As people have been raving about this book from the moment the galleys went out, I figured it’s one I should be familiar with. Much in the way I love Neil Gaiman for inspiring people to read with fervor, I love John Green for doing the same, particularly for teens. If you aren’t aware, he and his brother, Hank, have their own faction of followers, known around the world as Nerdfighters. This is a wonderful thing.
The Fault in Our Stars is a book about living. It is about making your mark on the world and how that mark can be just as important if it affects one person’s life or puts you in the history books. It is also a book where the two main characters have cancer, wryly described as “a side effect of dying.” I initially didn’t read this book because I’m afraid of disease and thought of a cancer story was off-putting to say the least. Still, all the acclaim made me realize I needed read it in spite of my fears. Do you know what I found? It wasn’t a “cancer story” at all. It was the the story of two bright, unique teens who fall in love and happen to have cancer. Cancer plays a big role in the book because it plays a big role in the characters’ lives, but it was still always about the living. It does not shy away from pain or harsh realities, but Green ensures there is a fair amount of space devoted to love, beauty, and humor. Hazel Lancaster and Augustus Waters are teens with teenage feelings, who have been dealt a less than stellar hand. Green tells their story without sugarcoating it and without apology, and that is why teen readers flock to his work. He gets them. He understands the excess of emotion and hormones surging through their veins, the “big thoughts” about existence that are hitting them for the first time, and he gives them smart characters who are feeling as much as they are.
It really was a good book. But…
It’s not for me. John Green’s style as a writer is not one that resonates with me because I do not revel in an excess of emotion. I actually like to avoid feelings, so I don’t identify with people who prefer to experience them intensely. He also writes characters who are a bit too smart and well-read, who must engage in witty banter at all times. As such, they are more crafted than realistic. I felt the same way about Green’s writing as I did towards the WB show, The Gilmore Girls. Eventually, I want everybody to shut up and for the writers to show me a character I might actually come across in real life. Maybe that’s part of the appeal, though. Perhaps people would love to meet these intelligent, quirky individuals; they are their dream friends, their soulmates.
I am grateful for John Green because so many people do, in fact, yern for the characters and stories he puts into the world. I will always appreciate him and stay up to date with his work because I think he is an invaluable contributor to the YA literary scene, though he may not be my particular cup of tea. Please do read The Fault in Our Stars. I do not hesitate to recommend it–just brace yourself for feelings and wit to be unleashed upon you.