[This review is based on the digital edition published by the Dutton Books imprint of Penguin Group USA in 2012.]
Disclaimer: I know there are probably people out there who haven’t yet read this book. If you are among that group, please proceed with caution. Spoilers ahead!
Here’s the deal:
Hazel Grace Lancaster is a sixteen-year-old girl living with cancer. Her mother sends her to a support group at their local church, where she meets Augustus “Gus” Waters, a seventeen-year-old boy in remission from osteosarcoma. Hazel, seeing herself as a grenade, refuses to allow herself to fall in love with Gus. However, she can’t escape the inevitable and the pair eventually become a couple. Gus uses his Wish (a Cancer Kid “perk”) to travel to Amsterdam with Hazel so she can meet the author of her favorite book. After the disastrous meeting, they return home, only to be torn apart shortly thereafter by tragedy. So who was the grenade: Hazel or Gus? And how does the survivor manage to carry on?
My first thought upon closing the book: It was…heavy. (Okay? Okay.) (Yeah, I went there. Anyone who has read the book will understand my meaning.)
My second thoughts: [SPOILER ALERT] How much longer after the story ends does Hazel live? Does she ever move on, or is Gus her one and only? Is she romantically buried near Gus?
My third thought: I think I may have arrived to this party way, way too late. Major booksellers and fans of the book, who call themselves “Nerdfighters” (the reason for which can be found here), have been hyping Fault since it was released, and again after the announcement that a movie adaptation was in production. It was kind of inevitable that I would read it — before the film release, of course! — but I failed to become one with its earth-shattering awesomeness. It’s a great story, with intelligent characters and a heartbreaking ending, but for me it wasn’t one of those oh-my-God-I’m-going-to-read-this-again-and-again-and-again-and-oh-my-God-all-the-feels!!! kind of books. I can feel the flames coming already…
Okay, now that I got that out of the way, let’s get serious for a bit. The Fault in Our Stars, at its core, is truly a beautiful love story. I loved that Hazel fell in love with Gus “slowly, then all at once”; I loved that their sex scene, while not explicitly described, was as complicated and awkward as any sex scene between two virgins, fictional or real, would be; I really loved Gus’ final letter to Van Houten and Hazel’s last words in the story. I also realized after finishing the book that the whole book, with the exception of those last words, is told in the past tense. (Well done, John Green.) But something about it didn’t quite strike a nerve for me. Stories about kids with cancer are always very sad, but to my knowledge I haven’t known a child or teenager who’s dealt with any form of cancer — nevermind dying from it — and so I simply couldn’t relate on that level. Believe me, I tried.
I appreciated the story, and I felt connections with Hazel, Gus, and John Green’s writing. I didn’t particularly care for Van Houten himself, but I have a feeling that I’m supposed to feel that way about him. To be honest, I don’t know why I wasn’t swimming in a puddle of tears after reading that last page (because I know I probably should have). Obviously, I’m not a robot. I think it may be that I know a film adaptation will be in theaters later this week, and that I’m holding off on getting emotional until I have a chance to watch the story play out onscreen; I rarely cry when reading books, while movies set me off all the time. Call it a cop-out, but it’s true for me. I will be sure to come back after the film has been released to let you know whether I was able to control the waterworks and how my response to the film changes my feelings toward the book, if at all. (And honestly, I hope it does: I really want to feel as strongly about Fault as so many others do, but I don’t want to force it.)
So would I recommend this book?
The Fault in Our Stars, in my opinion, was a good book, but I wasn’t left running through boxes of tissues and “feeling all the feels”…but it seems that I’m in the minority on that one, the exception to the rule. Give it a read — unless you were on time to the TFiOS party and have read it already — and share your thoughts in the comments. This is a discussion I’d love to have with you! (Just please be civil. Name-calling etc. will get your comment deleted.)