Review: The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

August 28, 2013

Title: The Fault in Our Stars
Author: John Green
Publication date: January 10. 2012
Publisher: Dutton Books
Genre: YA
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.

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.
This book has two terminally ill people as its main characters. So yes, this book will make you cry. But dont let that dissuade you (if something like that would. Personally, if someone tells me a book will make me cry, I'll read it just to prove them wrong. Or not.) This book may feature cancer patients, but it is not a cancer book.

The story revolves around Hazel Lancaster and Augustus Waters (it's starting to feel like every guy names Augustus is awesome!), who meet each other at the Cancer Kids Support Group meeting, through their mutual friend Isaac. A significant part of the book centers around Hazel's favourite book, An Imperial Affliction by Peter Van Houten (which, before you Google it, is not a real book. But I wish it was.)

John Green's characters are always unique; a set apart from the normalcy of their counterparts in the young adult fictional realm. They positively revel in their geekiness and engage in what I like to call intelligent humour.

Hazel and Augustus are no different. Both frank to a fault, they engage in such witty banter, filled with humour, and silliness, and intellectual stuff, that sometimes it's a struggle to believe that it's teenagers who are talking this way. Sample this: (This is what Augustus thinks of Hazel, and I dont think you can get to know them both, and they're way of talking any better than in these lines)

"Do you realise how rare it is to come across a hot girl who creates an adjectival version of the word pedophile? You are so busy being you that you have no idea how utterly unprecedented you are."

And that brings me to Green's writings. I've noticed something in young adult books: They're often in very simple language, with only a handful of words for which you'll find yourself stretching a hand for the dictionary. Which is not at all a bad thing. But for those who say that 'superior' writing can be found only in the classics, it only proves them right.

John Green does not follow this unwritten rule. An that's one thing I love about this writing. He doesn't 'dumb it down' just because we're young. Instead, I feel like he expects us to get better. In fact, when faced with criticism for the books 'unsuitability', he said, ″The thing that bothered me about [the Daily Mail piece] was that it was a bit condescending to teenagers. I'm tired of adults telling teenagers that they aren't smart, that they can't read critically, that they aren't thoughtful, and I feel like that article made those arguments.″ This just about sealed it for me. I could hug him!

He uses words like hamartia, bacchanalia, promiscuity, and delves into concepts of true love, philosophy, mythology, literature, but not in a preachy manner, and not in a boring way, and no, it does not feel like you're sitting in a History/ Architecture class (*cough* Dan Brown *cough*). He even challenges Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs (the psych student in me was grinning in glee :D), and makes a convincing argument against it. It's obvious that every sentence and dialogue has been well thought out (or maybe that's just the way he thinks. Leads you to wonder what a fascinating place his mind must be).

Take the title itself, for instance. The Fault in Our Stars. It comes as a denial of one of Shakespeare's notions. The author says,

Never was Shakepeare more wrong when he had Cassius note, "The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars / But in ourselves"

The idea here is that fate doesn't doom man. It's man's own failings that send him to his downfall.

Green disagrees. It's not their fault that they have cancer. It's not from any personal failing that they are confined to doing only so much. But the beauty, or rather, the irony of it, is that they can still live, and make decisions, despite the fault in their stars. Or, in Hazel's words:

...that I was living of cancer not dying of it, that I mustn't let it kill me before it kills me...

The epigraph of a book often contains a quote trying to convey the theme/intrinsic concept of the book. Green couldn't have gotten it any better, and technically, he's quoting himself here:

As the tide washed in, the Dutch Tulip Man faced the ocean:
Conjoiner rejoinder poisoner concealer revelator. Look at it, rising up and rising down, taking everything with it."
"What's that?" Anna asked.
"Water," the Dutchman said, "Well, and time."
-Peter Van Houten, An Imperial Affliction

The characters have a number of discussions about the concept of time, and realise the now famous quote that 'some infinities are greater than other infinities'. Also, within the short time that Hazel and Augustus spend together, they still manage to pack in so much of meaning and quality than in many that last for much longer.

You gave me a forever within the numbered days, and I'm grateful.

The Fault in Our Stars has been classified as a Young Adult fiction book, but I think NPR's Rachel Syme was spot on when she said: "[Green's] voice is so compulsively readable that it defies categorization".

Bottomline: This book will make you laugh out loud, chuckle quietly, become sentimental, sob like your heart is breaking, ponder complex concepts like the existence of the universe and mundane stuff like 'What makes 'breakfast foods' breakfast food?' and result in an overall enlightening entertainment. Specially recommended for those who are nerds/geeks and proud of it.

P.S.: I usually try to structure my reviews properly, but this time, I kind of let go, because well, this book is so awesome, I just cant gather my thoughts properly for a proper proper review, and moreover, I'm probably the last person to write a review of this book. I'm pretty sure I was one of the last to read it, anyways lol. Which is why you'll find this section below really helpful! :)


Xpresso Reads: John Green is immensely talented and with this book he pulls out all the stops on your emotions, and that by reading it you’re sure to read something truly worthy of your time.

Aestas Book Blog: I loved watching Hazel and Augustus fall in love. It was slow, sweet, and beautiful… and sometimes you just forgot what they were going though.

Book Nerd Reviews: Augustus Waters has ruined me for men! No man will ever be able to live up to Gus. Ever. (SO TRUE!)

Holding Quote:
- As he read, I fell in love the way you fall asleep: slowly, and then all at once.

- Sometimes, you read a book and it fills you with this weird evangelical zeal, and you become convinced that the shattered world will never be put back together unless and until all living humans read the book.

- There are infinite numbers between 0 and 1. There's .1 and .12 and .112 and an infinite collection of others. Of course, there is a bigger infinite set of numbers between 0 and 2, or between 0 and a million. Some infinities are bigger than other infinities. A writer we used to like taught us that. There are days, many of them, when I resent the size of my unbounded set. I want more numbers than I'm likely to get, and God, I want more numbers for Augustus Waters than he got. But, Gus, my love, I cannot tell you how thankful I am for our little infinity. I wouldn't trade it for the world. You gave me a forever within the numbered days, and I'm grateful.

- There will come a time when all of us are dead. All of us. There will come a time when there are no human beings remaining to remember that anyone ever existed or that our species ever did anything. There will be no one left to remember Aristotle or Cleopatra, let alone you. Everything that we did and built and wrote and thought and discovered will be forgotten and all of this will have been for naught. Maybe that time is coming soon and maybe it is millions of years away, but even if we survive the collapse of our sun, we will not survive forever. There was time before organisms experienced consciousness, and there will be time after. And if the inevitability of human oblivion worries you, I encourage you to ignore it. God knows that’s what everyone else does.

1 comment :

  1. I finished this book on Monday right after the Read-a-thon. I liked it mostly because it was written so beautifully. I have a review coming up, I already wrote it, I just need a spot for it haha. I also know I won't do it justice, but you did a good job :)


Leave a comment and say hi! Anything else is great too! :D

This blog is an award free blog. I'm truly honoured that you would think to nominate me, but unfortunately, things are really hectic for me what with juggling college, books, and blogging, and I find myself unable to spread the awards to other deserving bloggers.