Not to be that asshole, but I didn’t read that many young adult novels when I was an actual young adult. Now that I’m a regular adult, I feel a bit silly reading something like The Hunger Games, particularly since plenty of people love to loudly denounce adults who read young adult novels, wringing their hands about some kind of modern literacy crisis as though everyone who read The Hunger Games could’ve read Jude the Obscure instead, but it’s all ruined now. Either way, now that I’m older and less of a pretentious jerk, I do like to try more genres/categories that I might’ve missed the first time around.
I can’t remember why I picked up The Fault in Our Stars, except that it’s one of those novels that seems to pop up everywhere and buries itself in your subconscious until you finally give in and just read it – good work, cookies marketing – so I downloaded it and polished it off in a few days.
I’m stalling in terms of writing the actual review because I’m really torn on how to express what I thought of this novel as a whole. On the one hand, I probably would’ve loved it as a teenager; there’s all of that fantastic “smart teens who use big words and scoff at their average peers” stuff that douchebag teenagers feed off of. And there’s the trope of the ultimate boyfriend any girl could hope for – extremely handsome, smart, funny, considerate, generous but with a flaw that makes all of it attainable – who doesn’t actually exist, but works well in a fictional setting.
And, since this is a male young adult author, one (or both) of them is dying from a fatal illness.
Mean as it might sound, Nicholas Sparks for smart(er) teens is probably the best and most accurate way to describe The Fault in Our Stars. Our tragic leads don’t go on a boat ride surrounded by swans, but instead chat about books. And at least the cancer is on the table right from the get-go.
Essentially the plot is that Hazel Grace Lancaster, a 17-year-old girl with lung cancer, meets Augustus Waters, a 17-year-old one-legged boy who used to have osteosarcomais, at a cancer support group and they fall in love despite Hazel’s protests that a now-healthy boy shouldn’t waste his life with her. In a sub-plot that eventually joins up with the main story, Hazel is obsessed with a book written by an author who only ever wrote the one novel and then went into seclusion in the Netherlands. The book is also about cancer.
Going in, I had no idea what Fault was about (I didn’t even bother with a synopsis) so I was fairly irritated that this was another “teens with cancer” book, but I will say that the wittiness of the writing, coupled with the fun (if far-from-believable) plot and dialogue makes up for the initial gimmicky tragedy of it all.
Maybe I held something back, but I didn’t find that the book hit me on the emotional level it was aiming for. That said, if you do want to at least check this out because of the hype surrounding it, I will say it’s better than the mass majority of young adult novels on the shelf right now.
I’m still a bit stuck in terms of the final point I want to make with the review, since ultimately this book just didn’t leave a huge impression on me. It felt like something I’d read a dozen times before, that I didn’t connect with enormously and didn’t leave me with anything new. In some ways, this feels like one of the harshest reviews I’ve written, since at least I hated a lot of the other ones I read last year with a passion, but I can’t muster up enough emotion or thought about this to rate it any higher or lower than a shoulder shrug.
As you can imagine, Green’s tragic cancer kids novel is currently being developed into a movie.
Thoughts? Have you read it? Do you have any genuinely passionate feelings about it either way?