Review: The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

8 August, 2013 Reviews 45 comments

Review: The Fault in Our Stars by John GreenThe Fault in Our Stars by John Green
Series: Standalone
Published by Dutton Children's Books on January 10th 2012
Pages: 316
Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult
Format: Hardcover
Source: Purchased
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three-stars

Despite the tumor-shrinking medical miracle that has bought her a few years, Hazel has never been anything but terminal, her final chapter inscribed upon diagnosis. But when a gorgeous plot twist named Augustus Waters suddenly appears at Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazel's story is about to be completely rewritten.

I spent an entire year mentally preparing myself for The Fault in Our Stars. I read some terrible books, awesome books and your classic “meh” books. And whenever I’d go to decide which book I wanted to read next, I’d glance at The Fault in Our Stars’ spine and simply turn my head away. To be completely honest, I don’t think I have ever truly went out of my way to avoid a book like this and it’s unlike me to do so. I usually tackle things head on, showing no fear, but with this book I had to approach things differently due to its subject matter. But then Jenn from The Bawdy Book Blog threw this in as a review suggestion, because obviously I needed some John Green edumacation. And I’m so happy someone finally pushed me to read this book because it did not disappoint. Well, not exactly…

It’s easy to see why John Green has the following he does. There is just something magical in the way he strings his sentences together that I can’t help but admire it. It’s simple, deep and humorous all at the same time. And the biggest thing I worried about when diving into this book was the sadness. You go into the book knowing the characters are terminal and I didn’t know how I would fare connecting with a character, loving a character, to ultimately have them suffer and die. I’m a really easy crier and I don’t like seeing people (fictional or real) suffer. But somehow John Green manages to take a cancer book and fill it with the sweetest memories.

For a good portion of The Fault in Our Stars, I found myself chuckling at Hazel and Augustus’ dry humor. The first half was generally light-hearted despite the grim situation the characters were in. Even when things got more serious, the humor was subtly there as a convenient ice-breaker of sorts. If I could describe it, I’d liken it to a grandparent making a joke about their impending death. It’s awkward and uncomfortable, but oddly reassuring that it’s possible to joke about something so morbid. Life goes on.

The plot was simply “ok” for me, never wowing me or keeping me on the edge of my seat. It, at times, seemed to just float by with occasional things happening. There weren’t many plot twists or “ah ha!” moments because you could tell from the beginning how it would end. You knew from the subject matter that it would be sad, and yet… I did not really cry. I did shed The Lonely Tear, but it wasn’t for the characters. It was because of the situation they were in. It was because cancer sucks. Don’t get me wrong, this is a beautifully written book, but the problem I ran into was the questionable authenticity of the protagonists. They never felt like teenagers. I get that they were intelligent and spent a lot more time contemplating life than your average teen, but they never felt real to me. Now, I’m not exactly a stranger to John Green himself. I religiously watch his history webshow on Youtube and I’m often amazed at this guy. But it was like he sat down and created mini-Despicable-Me-minon-like John Greens for this novel. They are all witty, super intelligent and too pretentious for their own good.

Further, it was almost like Green relied on the severity of the ending and the character’s intelligence to jar emotion from the reader. Clearly, this worked since two weeks after finishing, I cried while making pancakes just from thinking about Augustus’ letter to Hazel. But again, this was not for the characters. It wasn’t remotely similar or as powerful of an emotion that I’d felt after I read A Walk to Remember where I cried in my 8th grade English class under my desk. I’m talking about complete and utter sorrow for Landon and everyone else. DON’T JUDGE ME. 😛

Anyway, while I remain conflicted on how I feel about the characters, it doesn’t negate the fact that this is a fabulous, smart read that I’d recommend to others.


 

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Steph Sinclair

Steph Sinclair

Co-blogger at Cuddlebuggery
I'm a bibliophile trying to make it through my never-ending To-Be-Read list, equal opportunity snarker and fangirl, YA Books Central editor and co-blogger here at Cuddlebuggery. Find me on GoodReads.
Steph Sinclair
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45 Responses to “Review: The Fault in Our Stars by John Green”

  1. SnugglyOranges

    LOVE this review. I totally get your hesitance but I’m glad you read it in the end 🙂 I agree about the kids being mini-John Greens and not at all realistic… I had to suspend my disbelief for that. But the story he tells was magical, so it’s still one of my favorite books. And yeah, I loved the humor 🙂 and I also only cried the Lonely Tear.

