|THE FAULT IN OUR STARS|
My feelings and thoughts on this book are a bit all over the place, so bear with me. I loved it and also at the same time I didn't quite like it. It's complicated. The story, for those who don't know, is about 16 year old Hazel who has terminal cancer and the boy she meets and falls in love with at a support group meeting. It's a love story and it's a cancer story, but it's much more a cancer story, despite trying so desperately to buck the conventions of the genre (if you can even call "cancer story" a genre, which this book does).
Sarcastic, angry and sad Hazel is one of the most complex characters I've come across recently. The fact that her cancer is terminal informs so much, if not everything, about the way she sees herself, the world, and others. Her relationship with her supportive parents is incredibly honest and heartbreaking -- definitely one of the best parts of the book. There were times when I loved Hazel and thought she was the most awesome character ever, and then there were moments when she just annoyed me. This is a character who, similar to Colin in An Abundance of Katherines, spends a large amount of time contemplating some very abstract concepts and though I rarely agreed with her, I loved the honesty of it. Hazel is standing between life and death; contemplating big, abstract things is part of that.
And then there's Augustus Waters, the boy she meets and falls in love with. Augustus, though not terminal, is even more existential than Hazel is. Everything is a metaphor to him. He uses very big words very often and is obsessed with the idea of mattering -- of his death, if not his life, mattering. He wants to be a hero. He wants to leave a mark on the world. Though the story is narrated by Hazel at certain points it really seemed that Augustus was the real protagonist and, to be really really honest about it, I just didn't get him. He was overly pretentious, which is a quality I associate closely with arrogance, and for the most part I didn't see what ever it was Hazel saw in him. He was over-the-top in many ways and though his relationship with Hazel is supposed to be romantic and real ("not puppy love", as one of the adult characters puts it), I didn't quite see that either. For teenagers, even ones dealing with such a huge thing as cancer, Hazel and Augustus are both unbelievably mature. The things they say and the ways they act are a little too perfect, too rehearsed, and this gives their relationship the same quality: a lack of realism.
This book is trying hard (and succeeding, I think) to be Literature. Big. Important. Unfortunately in pursuit of this it loses quite a bit of reality, believability, and story. At a certain point it became, much like Augustus himself, annoyingly pretentious. But keep in mind that I have a low tolerance for pretentiousness and capital-L Literature. I don't care for symbols or metaphor, especially when they seem to overtake the novel; I just like stories. And somewhere along the way this book lost the story a little bit.
And then on the other hand... this book. Oh goodness this book. It's about cancer but I feel like just about anyone could find a way to relate to Hazel and Augustus; I know I did. This book is more honest about sickness, especially as a young person, than maybe any other book I've read. There were times when Hazel's thoughts just stopped me in my tracks because her experiences rang so incredibly true. In spite of my issues with it, The Fault In Our Stars instantly became a very personal book to me. I love it, even if I don't entirely like it.
This is a John Green book in all of the best ways, but all of the worst ways, too.