So, this week I finally did what most true Nerdfighters and John Green fans did a few months ago: finish The Fault In Our Stars, a.k.a. TFIOS. The worst thing about this was I was one of the 150,000 people that got a preordered, and thus signed, copy of TFIOS so I’ve had absolutely no excuse for not having finished it much earlier. Although, maybe that’s a reflection on the book. If you’d like to read a proper review, read on…
Now, I hate spoilers, particularly with books. I hate book spoilers more than spoilers for any other type of media. I feel that it breaks the impact and general enjoyment of reading a book. For that reason, I’m going to, for the most part, avoid plot spoilers. I will have to spoil some other elements, otherwise, there’ll be nothing to this review.
So, in case you’re unaware, TFIOS revolves around the changes in the life and mindset of a young girl named Hazel, who has terminal cancer, after she meets a boy named Augustus. Primarily, this is a love story, but not of the nature of Romeo & Juliet or Pride & Prejudice. If you’re familiar with John Green’s work, you recognise the feeling of this book. I say recognise because it’s not quite the same, but it does ring of John-Green-iness.
So, as you can probably guess by the amount of time that it took me to read TFIOS, I didn’t do it in one go, or in a hurry. Unlike the other John Green books I’ve read, TFIOS didn’t motivate me to read. When I was reading it, I was engaged enough to be reading for ages. But between sessions, I didn’t feel that pull back to the TFIOS world. Maybe it’s because it’s mostly an unhappy place. Maybe it was because, in some parts, I felt like I was getting lectured on how good I had it. Maybe it was because parts of the book felt over-philosophised, like it was trying really hard to impart wisdom on me. The core of this novel centres around 42 (the meaning of life, the universe & everything) and does a pretty darn good job of handle it. Although, I can’t help but feel like it tries a bit too hard in spots, and therefore forces the reader into the thought patterns of Hazel and the other characters, rather than allowing you to came to your own conclusions. Maybe that’s done on purpose and for the best though. Nonetheless, it contributed to my lack of relating to Hazel, and was probably part of the reason I wasn’t as motivated to read on.
Chaptering is something I’m often annoyed by with books, and this was no exception. For the most part, chapters occur where there’s a break in the flow of events, which makes them feel natural. But some chapters felt way too long, while others were surprisingly short. Some passages felt airy and slow, while others pack too many punches to digest in the space. Thankfully, it doesn’t start too slow. The pace at the start is some of the best in the book, but the chapters are a bit long. While this probably wouldn’t phase the most powerful of readers, it bugs me when I’m hanging out for ages to get to the end of the chapter.
Despite my reservations to its approach and all, I think a lot of the things that jarred me about TFIOS are somewhat done on purpose and with the intent to make you think and feel things in a different way to other books. For example, for the majority of the novel, I didn’t really identify that well with any of the characters, but that just highlights the difference between my life and theirs. TFIOS is suppose to be thought-provoking which it definitely is, but it’s enjoyable too. The lessons and morals are not presented at the expense of humour. No matter my complaints, I still enjoyed some really funny and cute, heart-touching moments throughout the book. There are also moments that fill you with awe of the world, and the vigour of life.
One intriguing element that always made me stop and thing whenever it occurred was the Capitalisation Of Phases to create pseudo-proper nouns. One spoiler-less example would be “Special Yellow Dress”. By capitalising the phrase, it emphasises it in a particular way, to give the item or occurrence in reference a significance and specificity that’s lost in lower case. It’s akin to adding “the” to the start of the phrase, but much more flexible. I thought it was a really smart and engaging way of making the reader think about what these items meant and why they’d be capitalised. However in some cases, I didn’t agree with the number of words that were capitalised, too many or too few, or the lack of capitalisation in the middle of the phrase. I know you’re not suppose to capitalise “of” and “the” like that, but without it, I felt it looked disjointed and lost some of the emphasis. In some ways, the whole thing reminded me of Margo Roth Spiegelman’s argument for random capitalization.
I don’t know if this could be considered a spoiler or not, so be warned. One of my weirdest, and probably most individual complaints about TFIOS was that it made me cry, but not at the end. Sure, I probably could have cried at the end, but I was so sick of crying two thirds in, that I didn’t have any cry-worthy sentimentality left for the end of the book. I don’t want to spoil it, but the bit that really made me cry happened about ~8 chapters from the end. It felt cruel to reduce me to a ball of tears, then ask me to soldier on for another 8 chapters! No. I had to take a break, at the very least. When a book makes me cry, I want to stop and think about why I’m crying.
If you’ve read other John Green books and enjoyed them , then you’ll enjoy this. It’s a much deeper journey and a lot more bumpy too, but through it you gain a knowledge and experience that you’ll probably and hopefully never really experience in real life.
Have you read The Fault In Our Stars? What did you think? Did you preorder it? Did it live up to your expectations? Has it changed your view on the world? Have I said anything you disagree with? Tell me & everyone else who passes through here what you think in the comment below, or on the Facebook page.
P.S. I know this review is rather negative, and if you’ve read any others of TFIOS you’ll notice that they’re nothing but glowing. I just wanted to let you know that I agree with nearly everything those people say, but i thought you ought to hear the other side of the story. Just in case you haven’t seen/heard any of those other glowing reviews, here’s one I highly suggest you go watch: http://youtu.be/5i0wDhyjXl8. I agree with everything she said, particularly about the intellectualism of the characters, but i just didn’t think/get to mention it.
- Looks from Books: The Fault in Our Stars (collegefashion.net)
- Thanks for making me cry (I’m looking at YOU, John Green) (writeaubreywrite.wordpress.com)