  2. alexiareads

    I’m still very hesitant to read this one and I can’t quite figure out why.

  3. Steph

    Great, honest review. I think one of the things I liked best about TFiOS was the simple plot. It didn’t take away from the main idea that two incredibly smart and mature kids with cancer decide to live with it the best they know how. It was character driven, and it’s why this book was so successful, because the charcters are amazingly written. Yes, they are unrealistic, but if i wanted realistic, I’d go hang out with my foul mouthed, one tracked minded teenage neighboors who annoy me with their basketball playing till midnight. Not the same thing.
    I’ll admit, I sobbed for Augustus. Sobbed giant ugly tears. Like, my husband came into the room, asked “What’s wrong” and I lifted the book and shook my head unable to form coherent words. He just walked away laughing. I’ve never had a book affect me like this one did. I love being ripped to shreds and mourning people that never existed in the first place. It’s a little magical.

  4. mego

    Confession, this book has been sitting on my shelf for a few months now while I work up the courage to read it (I’m still not over Tiger Lily, I need a minute with no tears, ok?) Your review has made me significantly less scared but I still might try Looking For Alaska first.

  5. Adam A
    Twitter:

    I read this and I thought it was good – but I must admit, I have been put off reading it again because of the hype around John Green. I think he’s a great writer. The thing is, everyone I know keeps acting like he’s some master of contemporary fiction and I can’t help but feel it’s somewhat unwarranted? I don’t know. Maybe there is some inherent hipster in me screaming to go against the grain and be unique. But honestly, I just think the author is very overhyped and I find one fault of his is that many of his teen characters almost always read as self-aware and sure of themselves. I was never this self-aware or secure with myself when I was a teen – I’m 19 and I still struggle with identity. Anyways, that’s just my 2 cents. Your review was amazing has always, Steph.

  6. MeliRobles

    Loved this review. I get what you mean even though I haven’t read it yet. I will try to read this book soon, I’ve been putting it off for a while now so I better get my move on and see for myself how The Fault In Our Stars gets to me. 🙂

  7. WanderlustBooks

    Wow, I had nearly the same reaction as you – no weeping, not overly fond of the protagonists, yet great appreciation for John Green. Agree with you on all counts. Was a tough review for me to write because it was a very good book, just not a perfect book for me. You did a great job summing it up, though 🙂

  8. cynicalsapphire

    So I totally almost forgot to read this review, because I got distracted by the form. Bahahaha. BUT I came back. So. 
    YAY. You think John Green is magical too! Most of the bloggers I know think he’s the worst and despise his writing, but I basically love it to pieces. I love the way the humor in the writing keeps things from getting to dark. THE LONELY TEAR. I’ve shed the lonely tear before. I’m always impressed. Book made me cry! This book did not make me cry. I think I got watery eyes, but no spillage.
    Oh, I will admit that I don’t mind the super brilliant teens thing. I’m like that with middle grade especially. The less they are like an average middle grader, the more I will probably like it. Bring on the genius children with big vocabularies!
    JUDGING YOU.

  9. ReadingbyKF

    I haven’t read this yet, because it just sounds depressing, but I know what you mean. It kind of sucks that it’s the subject matter that’s sad not that it happened to that specific character that you love. I cried buckets at the end of the Walk to Remember movie hahaha. It’ll still make me cry when I rewatch it now I think!

  10. Christina @ Christina Reads YA

    This review so perfectly captures my thoughts about the book. The meandering plot that’s not really the focus but is there for all the symbolism and to show that cancer is a bad, sad thing. The overly intelligent but not very real characters. The Lonely Tear that I kind of just shed because of the pressure, knowing the sadness of cancer but also that everyone else had seemed to cry during this one. But most of all, his beautiful, magical writing. Even despite everything that you mentioned that I agree with, I think I’d most agree with your final conclusion. He does have a great way of stringing together sentences, and it is a smart read, and even if I’m conflicted too, I would still recommend to others. (I kind of wish I’d read Walk to Remember now. I like that it was under the desk though. Was there an earthquake drill? Were you hiding that you’d been reading from your class?)

