So... I think, with all the hype, I was just expecting something more
from this book. But instead, I got a book that I knew the ending of as soon as I read the beginning and I couldn't help but think, "Oh, of course." I think because I was able to predict the ending so soon that it didn't affect me as strongly as it affected other readers. I didn't feel destroyed, but it's also important to note that I never once felt emotionally manipulated.
My biggest issue with The Fault in Our Stars
lies in two areas: its attempt at philosophy and the characters. I'll start with the philosophy issue first.
Cancer kids are side effects of living? In that case, people with mental illness are side effects. People with eating disorders are side effects. People with broken arms, people with broken hearts, people with broken lungs and people with broken brains -- all of these are side effects. If this is the case, then everyone is a side effect
which means there's nothing to be an effect to. Consciousness is defined by us. We are the living, we are the ones who are conscious. And if we're all side effects, then what's the main diagnosis? The consciousness? I think the consciousness is just a side effect, too. What exactly is consciousness except the meaning that we, the side effects, have given it? It's classic Lacan: a tree is a tree because we call it a tree, but is it still a tree if we give it a different name? Maybe I'm digging too deep here, but Green created deep characters and it was frustrating to read this philosophy-lite over and over and over again.
My second issue was the characters. Why did all the characters speak the same? I swear, they all had the same humor and it was unrealistic. I didn't feel like many of the characters got their own personalities because they were all mimicking each other. Well, maybe that's not completely true. I did feel like Kaitlyn was different, and even Isaac sometimes, but the two main characters - Augustus and Hazel - felt completely interchangeable in their dialog and that was really weird to experience as a reader. I think they were fleshed out, but it felt like he didn't think too hard about how they spoke. He didn't really create different nuances, different defining characteristics for each person. They all just kind of blurred into one huge cube of John-Green-humor.
So, moving on to the things I did like: the writing. It's evident that John Green has taken a few writing courses in his day. Sometimes that meant that the writing style was a little formulaic, but it was also refreshing to see that someone had done their homework. And it should be recognized that he was able to interweave humor and tragedy almost seamlessly, which is something that cannot be taught. Although I didn't cry in this book, I did find myself laughing outright and in public, no less. I have to applaud him for that.
And I did like that this wasn't exactly a "cancer book". It's more about a book on living and just remembering to be alive. Oh, and the "book within a book" idea with An Imperial Affliction
was also quite brilliant as well. The plot itself was really fun and big enough to encompass a novel without dwelling too much on the dying-of-cancer aspect.
Overall, this is a book worth checking out. A lot
of people recommended it to me and a lot of people on Goodreads, and in the world, love it. It's garnered enough attention to make a movie out of it, so that must be saying something. This was my first experience with John Green and I will definitely check out his other stuff.