inSide Books: The Fault in Our Stars
This review is the first in a monthly series. I’m a voracious reader, and I’ll review some of my favorite books in the hope that you’ll find something of interest among my picks. All the quotations used are from the book reviewed, unless otherwise stated.
“Sometimes, you read a book and it fills you with this weird evangelical zeal, and you become convinced that the shattered world will never be put back together unless and until all living humans read the book.”
This is pretty much the way I feel about The Fault in Our Stars (I’ll call it TFIOS henceforth, since I can’t bring myself to bastardize it by shortening it) by John Green, as it’s one of the most beautiful books I’ve read in a long time. Maybe it is such a good book because it’s full of paradoxes. It is funny, joyful, sad, serious, sarcastic, lovely, ugly, dark, bright, irreverent, shallow, and deep. Hazel Grace is the narrator of TFIOS, and in her words “…diagnosed with Stage IV thyroid cancer when I was thirteen… The diagnosis came three months after I got my first period. Like: Congratulations! You’re a woman. Now die.”
Hazel Grace–and by extension TFIOS–shows us the world of what she calls disparagingly ‘cancer kids,’ in a way that we’ve never quite glimpsed it before. Other novels I’ve read about death and cancer and dying young have all been melodramatic, weepy, soggy pieces of used tissue that instantly got thrown into the wastebasket of forgotten memory in my brain. TFIOS is a first for me in this genre, especially when Hazel says things like, “Whenever you read a cancer booklet or website or whatever, they always list depression among the side effects of cancer. But, in fact, depression is not a side effect of cancer. Depression is a side effect of dying.”
Frank Bruni, in his blog on the NYTimes.com website, writes glowingly of TFIOS’ “finely wrought language, beautifully drawn characters and a distinctive voice, meaning that of Hazel, 16, who narrates the story, reporting that she falls in love with Augustus, 17, the way you fall asleep: slowly, and then all at once.” This describes pretty much perfectly how I feel about TFIOS’ main characters, Hazel and Augustus- in that I fell in love with them slowly, and then all at once.
One of the best things about the two main characters and what made me identify deeply with them as a reader, is that they’re flawed, yet not ashamed of their flaws. It also doesn’t hurt that they both are extremely literate. The love of language and literature flows gracefully through the pages of TFIOS like a river wending its way through a forest of entwined roots, to the point where you cannot tell the water from the trees. At one point, Hazel says thoughtfully that there are some “…books so special and rare and yours that advertising your affection feels like a betrayal.”
Writing this review felt a little like a betrayal.