  11. Steph Sinclair
    Twitter:

    @Steph I really enjoyed how John Green set up his story so that is was horribly depressing from beginning to end. I guess, when I say the teens were unrealistic, I meant they seemed too mature. Not meaning they didn’t go off cursing, just that their voices sounded just like John Green himself. LOL.
    And hahaha! I know the feeling. And you’re right, it is magical. 🙂

  12. Steph Sinclair
    Twitter:

    mego Tiger Lily is sitting on my shelf unread and has been since I bought it last year. >.< But seriously, the ending is pretty sad, but the rest of the book has a very light feel to it.

  13. Steph Sinclair
    Twitter:

    Adam A I kinda agree with you. Though, I haven’t read his other works, I have heard from others that his other characters all sound like him. (Which is sort of funny, but still.) I don’t know if John Green is overhyped since I’ve only read this one book of his. I’ll have to check out more to develop my own opinion. But as for this book, I did go in with rather high expectations and I don’t think they were entirely meant since I couldn’t really connect with the teens in this novel.

  14. Steph Sinclair
    Twitter:

    Jennifer @ The Bawdy Book Blog I have never listened to an audiobook (I’m more of a visual person and I need to SEE ALL THE THINGS). But I bet this one would have been terribly sad. 
    Looks like Reader_Fictions has already started putting in… colorful choices. LOL.

  15. Steph Sinclair
    Twitter:

    cynicalsapphire Yes, I see you and The Form were getting so well aquatinted. Ha!
    Really? Most bloggers I know bow before his new book announcements and weep crystal tears when they release. But, like you, I really love his humor. So for that alone, I will be back to revisit him. Is this your favorite from him?
    Yeah, The Lonely Tear. It got me on the very last sentence. “I do, Augustus. I do.” GAH. Then, I got all mad when I flipped the page and realized that was the end. 
    Hmm… I don’t think I’ve read a MG book with super, smart protags. Though, this is probably because I don’t read a lot of MG. 
    IZ ASHAMED.

  16. Steph Sinclair
    Twitter:

    ReadingbyKF I think it’s just me because most people seemed to connect with these characters just fine! It’s still a very well-written book.
    I watch A Walk to Remember every time it comes on TV and it gets me in the FEELS every time! I love that movie.

  17. Steph Sinclair
    Twitter:

    Christina @ Christina Reads YA You know, now I’m wondering if John Green did that purposefully. Was his goal for the reader to feel slightly detached so the reader then viewed the characters and cancer’s effects in a more abstract light? Because I certainly didn’t understand the one character (the author of the book. I’m forgetting his name) or his actions, but I understood that the grief changed him into someone I wouldn’t get. Eh. Perhaps that is too deep. 
    Oh, the pressure of The Lonely Tear. On the last page, I felt my eyes water and I forced that sucker out because I was supposed to, because the story is more or less grim and because I had to have those tears go somewhere. What did Shrek say? Better out than in. LOL.
    It is such a smart read and I love reading books where I feel like I’m being taught something special. I have absolutely no complaints on the writing. So far, his writing is one of the best I have encountered. 
    Hahaha! No earthquake drill. That year of my school, my English teacher cursed out the class and quit on the spot in the middle of the year. We always had substitute teachers and learned virtually nothing that year, so I spent that period reading. I was at the end of the book and decided to read the last bit under my desk to have some sort of privacy while I engaged in the Ugly Cry.

  18. vi3ti3abe
    Twitter:

    I can see your reservations about this book, but glad you liked it nonetheless. I loved this book and hope the movie will be great too. Great review!

  19. WanderlustBooks

    Steph Sinclair Same issue. I respected Hazel and Augustus greatly, but I wasn’t able to put myself into their shoes, so to speak. And I don’t think that would change if I did become a terminally ill cancer patient; because Green does a perfect job of relating the tropes of these characters. It’s more of, I don’t so much connect with their personalities. They both have a slight ‘disconnect’ from life due to all the pain they’ve seen. It’s hard for them to reconcile that pain with the good, and I don’t blame them. And I don’t deny the pain or the good, I just have a different way of dealing with it than them.

