Wednesday, 15 March 2017

The Review in Our Stars: A Review of The Fault in Our Stars

The Fault in Our Stars is a book by John Green, who also wrote Paper Towns and Looking for Alaska. The protagonist is a teenage girl called Hazel Grace Lancaster, who has terminal lung/thyroid cancer. She meets a boy at a cancer Support Group called Augustus Waters, and shares with him her favourite book, about a girl similarly suffering from cancer. However, that book ends in the middle of a sentence, and trying to find out what happens next takes Hazel and Augustus to Amsterdam.

One of the things I like about John Green books is the theme of "is someone's first impression of a person correct?" More often then not, the answer is no. Augustus comes across as pretentious at first, but as we get to know him, the more we (and Hazel) like him. Also, Peter Van Houten turns out to be totally different to the impression Hazel got of him through her book. The other big theme is "who decides what happens in stories?" John Green has been honest about how he feels that "books belong to their readers." And while I agree with this, since every reader is going to come away with a book with a different interpretation and writers can't control what a reader thinks, I still believe a writer can go back and add more to their books over time. However, it is wrong of a reader to demand more from a writer then they are willing to give, as Hazel and Gus do find out.

John Green's talent for characterisation comes through again, but in a more subtle way this time. Sometimes, his characters appear larger then life, almost unrealistic. However, both Hazel and Gus are very down to earth, with relatable flaws and misconceptions someone there age might have. "Some infinities are bigger then other infinities," for example. Hazel's narration is relentlessly sarcastic, full of witty observations. She talks about death in a way that only someone who is dying can get away with. Both of them jump off the page and embed themselves in your mind. Hazel at one point categorises a movie as a "boy movie" but I believe this is indicative of what Hazel thinks, not what John Green thinks. A complaint I have heard people say about John Green is that his characters talk too perfectly, that they always know what to say. In some books, realistic "um, uh," stuttering diction works. However, the two leads play off each other so well that here, it calls for that sort of too-perfect dialogue.

It is a book about cancer, but it's not a Cancer Book. That said, if you are averse to Cancer Books in general, there is nothing here that will change your mind. However, if you are indifferent to Cancer Books but like Young Adult/Romance/good stories in general, you might get something out of it.

The movie adaptation is very well done, as I'm guessing most people might know. A stellar performance from the two leads, some wonderful shots of Amsterdam and the adorable story makes for a very memorable movie. Definitely one to watch if you enjoyed the book, and of course if you enjoyed the film, you should read the book!

I recommend this book especially for people struggling with long term illnesses or disabilities. It is good for people to read about others in a similar situation (which is why diversity is important!) and I can't think of many other well-known YA books with protagonists with disabilities.

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