Thursday, 12 June 2014

Book Review: The Fault In Our Stars by John Green

The Fault in Our StarsThe Fault in Our Stars by John Green
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I can count the number of books and movies that had made me cry on both hands, though I don't need all 9.5 of my fingers to do it. This book will not join those ranks. It doesn't even come close.

The Fault in Our Stars centers around two pretentious, teenagers as they suffer together through a variety of cancer-caused maladies (or Side-effects as our narrator Hazel likes to call them.) and fall in love, knowing their time together is finite.

So, we're stuck with these characters who fall basically instantly in love and just pontificate how much they love each other and how hot they both are. Then they bond over books and video games and "Gee doesn't cancer suck?" "Totes.".

Then they mock Disneyland and go to Amsterdam where they learn the author of the book they bonded over is a dill-hole. I like to imagine Van Houten is John Green's self-insert. "How do you like me now you overly romantic, sappy teenage girls!? WAAHAHAHA!!!"

It's not all bad. There is some good, non-pretentious imagery, like that Hazel named one of her breathing apparatus Phillip (As an aside, my prosthetic leg's name is Leggy, my stump is named Stumpy. My wheelchair is named Brookhaven.) and how she likes to imagine another device is a dragon sleeping by her side. There is some harsh reality too, like how no one visits when a person is gross and sick but once they die, the Facebook mourners come in droves, or that, simply, life isn't fair. (Or, that The World Isn't a Wish Granting Machine which they say more than Uncle Ben goes on about Great Power and just shut up, shut up, SHUT UP, SHUT UP! Get new material, kids! See? Even when I try to give this book the benefit of the doubt I find something annoying.)

But when these two lovers get together the lame pretentiousness skyrockets, to the point where neither character talks like a human being. Hazel talks like a 30 year old trying to talk like a young, sick, Eff-the-world! teenager. And, to be honest, she was a bitch. Cancer or no cancer she would spout out 'wise' words that were actually really bitchy and cruel. I rolled my eyes several times.

And Gus...oh boy, Gus. Gus spoke like...Like no human teenage boy speaks. Even by teenage pretension levels he's off the charts.

So, this resulted in the problem of my favorite character being Issac, their mutual friend who's story was actually way more compelling. He loses his eyesight then the teenage love of his life flat out says "I can't do this" and he cares more about HER and how her abandonment feels than the loss of his sight. There's something there, something to be said about loss and abandonment and the weakness of the healthy when confronted by the harsh realities of living with a sick person. Also he spoke like a freaking human being.

I really, really wanted this book to end in a way that would slam home just how unfair life is. I wanted it to end with Gus dying from a car-accident or a mugging or something. I wanted him to fight so hard to be with Hazel and then have them lose it all by random happenstance. I wanted THAT unfairness. That is how I wanted this book to end.

Which is funny, because that's kind of how My Sister's Keeper ends and I hated that, but for certain reasons. (Reasons that concern Right to Die and Die With Dignity laws, which I believe in.)

Because of my health issues, I've thought a lot about dying and death, concepts which are neither romantic or sexy. I get that these two characters know they have little time in their world, and they're trying to pack as much living as they can in their short time, but there are better stories about human suffering than this. More human stories with more human characters.

I wish the movie 50/50 was a novel. THAT, is one great cancer story.

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