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Something Like a Review – The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

This is another book that I seemed to trip over everywhere I went on the internet. And another one I was hesitant to pick up because it seemed to be so popular. What swayed it for me was the fact that this book seemed to polarize people. They either extolled its virtues from the highest hills, or they raged against the fame it garnered since it was “obviously” not one of Green’s best. I like controversy – it makes me want to know which side is right. After a moment of digging, I realized I had available credits on audible, so I dropped it in my cart just to see why it was being pimped all over the web and what all the hubbub was about.

The most tired cliché when it comes to entertainment media is the old “I laughed, I cried…” and it’s usually a load of crap. For that reason, I won’t use it. There were moments when I was driving and listening to this novel where I snorted my coffee (which is both more unpleasant and more inconvenient when you’re driving) in the middle of some of the funniest, driest lines I’ve heard from a story. In contrast, there were moments when my throat shrunk to a pinhole and my eyes teared up and spilled over rather profusely. I didn’t cry, exactly. I sobbed. Hard.

This is a story about two teenagers and cancer and love, but it’s not really a romance. It’s a love story, but something more like an anti-romance. Hazel Grace (Lancaster) and Augustus Waters are a charming, quirky, star-crossed pair from the beginning, but taking every advantage of their time together because they already understand that time is a precious commodity. From the beginning, I was enchanted by Hazel, the main character and narrator of the story. She’s a “cancer kid,” and while her disease plays a prominent role in the story, it’s not the primary focus and while it imposes borders on her activities, it does not limit her. Augustus’s voice and personality were snappy, witty, addictive and I missed him when the story was over.

This is an unabashed look at illness and their struggles against cancer, the reality of their shortened lives, but Hazel Grace and Augustus Waters and all the other “cancer kids” they meet retain their humanity and their identity as people, not letting them become a disease. It becomes a story of living, not just living with cancer.

This is, I am quite happy to say, unlikely to be the next teen sensation. While it’s classified as “young adult,” I think adults are going to have a more poignant experience with this story. It’s not material beyond a young adult, nor is it unattractive to the age group. My personal opinion is that the older crowd is going to have a more profound emotional reaction to the reality of the story than a teenager will. An adult understands mortality and the horrors of cancer on an entirely different level than the average teenager. There’s more here to resonate with an adult experience than with the scope of a teenager’s world.

Without giving too much away, given one of the major elements of the story, a book called An Imperial Affliction, I wanted to rush through to the end of the story to make sure it wouldn’t end in the middle of a sentence. **Two notes, here: 1.) this is a major drawback of the audiobook – no sneaky-peek at the end. (Boo-HISS!) and 2.) An Imperial Affliction is an actual book title, but it is not the book referenced in this novel. Color me disappointed.

One of my concerns about this book becoming a “timeless” classic are the pop-culture references that will be dated in the next handful of years. Hazel and Augustus watch “300,” and “V for Vendetta.” The references are valid and they give insight into the characters and how they integrate those experiences into their lives, but will a reader picking this book up ten years from now have the same kind of understanding of them? Possibly not, which would be a shame.

There’s a lot to this book, from humor to sadness, resignation and perseverance, to romance (but not “Romance”) and love. It is my first John Green book, so I have no basis for comparison to his other works, but if the frustrated fans are right and this is just not up to par with the rest of his books, I eagerly anticipate reading other works of his. I’m so infatuated with this story that even though I have it as an audio book, I’m going to go grab a dead tree version so I can pick it up whenever I want.

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