Monday, June 3, 2013

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

The Fault in our Stars tells the story of Hazel, who aged 13 is diagnosed with terminal cancer, she has a 'miracle' prescription of a drug which although it won't cure her will allow her to keep living a bit longer.  She leads a sheltered life, choosing to stay at home reading, rather than going out and making friends.  She considers herself a 'grenade'.  It would be more considerate for her to stay home and only upset her parents when she eventually dies than to upset more people.  That is - until she meets Augustus 'Gus', who shows her that she is worth the pain felt when you lose her because of all the good gained when you know her.  It is a story about cancer: its losses, hardships, and the love it allows Hazel and Augustus to gain.

I have seen so many snippets of it posted everywhere on the internet and it has been sitting on my 'to-read' list for some time now.   I found myself moved by the story: the characters and their struggle with a devastating disease was sensitively portrayed.  This was a book about cancer ignoring the cliches.  Unlike A Walk to Remember these patients have symptoms which are immediately noticeable: Hazel carries an oxygen tank with her, Augustus has a slight limp as he lost his battle with cancer.  There is no promise of a happy 'we're all cured!' ending.  They know that their time is limited: the question is how will they spend their time, and they choose to spend it falling in love.

My only problem with the book was that they seemed to be living inside of a cancer bubble: wherein their close friends have a tragic involvement with the illness and those who does not have cancer are heartless and self absorbed.  There's a sense that the endless people who write their names on a facebook wall to share their condolences do not deserve to be sad: they're all faceless names, who disappeared shortly after they left school.  Whilst I know this wasn't necessarily the focus of the story - I felt like this could have been a good opportunity to show how devastating it can be for the community when a child suffers from cancer.  That community was confined to the hospital, a cancer support group, and their immediate families in this novel, and it just felt a bit too insular.  Especially when the outsiders are negatively portrayed.

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Anonymous said...

I've heard a lot of good things about The Fault In Our Stars but I don't know if I can bring myself to read it knowing it's going to be a sad book as silly as that might sound. - Rosie :)

Louise from: //This Book Is Reserved// said...

Not silly at all! I think if you enjoy books which don't make you miserable there's no point in reading one which will, life is sad enough without forcing yourself to read sad books too! Louise xo

Mariam K said...

I reviewed this on my blog at BUT how you mentioned that the novel seems too insular towards the community I think that was the entire point. My interpretation of the book was that Green was emphasising cancer in a positive way and therefore needed to concentrate on the immediate affects of cancer. Throughout the book we don't feel pity for those with cancer, we don't even distinguish them differently they are just normal kids I think that was the whole point. Anyway what ever the interpretation I sobbed at the end, amazing book! Have you read Looking For Alaska by the same author? Its a slightly marmite book similar to Catcher in the Rye!

Louise from: //This Book Is Reserved// said...

Ooh interesting! I think you're right that he does create a world wherein the focus on cancer isn't one of pity but I do think he could have been a bit more positive about the friend's in their lives which don't have cancer / not bother to include them. But then that's just my opinion! No I haven't read anything else by him - I'm intending on reading 'Looking for Alaska' over the summer though!

Allie said...

I've never been a fan of John Green for the same reason I've never been a fan of Wallflower (despite their loyal fan following). I feel that both of them try to hard to write a 'quotable' book and try too hard to be overly philosophical. Not to say that is always bad--a little bit can be very very good in my opinion. But it's a pet peeve of mine when an author inserts pithy & quirky little sayings rather than focusing on a realistic character and plot.

Maybe because this book deals with such a heavy topic it could integrate the 'deep' concepts better. I've heard great things so it's worth a try! Thanks for sharing your thought. xx

Allie @

Amanda Cobb said...

I quite liked it, and bawled at the end. I'm not sure whether the insular nature of the story was separately intentional or just a result of Hazel's keep-to-herself personality, but it didn't bother me or strike me as unrealistic. She wasn't the most social, so why should there have been a focus on the larger community? Her 'community' was very limited - her parents, a few close friends, Augustus. And I think Green did an excellent job of showing how the situation affected them.

Gwendolen said...

Really interesting review (I also reviewed it on my blog here-! I've read some other reviews and what I have found really interesting is how it effects everyone in such different ways, and that every blog has looked on it in a completely different way, and (dis)liked such different things- which, despite my issues with it, shows what a fantastic book it really is :)

Ethan Yang said...

I remember when I read this book, I almost cried. Great book and review.

Rachel Farmer said...

I agree with you Mariam that I think it was deliberate to have the characters with cancer becoming an insular group. I guess it was meant to show how healthy people struggle to relate to people with serious illnesses (and vice versa), and I'm sure it's a pretty realistic depiction for a lot of people! In a lot of ways it feels like the characters are sort of blaming healthy people for not being able to relate to them, which is something they are probably entitled to feel, although it may not actually be the healthy people's fault! I think the whole paradox is summed up pretty well when Hazel is trying to comfort Gus about his illness, and ends up using all the classic cancer lines that she is so sick of hearing herself from healthy people. It shows that it's not actually the healthy people's fault - there just isn't a way to deal with cancer! Anyway, I enjoyed your review Louise!

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