Sunday, March 9, 2014

Review: The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

Review: The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
Release date: January 10th, 2012
Publisher: Dutton (Penguin)
Series: No
Source: Purchased
Rating: Sleep? Bad. Reading funny, horrifically heartbreaking book until I fall asleep with the light on and the book open? Good. Crying until you asphyxiate? Yeah.


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.

I tried my darnedest to read this book in a vaccum, but when you read a book as pervasive in our pop culture are The Fault in Our Stars is, you might as well search for meaning in a Pauly Shore movie. In other words, it's not happening. However, I kept off Tumblr while reading, and I kept off Goodreads, making no status updates. I was like a reading ninja. Super stealth and then SURPRISE! I have lost my John Green virginity! And right under all of your noses.

I think Tumblr might have ruined my ability to adore this book as much as I could have. Make no mistake: I loved it. This is a fantastic book. All I meant to do was peek at the first page, but I ended up falling right into Hazel's easy, funny, whipsmart narration. The problem with The Fault in Our Stars for me is no fault of its own.

One thing I've realized about John Green's writing (after reading one novel and clearly becoming an expert on the matter) is that I prefer his bantery, funny, clever bits to his profound bits. Oh, I love the profound emotions. Hazel and her situations and her wry, dark humor? All fantastically funny and brutal. This book is precisely the way I like to get my heart broken. I like books and characters who take the attitude that life is so damn screwed up you might as well mock it. This is not a sickly sweet cancer book, and for that I was enormously grateful. But whenever I came across one of those Important Quotes that float around Tumblr on textposts and gifsets with 50,000 notes, I kind of just went, "Okay, cool, there's that line about metaphors/wish-granting factories/the sex-accruing qualities of time/slowly, and then all at once." It diminished my ability to see the line for what it was.

Which, yeah, not John Green's fault. It's not really a knock on the book that I spend so much time on Tumblr that I could quote TFiOS before I'd ever read it, but it did tend to jolt me out of the narrative. And it did make me realize that those Quotey, vaguely pretentious bits are my least favorite bits. 
They're deep, and they're beautiful, but I find John Green so much deeper and more beautiful (his writing, I mean. Obviously. Um, no offense, you're very handsome, and all, Mr. Green) in the surrounding moments. When Isaac and Hazel are compiling a list of Qualities of a Good Nurse. Nearly every cute, flirty conversation between Hazel and Gus. The quiet moments in which Hazel comes to any kind of realization involving her parents (sobby sob sobberosity).

When surprised and excited and innocent Gus emerged from Grand Gesture Metaphorically Inclined Augustus, I literally could not resist.

Me too, Hazel. This is exactly what I'm saying. Adorable, funny Augustus freaking out over riding in a plane for the first time is so freaking charming that I couldn't help but squeal. And yes, I get and like the Metaphors and Profound Realizations, but really. Augustus freaking out over the view from the window. My HEART.

This book. This book fucking hurts, man. I know it sounds like I didn't love it because all of the blah blah above, but I really did. I didn't even mean to read this book today, but then Hazel just kind of grabbed hold of me, and god damn you, book. I knew how you ended because hello, Tumblr, thanks a lot, but really. Didja have to do me like that? Like, I know you are a book all about life and death and shitty luck and stars crossing, so I expect you, book, to dial the pain machine all the way to fifty. But you know that the way to get me to love a character is for that character to make me laugh. So of course you make all your characters funny, and then of course you inflict misery on every single one of them, and then of course I am miserable. And I knew it. I fucking knew it with that twist, I could see it coming, and you did it anyway, and why dear God why stop saying okay you lying liars because NO

Is it weird to say that I actually expected this book to be sadder than it is? (THE FIRST HALF, mind you. The second half I can't even talk about.) We know from the get-go that Hazel, our positively delightful and darkly humorous narrator, is a "grenade", as she puts it, guaranteed to explode (aka die. Lots of gallows humor here). But really, for most of the ride, things are a lovely mix of serious and funny. It's like those clouds on the cover: the darkness is always balanced by the light. Until the end when all you want to do is rip out your heart and fling it at something. And it's so godforsaken sad that it makes you remember the book as a sad book, when really, it's a book bursting with humor and brightness.

You have a choice in this world, I believe, about how to tell sad stories, and we made the funny choice.