  20. Christina @ Christina Reads YA

    Steph Sinclair Van houten? I don’t know why I want to say that was the author’s name. It could very well have been his intention – there were a lot of obvious and hidden metaphors in the book, so the detachment could have been yet another layer added to the story. Some other reviews I’d read, though, suggested that they’ve had the same issue with the characters in his other works… that grief would change the author into someone hard to understand? That theme I could believe as intentional. (I may have just gone in circles. Sorry o.O. I fear this book and my feelings on it are like that sometimes.)
    Wow, quite a dramatic quitting from the English teacher lolol. Reminds me of the chemistry teacher at my HS who threw a marker at a student and stormed out of the room. Having a period to read for yourself, even if you didn’t learn anything from the sub that year, still sounds really nice even with the memory of the Ugly Cry. (Haven’t read the book yet but the movie? Ohhhhh. *sigh*)

  21. Tory

    Oh gosh, my reserved copy is waiting for me at the library and I would have run over to get it if I didn’t maxed out my limits already, lol. So far, I haven’t seen anyone who hasn’t been overwhelmed by FEELS when/after they read this book. Just gonna wait for my turn! xD

  22. MJ

    I totally agree with you, I didn’t spill any tears and barely welled up… I guess I found it really hard to connect the two main characters… they weren’t vague, they were just too smart, too witty for reality. However I do believe that John Green is an amazing writer, I have read almost all his books and agree that he has a magical ability to string sentences. This was a great review, for at first I thought there was something wrong with me for not crying…. -.-

  23. dado

    I have a teenager and disagree, I think that JG is stuck in perpetual teenageracity, because my teen acts a lot like these teens except she doesn’t have cancer. Wow that sounded terrible. I also have a mom who perished quite violently and graphically from cancer and so don’t mind the lack of plot since cancer probably has eaten it. Pretty much the Plot is Cancer. I didn’t want to read this book. But I now understand a lot more about my kid. Kids, teenagers, a lot of them, are witty and articulate and actually much smarter than you, and they are annoyingly pretentious and cynical and snarky and they read all the time like crazy, and it is damn hard to be in their presence constantly, they are that dazzlingly alive. I believe these characters could exist. I’m so crabby that this book exists because it means cancer exists.

  24. mollyailsa

    Wasn’t a fan of the book, I thought it was poorly written and didn’t have much substance, but there you go. I’ve reviewed it on my blog (rather scathingly I’m afraid); I didn’t think that the plot amounted to much with its predictability and the characters were one-dimensional. I have yet to try other books by Green – are they any better and if so which ones would you recommend?
    mollyailsa recently posted…The Fault in our Stars: A ReviewMy Profile

  25. peggydvj

    I agree that TFIOS has a very simple plot, but I didn’t think there’s much you can do about a cancer book. You can only make your characters feel real enough to the readers. I’m glad I’m not the only one who thinks that the main characters are too intelligent for their age. In fact, I also wrote a book review about it. http://peggydvj.blogspot.com/2014/05/the-fault-in-our-stars-book-review.html

    I’d appreciate it if you took the time to read mine. Thanks! Great review by the way. 🙂
    peggydvj recently posted…The Fault in Our Stars: Book ReviewMy Profile

  26. Chris

    I understand your view on the authenticity of the characters. I see how you could have felt that to you they seemed not much else than reflections of the author’s voice.

    However, to me it seemed easy to believe them, mostly because I think living with a deadly disease would bring you to maturity earlier than your peers.

    Sure, you knew what was going to happen from the first pages, there was not much to add to that plot. That was the whole point, in my view.
    What I found captivating was the pressing feeling of slow descent towards death that you could not escape from all throughout the pages. Maybe it was meant to be a contemplative rather than an adventurous read. A 352-page inner monologue about your place in the world when facing your perish.

    And since reading was one of the very few options to escape their tragic destiny, it shouldn’t be a surprise to find them articulating their ideas in eloquent phrasing. I found them charming for acting like people 8-10 years older but always complaining about their parents’ smothering tendencies (how teenagery is that?).

    In fact, I think that assuming teenagers are unable to posses a complex vocabulary and contemplate big ideas might be rather condescending to them.

    And I suspect Green’s book was a deliberate break from the typical themes associated with young adult literature. Perhaps he believes young readers can grasp more than that. And for that I think The Fault in Our Stars deserves some credit.

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