Before we dive in, let me set the record straight.
I love John Green. “Looking for Alaska” is easily in my top five favorite books of all time. In 2008 I saw John at Millennium Park in Chicago and I yelled “CAN I MARRY YOU??” even though I knew he had a wife, but I had to ask, right? (He totally pretended not to hear me.) I love John Green so much that I call him John, because that’s what we Nerdfighters do.
But, I do not love “The Fault in Our Stars.”
This is my third read-through of “The Fault in Our Stars,” and arguably my favorite. I am at a place where I’ve learned to appreciate the story despite the flaws that left me pretty disappointed the first time around. My biggest issue is my inability to love Augustus. He annoys me. I feel like he is constantly putting on a show with his metaphors and nicknames, and while there are a few humanizing moments that are a breath of fresh air, but the majority of the time he’s this overblown cardboard cutout. When Hazel herself figures this out, I cheered out loud. “Augustus was amazing, but he’d overdone everything at the picnic… It all felt Romantic, but not romantic” (93). She gets it, she gets everything I’d been thinking about his character but loves him anyway, which I guess is sweet. Another Augustus moment that I can tolerate is when he calls Hazel from the gas station, his G-tube having fallen out. He is sick. Pitiful. A “humiliated creature.” It’s this moment, when he can’t put on a show, that he becomes human and likeable and whole.
So I do not love Augustus, but I can’t help but buy in to their whole love story. First love is so deep and so shallow and so fast, Hazel and Augustus being no exception. It is almost instantaneous, and John Green captures it well. Their feelings are honest and young and tangible, and I think it is easy to sit back and judge Hazel for falling for Augustus’ charm and driving to his house just hours after meeting (what if he was a murderer????), but that only does you a disservice. Think about the first time you fell in love, wasn’t it just as reckless and irresponsible?
One of my absolute favorite things about John Green as an author is his emphasis on the importance and necessity of fictional stories. Right off the bat, before “The Fault in Our Stars” even begins, John reminds us that “neither novels or their readers benefit from attempts to divine whether any facts hide inside a story. Such efforts attack the very idea that made up stories matter, which is sort of the foundational assumption of our species.” Fiction matters, which is awesome because I feel like I’ve built my life around characters and places and stories that don’t quite exist in reality. This idea that John persists on, that fiction matters and that books belong to their readers, is the exact opposite of Van Houten, fictional author of the fictional “An Imperial Affliction.” He seems unable to comprehend why Hazel and Augustus would care so much about Anna and her mother, long after the book was published. Does Van Houten redeem himself by showing up at the end? I don’t know. I think Hazel was a little harsh, but he did kind of shatter her world.
John Green is a great writer, and I genuinely love him. His dialogue is funny and smart. None of his characters are saints. He is able to take large philosophical thoughts and boil them down into bite sized one-liners, but it’s almost too much in this book. There are so many great moments and great lines, and the last 60 pages or so are heart wrenching and beautiful. But I just don’t really buy into it being his greatest work, or as celebrated of a book as it is. Am I missing something? Is my book 100 pages shorter than everyone else’s? But you know what, I think it’s ok. I gave it a couple tries, and while I am very excited to see the movie on June 6th, I think It’s safe to say that The Fault in Our Stars is my one of my least favorite John Green books, beating only Will Grayson, Will Grayson. Does this make me a terrible person?
Scenes I Can’t Wait to See on the Big Screen:
- Egging Monica’s House. Hazel with her broken lungs, Augustus with his short leg, and Isaac without his eyes, egging the house of a beautiful girl.
- Isaac and Hazel delivering their eulogies to Augustus, which he edits mid-sentence.
- Desperately Lonely Swing Set Needs Loving Home.
What did you think about “The Fault in Our Stars?” Was this your first or fifth readthrough? What scenes are you most looking forward to in the movie? Tweet us @litdarling!
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This is the only John Green book I like, and I do like it. Probably because it’s so pretentious, and teenagers rarely have such serious life discussions about death and such but when you put a time clock on someones life they have to think about these things and it makes it just a touch more pretentious. I have to say I love Augustus, mostly because he’s pretentious and unlikable, because he’s intelligent and he knows that what he’s doing isn’t good or cool, but he’s dying so he doesn’t have to care.
I am NOT excited to see the movie cause of all the crying that will occur, but I feel a story like this that means something and touches all generations and becomes so culturally relevant must be seen if only to support a truly great piece of fiction, because Green was right. “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.”
I’m older than the meant demographic for this and John Green’s other books, but I still enjoyed it. His dialogue is real. He captures emotions so well. But, I had to restrain myself from reading the last page of the book to see if it ended midsentence. I was a little disappointed it didn’t.
Hannah, I both agree and disagree. Agree in the fact that “Looking for Alaska” is one of my very favorite books (in my mind it’s a modern “Separate Peace”) as well as the fact that this is not his best. In many ways it’s trying too hard to be a book about kids who just happen to have cancer and not a book about cancer, but then the only real moments in it come when the book is in fact about the cancer. Augustus is very much the male protagonist version of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl that John Green writes so well in all his other books, but I find it fascinating that we don’t respond as well to the gender reversal. He’s too smooth, too cool, too one-dimensionally esoteric and comes off a bit of a douche in many ways. I disagree with you however, in that I cannot write off this book, one because I cried for about three hours straight in a snot-ridden mess after I finished it, and secondly because it is the most quotable of all his books, sans from his Walt Whitman stealing lines in “Paper Towns.” He’s also very, very exacting and cautious in this book in the way he interlocks and weaves his symbolism and plot lines and I think it is expertly done, but you lose some of the panache of his earlier works within that exactitude.
I loved this book and I am so glad that we picked it for the month of May. I fell in love with the characters, their faults and strengths, and enjoyed the ride that this book took me on. I can’t wait for the movie (I will refrain from wearing makeup to the showing-obv)!