Until, you know, the great big heaving sucking sobs happen, and you're just that crazy chick buried in a nest of tissues at 3 in the morning, sobbing so heavily into your Kindle that you legitimately worry about electrocution.

To me, the star of this book is Hazel herself. Augustus Waters, one-legged dreamboat, is, yes, a dreamboat, and I love him and his cleverness and his Gusness to bits, and of course they're totally perfect for each other, and all of that, but Hazel? Hazel and I would be best friends. We'd binge watch ANTM and Top Chef together and not talk about the important things and force each other to read the pretentious books we love. Her voice is brutal, funny, and wry. She also sounds very much like a girl, which is always a worry for me when authors are male, but Hazel was completely authentic.

And what I loved most of all is that this book isn't about cancer. It's about Hazel, and Augustus, and Hazel's truly fantastic parents, and Isaac, and the people around them, and the lives they carve out for themselves, reacting to their shitty, fully flawed stars. (It's also about sticking something very sharp and pointy right into my feels and twisting it, but that's not important right now).

So. For my very first John Green novel, I'd say it didn't go too badly, right? Pay no attention to the Himalaya of tissues beside my bed, please.


  1. IT HURTS RIGHT! I haven't gotten over it until now! This book is just so... emotional asdfghjkl I can't even put my feelings into words! John Green why you write something this sad ...... !!!!

    Great review, btw! I was really entertained with your words :)

    -Kimi at Geeky Chiquitas

  2. "I have lost my John Green virginity! And right under all of your noses." <-- do you HAVE to be so goddamn hilarious? xD
    I was lucky when it came to this book; I read it before I was REALLY in Tumblr, so I had no spoilers. And I didn't see the twist coming (which is not so lucky cause I had nothing to prepare and protect my heart with). I think I didn't WANT to see the twist, cause once it happened all the hints came to light...
    Anyway, the book HURT. But you're right, the first half is just so funny and hilarious and so farther away from what you'd expect a cancer book to be.

    Glad you gave the book a chance, and great review! :D

  3. I've read this damn book 5 times and each time I keep falling in love with it even more! So glad you gave the book a chance!

    "And what I loved most of all is that this book isn't about cancer. It's about Hazel, and Augustus, and Hazel's truly fantastic parents, and Isaac, and the people around them, and the lives they carve out for themselves, reacting to their shitty, fully flawed stars."


  4. Fantastic review! I'm glad your first experience with John Green is a mostly positive one. This was the first book I read of his as well, and man it just tore me to pieces. If I just think about it for even a couple of minutes I start to get teary-eyed. The movie will surely eviscerate me.

  5. The twist pretty much blindsided me, and then I was a mess. I think you're totally right- looking back, the ending kind of sucked me in so much emotionally that I forgot how much I loved Hazel and the humour. Fantastic review.

    -P.E. @ The Sirenic Codex

  6. lol, about time Gillian :) Love your review and agree with most of it. <3

  7. Great review! I'm glad you lost your John Green virginity, because I quite enjoy him, and his books + your reviews = happiness. I read this book LONG before it was on tumblr at all and I was just alone in my misery (sorry - my hipster is showing), but don't you just love it? Also, Isaac and Hazel's friendship is my fav.

  8. LOOK AT YOU, NINJA READING YOUR FIRST JOHN GREEN BOOK WITHOUT EVEN TELLING ME. AND YOU EVEN STARTED WITH THE BEST ONE. No but seriously this might be my favorite TFiOS review ever. It didn't occur to me what an impact Tumblr has probably had on people who haven't read it yet and now I feel a little bit sad for those people. I totally agree with preferring the bantery bits to the profound though. Also thanks for making me feel the hurt all over again. I need to reread this soon. FEELS.

  9. Oh great, now I'm even more frightened. I do know the twist (THANKS A LOT TWITTER AND TUMBLR), and I'm triple-coating my heart in bubble wrap.

  10. I wasn't a fan of the book to be honest (I expected it to be sadder too) and was disappointed, the hype led to nothing. I reviewed it on my blog; I found it fairly disappointing as I didn't think that the plot and the characters were up to much. I haven't read any more of Green's work, people say that 'Looking for Alaska' is better - which is his best to read? I didn't like tFioS but want to know what the fuss is all about.


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