Get the tissues out!

The Fault in Our Stars – John Green


There has been a lot of chat about this book, a lot of positive reviews and how it is going to be turned into a movie.  You want to know something, after reading it I am not sure what the hype is all about. 

If you have not read the book it goes like this Hazel Grace Lancaster is a teenager living on borrowed time as she has lung cancer. She meets Augustus "Gus" Waters, a cancer survivor, at a support group and soon they fall head over heels in love. They form a strong bond over Hazel's favorite book, "An Imperial Affliction" which tells the story of a girl with cancer. The problem is the book ends suddenly and both Hazel and Gus want to know what happens next.  Gus uses his wish as a cancer sufferer to go and meet Peter Van Houten who lives in the Netherlands to resolve the books ending. From there Hazel and Gus develop a relationship and a Kleenex moment happens at the end.
What Green has written is a sentimental love story with a tissue ending that tries to capture what teenagers think about having cancer.

The cancer is used as a device to illicit sympathy and the so called big issues are never tackled, they are skated over.  There seemed to be a great deal of the parents hanging back being spectators to events. The tension between what is right and wrong for a person who is sick and how they should manage the situation was glossed over. There was a little explosion of emotion here and there but mostly it was never addressed. Some exploration about the issue of sex would have been interesting and one of those big issues that could have been addressed.
For me there were parts of this book that really did not work. The link between the two main characters over ‘An Imperial Affliction’ was pretty tenuous at best and as a plot device was weak. There were a couple of times I felt the point of view seemed to have changed. At one stage Hazel was speaking present tense and then it seemed she was writing past tense.  I am happy to be wrong on that but there seemed to me to be the odd occasion where that occurred.

I struggled to like Augustus, as self-described charmer he was obnoxious with a sense of righteousness that was maddening. I mean everything he did was right and had a bigger purpose. I struggled to like this guy at all. Hazel was slightly more believable but for a person out of school for three years, being forced into social group by her parents as she had no friends at all, she did not seem that shy at all when it comes to making new friends. It was a bit of a contradiction. Hazel’s parents were so understanding, so nice, so okay with everything that I wanted them to shake them out of their saintliness. Peter Van Houten is the antithesis of all the nice characters, he is the only angry person who hates what is happening but he is portrayed as being only able to cope through the love of the bottle.

For me the characters were allowed to pretty much do what they wanted, when they wanted and all because they had cancer and might die at any time. So no laws or responsibility was ever applied to them.

The question for me was if you did not have the tissue ending would so many people be rating this as a five star book?  I felt that I was being manipulated in that by coming out with a massive tearjerker of an ending meant the rest of the novel is forgotten.   

 If you want to find out more about John Green here is his website