only YA, but fiction writers out there in general.
This is a beautifully written book. There is very little to complain about in terms of style, plot, character, etc. However I couldn't, in all good conscience, give this any higher because it sits so badly with me. I have let this novel marinate for a couple of days now before writing this, and I just keep coming back to the same issues. Namely:
Was this John Green's story to tell?
It is the human condition to attempt to find hope in hopeless situations. But let me attempt to explain how watching a 17 year old fade away truly feels. Because when the wit and words are stripped away I am not sure John did that.
It is endless. It is an unavoidable and uncontrollable and an all encompassing darkness where no hope or life or explanations exist.
There are absolutely no life lessons to be gained from watching a 17 year old cease to exist. There is no comfort. The lessons that some may claim you can achieve through the darkest night of the soul reveal most of humanity for the selfish, narcissistic beings we are.
I have come to believe there is a special kind of cruelty behind the perfectly cross stitched 'encouragement'. Those things are for the ones left over trying to make sense of the senseless.
Whilst I believe this novel acknowledges that. It tries not to, as the main protagonists claimed theirselves, set the victims of disease up as typical heroic, worldly wise characters, it still reads like a novel attempting to bring equilibrium out of disaster. The victims ultimately still are wise beyond their years. This, it seems, is an assumed side effect of a teenager coming to terms with their mortality. They use metaphors and pretentious poetry and a sharp wit and are wholly unbelievable as real life teenagers. They are constructs of an ideal. They are the literary version of Dawson's Creek, using SAT vocabulary and existential navel gazing, whilst simultaneously slamming the typical genre for using its characters to do the same.
Having lived this first hand; once with a brother who ceases to exist at 17 and a second time with a brother who is currently 2 years NEC. I am all too familiar with the need for light hearted humour at what may feel like the most inappropriate of times. But what differs from that and attempting to write a disease ridden novel that attempts to make you laugh, is apparently personal experience.
I have the right to sit around a Christmas table laughing somewhat hysterically at nothing. My living brother has the right to crack UNO-ball jokes whenever the opportunity arises. But none of the readers of this novel who have not experienced the kind of loss depicted here have a right to laugh at any of it. You can not claim it as your own unless it is yours, and in my mind that is what humour does. It is not appropriate for me to laugh along with eye jokes and blind jokes, because they are not my jokes. I am merely a voyeur in another persons tragedy, I lay no claim to having the understanding of the experience necessary to allow for laughter.
Again, let me make clear. I can not approach this book outside of my personal experience. Of course in reality I do not believe you have to have experienced everything to laugh at a joke. But in terms of purposefully trying to create humour in a novel that is fundamentally tragic, for an audience that is mostly YA, I struggle with. I struggle with it because the empty platitudes that are trying so hard to be subverted in this novel, are still being created. It is still suggesting there can be lightness and humour within the terminally dark - and it is suggesting it to people who have never experienced the terminally dark.
This read like a novel where the author has truly witnessed the emptiness of teenage terminal illness, and thankfully appears to have become more considerate and thoughtful for it. As opposed to erring on the side of platitudes.
But it still read as a novel attempting to explain where the hope in hopeless situations are.
Perhaps because it is too raw a subject for me, or perhaps because the novel really is sentimental and gratuitous (granted in a different way from the norm of this genre) but this is not a book I would recommend.
For sufferers, for family members of sufferers, or for well meaning people seeking to understand the hopelessness of some situations. I would recommend it for none.
As seen on The Readventurer
The Fault in Our Stars currently has a rating of 4.74 on Goodreads, almost everyone I know has given it 5 stars, therefore I'm certain no one would want to read my sour musings, except me and maybe a couple of other like-minded and unimpressed.
What I'd love to know is this - what makes a writer undertake the topic of cancer? So much has already been written about it, so many Lifetime movies filmed, so many tears shed. It literally has been done to death. What new did John Green have to bring to the cancer table?
The way I see it, nothing. Having your terminally sick characters be ironic about their illnesses and swap cancer jokes isn't groundbreaking.
The Fault in Our Stars isn't a bad book, but it's a standard cancer book, and, sadly, a standard John Green book, with standard John Green humor and standard John Green characters speaking in the very same John Green voice.
You have a witty and intelligent protagonist (this time 2, Hazel and Augustus - a female and male versions of Miles/Quentin/Colin), a funny, slightly pathetic sidekick (Isaac - another version of Hassan/Chip/Marcus), a mysterious, unhinged girl, Gus's dead ex (Alaska/Margo clone), and, of course, the signature ROAD TRIP. I can't help but recognize these people and this plot, I've read all of Green's novels.
I understand why so many readers would have such an emotional response to the book. Nothing will get the ladies crying quicker than a kid dying of cancer. Add in some long farewells, painkillers, eulogies and funerals - you can collect buckets of tears. But, IMO, here Green aims for the most obvious, the most easily accessible emotions, for the most typical "life lessons." And for all Green's attempts to be subversive and to make fun of "cancer cliches" - inspirational quotes, heroic cancer survivors, etc. he ended up writing about exactly the same things.
Frankly, I think The Fault in Our Stars is Green's weakest work to date, weaker even than half-baked Zombicorns. Because this, unlike his earlier works, feels commercial and intentionally tearjerky and insincere. It will probably sell the most copies.
I feel so sorry for these privileged, middle-class, white teenagers.