Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

Okay. I just started and deleted about eighteen sentences in a row trying to figure out what exactly my thoughts on this book are. I very obviously loved it, but not in a conventional way.

This is a essentially a book about people and fear and life, three things I'm decently familiar with but never in words that were as hilariously clever and cutting as John Green's. Using a Neil Gaimanism, no one can write a John Green book like John Green. A mixture of grief that makes you want to stay in bed all day holding a soggy page of a venn diagram paired with written wit that induces laughter that fuels Monsters Inc factories worldwide.

Something I've heard often, and which I agree with to an extent, is that it's a little pretentious on the surface - that the teenagers don't act like teenagers. If I honestly met anyone like Green's main characters Hazel and Augustus, whose every sentence seemed to be filled with brilliance of either wisdom or wit, I would be a little ashamed about my "your face" jokes. These are two characters that are some of the most well-written, thought-out, full-fledged characters I've come across since Charlie from Perks. But if there are people who speak as easily as Augustus and Hazel, John Green's keyboard should come without a backspace button. Because if it were honestly authentic nothing would be deleted or rewritten, which makes it lack a portion of authenticity solely because the tongues of teenagers very obviously don't have backspace buttons. But that can be said about any book at all, or any movie or play or tv show. Their dialogue is carefully thought over and written and deleted and cut and rewritten. Should John Green have deleted all of his intelligent thoughts that his characters represent, just because of that fact? Books and plays and movies are supposed to show the significant parts of people's lives, not the boring parts, so the significant thoughts and ideas and moments are recorded. If anyone were to sit down and only write their best thoughts out, would that be unauthentic because it isn't representative of all of their thoughts? I mean, I rewrote a lot of these thoughts and if I were to speak my original ideas, it would be more like this: omg this book was so good!!!!!!!! Does that make the more articulate thoughts less than authentic, because I took time with them? I don't know, but this complaint somehow got under my skin even though I was able to agree with it on some parts.

But basically, as John Green himself said, he likes to write smart characters - and I like to read smart characters, so I can't really complain about authenticity. Even though that's what I just did. It's not really a complaint, though, because you can't complain about something you like, and I liked their dialogue as much as Gilmore Girls. (Yeah, I just compared Green to Gilmore Girls, at least it has alliteration.)  I think part of the reason the book is so amazing is because they're amazing people, and if it were any less people would be complaining for the exact opposite reason. But I wanted to address it because I want to hear your thoughts and also to say to hell with it because critiquing people on being too smart seems more pretentious than what I initially brought up, so it's time for a transition.

Transitioning a paragraph that just ended in transition is actually pretty hard, so speaking of Peter Van Houghton, there was a parallel between Hazel and her thoughts on her favorite book, An Imperial Affliction, and the reader and The Fault in Our Stars. Maybe not The Fault in Our Stars in particular, but definitely to books in general. Hazel's thoughts speak of the importance of books, of what makes them more than just ink on paper; if they have eternal ideas and purpose, or if art itself is just as mortal as people. Because art is essentially nothing without people to take something from it, and the thought about that and mortality is pretty consistent in The Fault in Our Stars. It makes you question what you take out of the book, out of every book you read, and the importance it has. It's not something I'd really stopped to think about before, or something that had been addressed much, so it really hit me.

Basically, it's a book that makes you think and laugh, which is why I loved it so much. It makes you feel pretty much everything on the emotional spectrum. And that, in my opinion? It's pretty okay.

70 comments:

  1. Chelsea - this just makes me want to read The Fault in Our Starts today. Right now. All other books be damned. Unfortunately, I'm still in queue for this one at the local library. I've been tempted, on many occasions, to run to my local bookseller to buy the book, but I am trying to book budget as much as possible. Of course, this only works if I don't decide, after reading the library's copy, that I must own the book and then go out and buy it.

    As for dialogue that is well-written and edited, I say, "HOORAY!" I'd much rather read smart characters with well thought out dialogue than sloppy characters with common dialogue. Writing is art - make no mistake - and it should sound like it.

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  2. I love this review! I also love you that you loved this book. Apparently this is the type of book that requires the word 'love' to be used nonstop. I'm such a fan of John Green's books, and I completely agree with what you said about being completely intimidated if you ever did meet a teenager like the ones in his books. However, I really admire the back that, despite the criticism he might get for choosing to write similarly intelligent and outrageously witty characters, John Green doesn't stop what he does best, and he doesn't change the things and people he loves to write about just because other people see it as somewhat unrealistic. I think his characters being above average in the ways of wisdom and wit show teenagers that it's okay, admirable even, to be smart and witty.

    Anyway, long rambly comment aside, glad you enjoyed this book, and thanks for reviewing it!

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  3. I loved this book. So so so so so much. I had such a hard time reviewing it, because it's so wonderful and so smart and so... sigh. I read Green's books because I know he is going to give me smart, clever, and witty. Yet his prose is still so easy to read. It doesn't bother me or strike me as inauthentic. It is authentic to the world he has created and anyone who claims that a contemporary book does not create its own world and rules every time is just fooling themselves. Okay, now I'm going to go all fan girl again.. I LOVE THIS BOOK. SIGH. I want to reread it forever.

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  4. Everything on the emotional spectrum? That sounds a little intense. I can't wait to read this!

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  5. I find it amazing in itself that you could actually WRITE a review for this book. I read it and... I was speechless. I seriously had no idea how to put the amazing-ness of this book into words. I'm glad that at least some of us had the ability to!

    Anastasia's latest post:
    Book Review: Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins

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  6. I haven't read any of John Green's books, but this one sounds AWESOME. Thanks for the great review!

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  7. I read this book at least 9 months ago, and I still treasure that read and think about those characters as if I read it yesterday. The Fault in Our Stars was haunting in the powerful way it was written.

    I like that you mentioned Peter Van Houghton and An Imperial Affliction. For Hazel, knowing how the story ended was important because she wanted to know what would happen to those she would eventually leave behind. Her terror at the destruction she would cause her parents and then learning that life would go on for them was beautiful. *wipes a tear*

    Thanks for sharing your review.

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  10. I am pleased to see this review because it gives some much needed balance to the discussion about this book. I have seen many glowing reviews of it but held back reading it myself as I thought it sounded a bit tacky, I feel justified now!

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