Last night, I read the first 20 chapters of The Fault In Our Stars by John Green. This morning I finished it.
Many of you will have heard of this book, many of you will already have read it. I was first introduced to John Green via the YouTube channel ‘mentalfloss’, a trivia program in which he presents unlikely lists of little known facts. It’s pretty great – funny, educational – check it out.
This is the first John Green book I have read and I doubt it will be the last as, despite being absolutely devastating, it was fantastic. It does everything – it’ll make you laugh, make you cry, make you re-evaluate your conceptions of death, luck, life, love, and make you wonder why you picked up this book when you know it can only end badly.
The Fault In Our Stars is a book about cancer. So if you’re not able to cope with that right now (as I found I wasn’t for most of the time I was reading), this may not be for you just this second. Hazel Grace Lancaster is a sixteen-year-old miracle cancer survivor, surviving the first round against all odds. She is on a new (made up) drug called ‘Phalanxifor’ which is keeping her metastatic lung tumours under control – but the doctors don’t know how long for. She knows she is terminal.
See, it’s pretty hardcore stuff. I’m having trouble writing this out.
She attends a support group for kids dealing with cancer, where she meets Augustus Waters, a survivor of osteosarcoma – a type of bone cancer, which has an 80% chance of survival. From the off, it is clear he is interested in Hazel. He has a kind of intense stare thing going on.
No, this isn’t a Twilight thing. It’s awesome.
They talk, Augustus doesn’t talk like normal teenagers, and he likes that Hazel doesn’t either. He says she looks like V for Vendetta-era Natalie Portman, and they watch it together because she’s never seen it. It’s all very sweet but not in a cloying, sickly kind of a way, unless you’re supersensitive to sickly, cloying sweetness. If you’re a teenager thinking about love, it’s probably the kind of romance you have in mind (without the cancer, probably). They talk about books, she recommends her favourite book, An Imperial Affliction by Peter van Houten, and he lends her one of his, the novelisation of his favourite video game (which, I discover, John Green has actually written – although he is yet to write An Imperial Affliction, it seems, much to the disappointment of his fans).
They fall in love. It’s wonderful.
*MINOR SPOILER* it doesn’t end happily. But it ends hopefully.
Things I liked
Firstly, I thought I might hate this because it has the unfortunate label ‘cancer book’. However, early on, Hazel clears the book of most of this stigma. She is re-reading An Imperial Affliction, which is also a book about a girl with cancer. She says how much she likes that it isn’t a typical cancer book, where the person with cancer founds a cancer charity and raises lots of money and lives a very worthy life. I was glad The Fault In Our Stars addressed this.
THE LITERARY REFERENCES. It’s English student heaven in here. The title itself is a reference to Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, as is An Imperial Affliction, which is a line from an Emily Dickinson poem, which I shall include at the bottom. There’s so much literature contained within the pages – my personal favourite being an explicit reference to Waiting For Godot, which I now get, and wouldn’t have a couple of months ago.
Edit: Sam wishes me to inform you there are also maths/philosophy references. I would not have understood them if I hadn’t had to proofread his final year project. But, since I did and I do, there are some pretty cool references to Georg Cantor and Zeno’s paradox of the tortoise and Achilles. Stuff like that. Maths stuff. Happy now, Sam? ARE YA HAPPY, NOW?
Edit 2: to be honest I probably should have included this originally, since one of the most famous quotes of the book comes from the conversation they have about Cantor: ‘Some infinities are bigger than other infinities’
The characters. I’m a stickler for characters and dialogue. And while the dialogue sometimes felt a little too written for my taste, it didn’t take away from the character development or the humour in the book.
Also the humour. Despite making me tear up several times, and cry once, it is a very funny book, and a very human book.
There’s so much I liked. But I wouldn’t want to push this on anyone who doesn’t feel ready for it right now, it’s what you’d call an emotional rollercoaster.
Things I didn’t like
Not much to say here, except that I predicted the ending. I have a feeling John Green wanted us to, because he hints it quite heavily, but I guessed it. And I was pissed off.
Like I said before, sometimes the dialogue was a little unnatural, but nothing too far out. I think maybe this has to do with the unimaginable situation the characters are in. I don’t know. No other qualms, as far as I can remember.
Should I read this book?
Hmm. Do you feel ready?
There’s a certain slant of light,
On winter afternoons,
That oppresses, like the weight
Of cathedral tunes.
Heavenly hurt it gives us;
We can find no scar,
But internal difference
Where the meanings are.
None may teach it anything,
‘Tis the seal, despair,-
An imperial affliction
Sent us of the air.
When it comes, the landscape listens,
Shadows hold their breath;
When it goes, ‘t is like the distance
On the look of death.
* * * * *
The Book Depository
You can buy the book here: http://www.bookdepository.com/Fault-Our-Stars-John-Green/9780141345659/?a_aid=SpidersLibrary
Because I am trying not to use Amazon in my own half-arsed protest-y way, I’d like to recommend to people that they check out The Book Depository, which is a great, user-friendly site with affordable books ranging from brand new releases to classics, and in many different editions at less-than brand new prices. As I am now officially an affiliate of The Book Depository, I gain a small commission if you use my affiliate link to buy books! Please do check it out, even if you don’t buy anything right now.