Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Review: The Fault in Our Stars

Title: The Fault in Our Stars
Author: John Green
Genre: Young Adult, Drama, Romance
My Rating: ★★★★★

The Fault in Our Stars

How would you feel about life when you know that—after some kind of a miracle that postponed your meeting with the Grim Reaper—it’s only prolonged by a tankful of oxygen? How would you feel if your breaths are dependent on the said tank, which is tethered to you like an ominous shadow?  The final chapter of your life has finally been published, and all these medicine and hospital visits represent the recklessly scrawled, long-winded epilogue. Then, when all you’re waiting for is that final punctuation to close your tale, a reason to actually be glad to be alive popped up in front of you. The reason’s name is Augustus Waters.

This is The Fault in Our Stars, the story of Hazel Grace Lancaster, sixteen-year-old stage IV thyroid cancer survivor. But don’t throw it away just because you realized it’s “just another cancer book,” because in reality, it is not.

This is not a story about death—this is a story about life.

First of all, I want to say that I’m not particularly fond of novels that obviously use the theme of death only because the author knows it will sell like pancakes. I’m not averse to writers wanting to make the readers feel, but using the same formulaic thing over and over comes off as a mere strategy for commercial success. To me, capitalizing on something that guarantees an easy, heavy emotional impact from the audience sometimes feels like cheating. I believe you can touch, pinch, twinge, or even break the hearts of readers using (1) plotlines that do not require the attendance of some scythe-toting skeleton guy or (2) new material that does not zero in on the subject matter begging for tears. Countless of novels about cancer already exist; when I heard about John Green writing one, I backpedaled a little. But what can I do when a larger chunk of my nerdfighter heart trusts Green and all the stories he spins to life? I went through The Fault in Our Stars…and I’m more than glad I did, because even though it’s not perfect, I think it’s one of the best contemporary young adult books that I have read.

Hazel Grace is perhaps the best Green heroine so far. She gets her own humanity, refusing to take the mold that Alaska Young of Looking for Alaska and Margo Roth Spiegelman of Paper Towns share (there’s someone in the novel that squeezes in the cast, though: the enigmatic and “bitchy” Caroline Mathers). While she still exhibits what I fondly call JG’s Smart Kid Syndrome, her raw honesty about life are impactful, especially because the readers take it as the acumen of someone who came so close to Death’s embrace and knows that Death is still an arm span away from her.

But if you’ll ask me who I think takes the spotlight here, I’ll say it’s Augustus. A glimpse of the world from his perspective is never shown, but this is not deterrent for the readers to see he’s perfectly clad as the star-crossed hero. I kind of saw his fate a long, long way before it was revealed, but that knowledge didn’t prepare me when that time finally came. He’s just so alive, so hungry for more truths about the world, so funny, and so beautiful a person that his fate appeared to me as a crime when it took its course. In a short span of time, I've grown to love this boy.

Hazel and Augustus’ situation did not transform their love to something you can banner as an extraordinary romance. The book is too honest to subscribe to this trope, and for this, I commend Green. I’ve grown tired of love stories trying to flaunt their magic or whatever because of instances that Lady Luck frowned upon. Hazel and Augustus’ relationship is about as complex as any realistically tragic story—they know they’re an unlucky pair, and they have no choice but to accept that.

This leads us to the cornucopia of wisdom this book offers the readers: what it means to be alive, what it takes for a person to leave a mark, what happens to the people you leave behind, why unfairness seems to be a constant ingredient in recipe of mortality, and how you can say you have lived a good life. If you think about it, The Fault in Our Stars just enumerates things we already know, except that Green shifts the angles of his writing lenses a little so we may see the facts in a new light. It’s refreshing, well-written, and powerful enough not just to make me think, but also to make me laugh and cry (and sometimes both at the same time).

I also have to say I love the Peter van Houten part. In a way, we are shown a facet of love affair with books that can strike a chord with anybody who has been totally invested in a work of literature. Do the characters live long after you’ve flipped the last page, or do they stay as the fictional creations that they are, flat and unmoving on the pages?

This is a great read all in all. I’ll give it 4.5/5 stars! :) 

2 comments:

  1. Great review! I read the book very soon after it came out because everyone was reeling about it. But I feel like the only person in the world who isn't in love with it. I liked it a lot and it was very beautiful and I liked big parts of it... But I just can't feel that thing everyone else seem to feel.
    I haven't read many (any?) books about cancer before but I can agree with it being a somewhat easy excuse to make readers feel.. But I loved how they touched it in the books and how Hazel was so both afraid and tired of it.

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    1. Thanks! No, you're the only person who feels that way. There's one over at tumblr who told me she felt like a bitch for thinking TFiOS is overrated, haha! Me too, I liked it so much, but I didn't feel like giving it full five stars (that's 4.5, because idk, I feel like there's something missing in there).
      Right! Themes like that mean easy money for most writers.

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