Ask anyone that was with me on January 10, 2010 around approximately 6:00 PM; that was the moment when I got that faithful package slip and claimed my signed copy of The Fault In Our Stars, the newest addition to John Green’s building resume of charmingly witty, yet overly heartbreaking YA fiction books. I did a little happy dance and squealed. Right outside of my dorm. Over a novel.
To make connections to the novel itself, John Green seems to be the young-adult literary hero of today, much like Van Houten was to the protagonist, Hazel. He writes the novels that teens just get, and that, in my personal opinion, captures what a teenager feels in this day of age. His novels make us think and grow as the pages continue to turn. His novels have that ability to transport you straight to the pages and live with the characters. Other books skim the lines of what the generation believes and feels but his novels just hit exactly what our teenage years have been, full of sarcasm and small but amazing adventure and angst and happiness and love from parents and new friends and finding who you are and what you believe in, and of course, hours of reality television. TFIOS did not stray from the standards of his past novels, if anything, I believe that it is one of the best.
To tell the truth, I have waited about two months to crack the spine on the novel and begin reading. I was scared, I was scared to cry and scared to read it too fast and it just be over. I knew the premise, two cancer kids find each other when they least expect it and fall in love. You can get that plot line from simply reading the back or finding a short summary online. And, as true as that is, it’s a horrible representation of what actually happens; there’s so much more life in it, and I know that may sound cheesy, but Hazel’s story isn’t about death, it’s about what life can give you when you live it. It also touches how to cope with knowing you’re going to die. And I swear this is not a spoiler alert, we all live to die, you know?
Hazel is as much of an optimist as you’d expect her to be, she just has a weird way of showing it. At first, she’s a bit afraid to show that she’s strong because it’s such a stereotypical thing: cancer patients die honorably, fighting hard, and she finds all of the cancer stereotypes and perks a bit dull. She just wants people to see her outside of the disease. She has an artistic mind that generates very deep and meaningful thoughts, she understands the abstract, “Ceci n’est pas une pipe”. She has a tagline with Augustus, “The world is not a wish-granting factory,” and she finds that, “some infinities are bigger than others”. She has the thoughts that all teenagers have, some wrong and some depressing and some brutally honest. She fights with her parents, she has thoughts about intimacy, she obsesses over pop culture. She’s just that, honest and real. Green doesn’t water down her thoughts on death and love and making it to please parents, he allows her to live like a real young woman. She grows and changes and engages throughout the novel, and it becomes a short and bittersweet bildungsroman. And that is what is so good about the book, it’s tragically honest and funny and real qualities.
One of the best assets of the novel, aside from the great themes like love and pain and family and friendship and strength, is the fact that we learn that cancer patients are people. Silly, I know, because it’s so simple a concept, but I’ve seen how some sick people are treated, like specimens or aliens. Cancer takes up a person’s body but it doesn’t change who they are.
And death it’s another hard topic explored; when we die, we don’t harm the people we love, they love us by choice and grow and learn from our love. They are grateful to have the chance to have known us and they take the pain with pride and acceptance, because they have had the chance to be touched by our lives. (I’m trying really, really hard to be vague here, guys…)
And, with that last thought I’m off. No favorite quotes from me on this one, because I want them to unravel for you as they did for me, perfectly in order with what is going on in the little world of TFIOS. And that is the thing that I think I like the most about Mr. Green, he makes the story so believable that you can be in the character’s flip-flops or Chucks without even trying. You just get immersed in the tale, and after the whole thing ends, in a perfect and beautiful flurry of emotion, you just want to call up Hazel and talk to her in that third space about Augustus and go on a picnic lunch to the playground of bones. To get all corny again, he writes his characters up in the stars and when you look up you feel as if you could fly up there and become one with them.
Rating: 5/5 *****
-The tale of Hazel and Augustus has been picked up for Fox 2000 to be made for the big screen. I hope it can do it justice.
-If you have FINISHED the book and are wondering more about the symbolism and little things that make TFIOS as great as it is, John Green will answer and chat about any little questions on your mind. Think Augustus’s leg is a metaphor? Answered. Is the Dutch Tulip Man a con artist? Explained, well, kind of.
Here’s the link to that little tumblr dedicated just to TFIOS: http://onlyifyoufinishedtfios.tumblr.com/
Password is found on the last page of the acknowledgements. No peeks if you haven’t finished. Trust me, you don’t want the story to be ruined!