Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The Fault in Our Stars - John Green

I wanted to love this book, I really did, I hoped that as it settled in I would come to appreciate it more, but instead I still feel like something was missing. Of course, being able to enumerate on what is missing is of course asking my brain too much, but I can't help how I feel. 
John's first book with a female narrator, The Fault in Our Stars tells the love story of Hazel Grace and Augustus Waters. Hazel has thyroid cancer that is temporarily being held in check by a fictional drug, and Gus has been cancer free since one of his legs was amputated. I'm trying to limit this to minor spoilers that John hasn't mentioned, but well, I can't know what someone might not want to hear.
I found it interesting that despite the shift in narration, the book was still about the boy in the story, it was his journey that was the focus of the book. While one could argue, and be right, that Looking for Alaska, An Abundance of Katherines, and Paper Towns would not be the same without the love interests, they are still ultimately defined by the journey of their respective narrators, and I don't feel like Hazel was the one who was most profoundly changed by the course of events. Of course, part of this is because Gus's story really could not have been told without Hazel, but it is interesting to me. Of course, it served as a blessing that it was Gus's story because he was a much more compelling character to me, from the beginning, if only because something about Hazel grated on my nerves. And by something, I mean the fact that she called V for Vendetta a "boy movie" and then proceeded to enjoy books based on violent video games "boy books" by any definition. I felt inconsistent to me - I understand the societal constraints of thinking there are such things as "boy" and "girl" things, even if I disagree, but I want consistency, or at least an acknowledgement of growth... Yes, that may be a nitpick, but it stuck in my mind as I read the book, and didn't allow me to appreciate Hazel as some might have.
But that's ok, I'm of the opinion that you don't have to love the narrator, you just have to be able to appreciate the story they have to tell. And yes, The Fault in Our Stars was at heart a compelling and powerful story. As Hazel read the aforementioned books, she had Augustus read her favorite book, An Imperial Affliction, with its abrupt ending and reclusive author leading them on the journey of any life time, regardless of length. But I will let you discover that on your own, when you read it (and you should read it). On the other hand, the book didn't shy away from the hurt of cancer. The pain and exhaustion and hardship on not just the person but everyone who loved them was evident. And it didn't gloss over the flaws of the people who die to young. The dead are not memorialized by a glossed over memory, but on the acknowledgement that despite their circumstances, they are human, just like the rest of us - even if these teens did have larger vocabularies than most.
For me, however, amid the grand gestures and suffering and humanizing, there was Isaac. Isaac, another teen with cancer who was really the reason Hazel and Augustus met. Isaac who encapsulated all of those things more than anything else for me. I can't imagine the book without him. It probably would have been far less fun, in many ways, and well, many important things wouldn't have happened.
Also, there was the reference to time being a slut that screws us all, the existence of which shall make me cherish this book far longer than I would have without it.
Regardless, this reminds me its probably time to reread John Green's other books to figure out if my appreciation for them is nostalgic or not, which, I suppose, is relevant to the story I just read.

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