WHAT A PAINFUL PIECE OF LITERATURE.
That really is the first thing I’d have to say about John Green’s literary scar on humanity, The Fault in Our Stars.
Hazel Grace Lancaster, or just Hazel, has cancer–not the curable “you will live if we chop off this part of your body” kind. No, it was the definitely terminal, Your Lungs are Producing Water and are Trying to Kill You Everyday sort. Hazel Grace is a known professional of Having Cancer. At one of the support group sessions she reluctantly attends, she meets a boy named Augustus Waters, an amputee and the Mayor of Cancervania–he had a You Will Live If Your Leg Was Cut Off sort of cancer. They fall in love that makes for the most tragically beautiful romance that you will ever read in your Young Adult Genre Shelf ever. EVER. Yet. Until John Green writes again.
My Thoughts, Exactly.
Mind you, I do mean that it stays in the Young Adult Genre Shelf. Because it is, and it should, and that’s where John Green meant for it to be because he really doesn’t care about adults. The prose is half and half enlightening insight with hilarious dialogue. His characters are every geek girl’s teenage dream. Well, minus all the cancer.
Augustus is the perfect gentleman, with a witty repertoire of responses, a love for video games and their novel adaptations, and would be dedicated enough to fall in love with your favorite novel, set up a picnic in the theme of all the things you love about said novel, and would do anything to accomplish your last dying wish. He’s the gamer geek that defends you in combat when you really suck at it. And when you’d feel terribly sad about a swing set for no reason, he drives to your house, pronto. He looks at life and makes a metaphor out of everything. He hates basketball and would break his own trophies. And he’s hot, and he’s aware of it.
Our heroine? College girl, smart, well-read, liked to quote books and a constant, albeit well-mannered, downer for the people as terminally ill as her.
Not even. Hazel Grace may tell you that you will eventually die and everyone will forget you, but even when she knows it will happen, she uses her life in a way that she doesn’t let death itself defeat her.
This will be among the many thoughts you will realize from the moment Hazel Grace allows you into her mind. And that is the thing that truly picks up the novel, making it something worth reading regardless of age. Everything–and I mean everything, even the hamster–is a metaphor for something, and it takes some deep thinking to really appreciate the depth of the story beyond the young romance. Even if you’re at the point when you’ve moved on from falling in love with characters like Augustus Waters, Hazel’s intelligent narrative will still keep you holding on long enough til the writer pulls out your heart and eats it.
It’s not a basic cancer novel where the writer uses “cancer” as main reason to make you cry. No, cancer here is a metaphor, like everything else in this novel. It’s a thing that plagues humanity–the thing that we want to stop but couldn’t understand: suffering. It’s everywhere, and there’s nothing we could do about it no matter how we try.
The story isn’t only a romance but a story of accepting fate while likewise defeating it—a practice of freedom—a lesson that, dear Brutus, the fault is in the stars, but don’t let it get you so down.
Painful, what good literature does to you.
Having said that, I do feel cheated sometimes. The intelligence of the novel feels like a quilt of patches, with bits and pieces of thought from other great people. And although our character Hazel shows us her own way of understanding things, there isn’t really something new that she offers. It’s effective in a way that it exposes the reader to all sorts of thought, whether or not said reader will agree with the character. But it’s not going to strike you with something completely new.
To be realistic, one must always admit the influence of those who have gone before.
– Charles Eames
It is important to say that the pieces of influence that float around in this book are fundamental to how you’ll be attached to the characters. Towards the end of it, you’ll be thinking like Hazel, and knowing much of what she knows and believes, that whatever decisions she will make in the book and the things that she will feel towards the events will deeply affect you.
And that’s where John Green succeeds: taking you by the mind, then by the heart, then twists you til you suffer an emotional cancer of your own. Especially that ending! That ending was perfect. That ending saved the entire novel.
But more than mere emotions, John Green takes you to a ride into all the philosophies of suffering that will make Gautama Buddha proud.
The Fault in Our Stars is intelligent and hilarious, truthful and insightful, but I will not hold up my ten fingers just yet. John Green’s best is yet to come.
Nine out of ten.