Hello lovely readers! Don’t I just love being creative at midnight during a critical period of my life when I’m definitely supposed to be studying but since I’m useless I decide to write a blogpost instead? 😀
In all fairness to myself, I’ve had this post in me for a while and it’s been struggling to come out and I suppose the time has come to set it free. Even as I irreparably damage my future in the process.
(Shut up. I know what you’re thinking. It’s annoying. )
(PS that was a Sherlock reference it was a joke I don’t find you annoying I love you)
It’s been a while since I’ve reviewed a book on this blog, mostly because it’s been a while since I’ve paid enough attention to a book to be able to review it. But the day before my English Grammar exam (literally the very day before it), I read The Fault in Our Stars. It’s a book, it’s one I paid attention to, and it’s the one that everyone loves. What could be more perfect to end this drought?
I’ll state this: The Fault in Our Stars was a very pleasant read.
What surprised me most about the book was the latent character development. About halfway through the book I paused to take stock of where I was and how I liked it, and the first thing I noticed was the hidden character growth of Hazel. Initially, when I started reading, I felt very reactionary towards what she was saying, especially the ideas about her philosophy in life. But as I progressed further, I realised I had stopped contradicting her thoughts at some point and started paying attention instead. I liked that; I have not witnessed this in many other young adult books; even in Harry Potter, for example, I now find the character development to be highly overt. I liked the language, which was neither obtusely literary nor aggressively conversational, as I sometimes felt The Hunger Games books were wont to be. It was almost just the perfect balance of both for it to be approachable, but not diluted; musical rather than staccato, but not frivolous. I like that the story was less about terminal illness and more about life; for the first time, Hazel really learns to live.
I know that fangirls, or, as I like to call them, readers, tend to deify Augustus a lot, but to me the entire story was by, of and about Hazel. Augustus was simply a factor in it- a very large factor, the game-changing one, but I liked the thought that in the end, Hazel would be able to continue the journey on her own, unsupported, independent, on her own two feet (I already knew that Gus would not live). However, the story circles back to Augustus in the end. I have to admit I was disappointed; I was really hoping that it would end with Hazel, and I genuinely thought that it was only fitting that Gus would die: that was what gave the story the shock factor and lifted it above the mundane. As a plot device, bringing the story back to Gus was a good one: it completed the story, tying it up in a neat little parcel. But is that necessarily a good thing, especially with reference to this particular book? I know I would have personally preferred it to be otherwise.
My favourite character is, unequivocally, Peter van Houeten. I just like the “absent character” phenomenon in general (re: Wuthering Heights, Rebecca) but I’m freaking invested in this guy and I love the way he combines comedy and tragedy in his character. I love his thoughts, I love how incredibly human and completely messed up he is. *cough* I’m not projecting at all *cough*.
The Fault in Our Stars lived up to my expectations. I ought to mention that it wasn’t all the social media hype about the book itself that made me want to read it- if anything it did exactly the opposite; to paraphrase Oscar Wilde, whenever too many people adulate one thing, I feel like they must be wrong. My routine reaction to pretty much anything that everyone recommends is scepticism (exhibit A: The Avengers, which I watched about a year and a half after it released). I approached this book with the same caution. But after watching the trailer for the film, I knew I wanted to read it, because I could tell that it had quotes directly from the book. (There was no way a Hollywood executive came up with, “I’m grateful for our little infinity.”) I’m glad to say that I was not let down. I gave it four out of five stars in Goodreads. I would have considered five, but then where would the fault be?
(God I’m so bad at jokes please forgive me)
On a concluding note, I’d like to say that, rather obviously, this is an extremely personal assessment. (This is a disclaimer I like adding to most blogposts nowadays, especially ones that involve opinions, because I’ve seen what internet backlash can do to people within hours and even minutes.) If you have different views, feel free to share them below! I’d love to read them. If you liked this, give it a share on Facebook/ Twitter/ Google+ because I’m getting into this blogging thing seriously and it would really help me out a bunch. Thanks for reading, and I promise I’ll be back soon wasting my time and killing my future to share more opinions. K. Bye!
Edit: this comes about two months later and I must say that on the second read, the book seems much less savoury. I wonder if I, like so many others, was carried away while writing this review because I was afraid of the possible backlash? Or was I simply relieved to find it not quite as banal as I’d feared it would be? In direct contradiction to what I said before, the narrative now appears to have a strangely inconsistent tone; at times, it jumps into philosophical analysis with startling suddenness, like at the part where it talks about Maslow’s teory and Augustus being an exception to it, just as Hazel’s shouting “What is air” is completely incongruous to the tone of van Houten’s letter. In Virgina Woolf’s “To the Lighthouse”, one can find a seamless blend of the conversational and the philosophical, a beautiful, melodious merger, which is what the book seemed to have been aiming towards, but never quite got to. The latent idea of a merger is there, but it’s very nebulous. I also frequently feel like the book is trying too hard: we’re constantly reminded of how “different” Gus and Hazel are. After a while, this got really annoying. Yes, we get it, you’re different. Now show us how you are, rather than saying how you are, over and over. And what is so different about reading poetry, and thinking about existential questions? One would, I think, be surprised at how many of us do not lead the lives of “monstrous consumption” that Hazel implicates all of us in. I’ve also begun to think that Isaac is an extremely overlooked character. His story is just as tragic as the star-crossed lovers’.
This is not to take away from the good things about the book, noted above. They are merely characteristics I noticed on a slightly more careful and less under-pressure reading. And if I seem “heartless”, well, I am. I am critiquing a piece of literature, dispassionately and analytically, to the best of my ability and knowledge. Sentimentality really finds no place here, just as sentimentality cannot alter logical analysis or facts.
No doubt, The Fault in Our Stars is a different book, as far as modern YA literature goes- I found so much of the depth of though and philosophy that I crave for in modern Lit, in its pages, and I really do think that that’s absolutely wonderful (hence my decision not to change my rating of it on Goodreads). But I hope it is giving birth to a trend of reading and thinking, rather than blind idolatry and fanatical reverence. (It is ironic that I have to provide such a carefully-worded defence of an opinion, which is just like any other, on a platform that supposedly propagates independence and freedom of thought and speech) If it turns more teenagers towards intellectual exercise, then it has been an important cultural landmark in the history of humanity; if it turns more teenagers towards deifying Augustus Waters, then I’m not sure who will be sadder: John Green or I.
This edit was partly inspired by this video.