Monday, June 23, 2014

Review: The Fault in Our Stars

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The Fault in Our StarsThe Fault in Our Stars by John Green
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Tear-jerkers are books I tend to avoid. I hear about upsetting things all day, and since I'm in a profession that demands the ability to do that without breaking down, I'm okay with it. However, give me a sad movie, a sappy commercial or a sad book, and I totally lose it. So, I've resisted picking up The Fault in Our Stars for quite a while because I didn't want to deal with puffy eyes in my leisure time knowing that's exactly what I'd be in for. Sometimes, books like Sweethearts sneak up on me, so I allow for that, but with this one, really, you know things aren't going to end well for at least one person.


Hazel Grace Lancaster is a bright articulate 16 year old. She is quite accomplished. She finished high school early and is already taking college courses. She has an excellent relationship with her parents, and she has cheated death---at least, temporarily. It also happens that Hazel has stage IV thyroid cancer that has spread to her lungs, and unsurprisingly, she's depressed. Hazel's mother sends her to Support Group for cancer survivors in the "literal heart of Christ" at a local church. In this group, she meets Isaac and his hot friend, Augustus Waters.

The three of them become fast friends, and Hazel and Augustus almost immediately become romantically involved even though Hazel feels conflicted about it because she describes herself as a "grenade" to anyone who loves her. She feels an internal countdown to the day her lungs give out, and she leaves everyone who cares about her devastated.

I could say a lot of things about what could be seen as apparent flaws in this contemporary realistic novel. The teens do seem wiser beyond their years, and resourceful beyond their years. They speak well, and do seem like an abundance of John Greens. Here's the thing though: if you take the work as a whole including the author's note at the beginning about stories mattering, and Hazel's attachment to the book An Imperial Affliction, it really is a brilliant story about the emotional power of stories and how important they are to our survival. So is it all realistic? Of course not. The drug that gave Hazel a second shot at life isn't even real. Does anyone really think that John Green just couldn't think of a real drug?

Originally, I was going to only give this book four stars, but as I write this, I realize that I have to give it five. Still, I'm not sure I'll ever forgive John Green for the hour I spent crying like a baby at the end.


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