Saturday, June 29, 2013

Reading: The Fault In Our Stars by John Green

A little over a year ago I posted a book review for The Fault In Our Stars by John Green.  While the book had received high praises and virtually everyone loved it, I found myself to be let down and disappointed by it.  To read my original review, click here.  I soon-after met someone else who found the book to be overrated and felt a bit of comfort for the fact that I wasn't alone in my opinions.  I couldn't find many others who felt the same way though.  Everyone seemed to love this darn book and I couldn't figure it out!  Fast forward to February of this year when my novel professor tells the class that one of our assignments will be to present on an author of our choosing.  After thinking things over for a while, I decided that John Green would be a good choice for my presentation.  I chose him for a number of reasons.  One -- I believe he has changed the way youth look at authors.  He reaches out to people through many different forms besides print which include YouTube videos and stage performances.  Two -- He has a lot to say.  He voices his opinions on many topics ranging from gay marriage to publishing to Mr. Rogers.  What he has to say is extremely important to his cult group of fans and therefore I believe it should be studied and should be important to all readers and writers.  And three -- I don't idolize him.  I didn't like the first book I read by him and the second book I read of his, Looking for Alaska, while much better still didn't have me convinced that he is as amazing as his fans led me to believe; therefore my opinion of him would not be altered because I don't love him and I by no means hate him.  Since I decided to do my project on him, I began to think a lot more on The Fault In Our Stars because I still wasn't seeing many negative reviews and I was beginning to wonder if I had possibly misread the book.  Maybe I was in a bad place when I read it and that affected how I interpreted the text.  Maybe I just didn't "get it" the first time around and needed to reread it.  My plans to reread the book became final when the book suddenly became available at my library (it had been on hold for many, many months for dozens of people and I had already sold my copy on Amazon).  I picked it up since I would be needing it for my author presentation and decided that this was my opportunity to figure out what I had missed the first time around.  I reread The Fault In Our Stars.
The book definitely has a special quality to it compared to other books I have read.  It made me feel
like a teenager again...not sure if that is a good or bad thing.  Reading it a second time definitely helped me sympathize with the characters more, at least in the first half.  Green does an excellent job at portraying cancer without it being a "cancer book."  Indeed the book is raw and emotional when it comes to the struggles these characters go through.  That was a plus to this reread.
Another plus is that I seem to now fully understand what Green was trying to say with his title that quotes Julius Caesar.  Cassius says to Brutus that "the fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars / But in ourselves."  Main character Hazel disagrees.  She believes that there is some fault in our stars because we do not choose to go through certain battles in this world and she certainly did not choose to have cancer.  This observation made the story more powerful for me this time because it adds to Green's raw tone.  Although I do agree with Hazel in the context, I still believe that we can't keep blaming the stars for our problems.  No we do not always choose the cards we are dealt, but we do choose how to react.
While this reread opened my eyes to a few thumbs up moments, I still do not view the book as this amazing work of fiction like everyone seems to believe.  The book reads like another teen movie - full of cheesy pick-up lines, overly sarcastic dialogue, a forced plot at times, and annoying characters.  I didn't shed a tear during the first read and I didn't shed a tear during the second read.  One of the big reasons I was let down the first time, besides what I have already stated in this review, was that I had heard a lot about John Green and had seen so many quotes from him that seemed particularly brilliant.  This book doesn't seem to be playing toward his strengths.  Yes he nailed some real heart wrenching truths and yes he depicted a very realistic view of what cancer actually looks like compared to how Hollywood has depicted the experience, but in the end the book becomes a genre teen love story.  I was all too aware of the fact that during Hazel and Augustus's "love" scenes, I kept thinking about the movie Valentine's Day.  (SPOILER ALERT) I also found the egg throwing scene toward the end, which was meant to be liberating and to make the characters feel better and whole, to be yet another typical thing you would see in a teen romance movie.  (SPOILER END) Green may have written a realistic cancer novel, but the "love" story completely ruins it for me, particularly because all Hazel and Augustus's love seems to consists of is them saying okay to each other.  I didn't buy the fact that they were in love.  It all seemed forced, unrealistic, and quite frankly, it's all been done before.
In the end, I did enjoy this book the second time but I still don't understand the hype and this book in particular seems to represent overrated books at their finest.  In my first review I gave this book 2 out of 5 stars but this time I'm giving it 3 out of 5 stars.  At least now I can tell you it isn't a bad book, just mediocre. 

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