*Sighs* I wanted to like this book. I REALLY wanted to like it…
I read my first John Green book a few months ago for our book club and went into it with an open mind, YA fiction typically being a hit or miss with me. I found “Looking for Alaska” to be incredibly predictable and whiny, in that whiny tone of voice that only the troubled teen can emulate with perfection. I found it difficult to connect with any of the characters, having not experienced any of the particular trials they were going through, and thought that maybe I would connect better with different characters, with a different plot and storyline.
So, I gave “The Fault in Our Stars” (FIOS) a chance. I had only heard rave reviews about this book. How it was both emotionally uplifting and trying, and made readers equally smile and cry. Having experienced a close family member battle through and succumb to cancer, I thought that this may be a book with characters I could relate to.
Let me start with the things I enjoyed about this book before I get to the list of cons…
I felt that the author depicted the plight of an individual battling with cancer very well. A number of the fears and emotions that both Hazel and Gus experienced aligned with those fears that my aunt fought with; fears that are universal regardless of age. He clearly did his research into the subject which, as both a reader and a writer, I truly appreciate and give a hearty applause to.
I also truly enjoyed the snippets of beautiful language throughout the book. Reflections on life, anxiety surrounding death, the all-encompassing fear of if there is an afterlife and what it entails, beautiful depictions of young love and true, unadulterated passion for another human being, and Hazel’s beautiful parting soliloquy to her beloved Gus. However, I wish there were more of these lovely prosaic morsels throughout the book rather than a handful of sentences here and there.
Much like “Looking for Alaska,” FIOS was painfully predictable. Throughout the entire book, I accurately and easily guessed the series of events. As soon as the topic of the “Make a Wish Genie” was introduced, I suspected that somehow, Hazel would make it to visit the author of her beloved favorite book. From the very beginning I had this inkling that in a “surprising” turn of events, Gus would relapse and it would be he, and not Hazel, who would pass away from this tragic disease.
Check and check. Predictability is a huge turn off for me as a reader and I truly wish there had been more suspense and guessing throughout this novel.
Also like “Looking for Alaska,” FIOS was whiny in the teenage angst whine, not the “seeking sympathy for my ailment” whine. I truly feel for anyone who has to personally go through or witness a loved one suffering through cancer; they have every right to complain about how unfair life is. The teenage angst however, is a drone that is like nails on a chalkboard to me.
I suspect that the ending of Hazel’s prized book “An Imperial Affliction” was supposed to correspond with the ending of FIOS. The character in this book has a form of cancer, and the book ends abruptly; leaving the reader to wonder what happens to her mother and her boyfriend, to her friends, and to her hamster; leaving the reader to assume that the character either died or became too ill to continue “writing” the book. FIOS ends similarly shortly after Gus passes away. Hazel delivers her beautiful parting words and the book just ends. The reader is likewise left to wonder if after Gus’ death, Hazel passes away or is too ill to give us any indication of what comes next. What happens to Hazel’s family, to her friends, and to other characters we meet along the way?
A complete and total contradiction! Mr. Green instills in us again and again Hazel’s frustration that she is left knowing NOTHING about how this book that has meant so much to her ends, and yet leaves us equally frustrated! Does Hazel die? What happens to her parents? How do her friends and Gus’ family fare? So unsatisfying!
Pros: Respect and considerable research for the topic, accurate depiction of the plight that is cancer, and beautiful moments of prose. Cons: Painful predictability, teenage whininess, and a frustrating contradiction of storylines.
Perhaps if I had read this book as a teenager, I would feel differently and the “cons” I listed would not be as much of a deal breaker for me. As it is, these negative points are some of my biggest peeves as a reader and simply overshadowed any hope of total enjoyment of this book.
Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars