March 5, 2014

How to Tell Sad Stories

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

Release Date: January 2012
Publisher: Penguin | Dutton
Pages: 313 pages
Source & Format: Bought; Kindle e-book
Amazon | Goodreads

Summary (from Goodreads)
Despite the tumor-shrinking medical miracle that has bought her a few years, Hazel has never been anything but terminal, her final chapter inscribed upon diagnosis. But when a gorgeous plot twist named Augustus Waters suddenly appears at Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazel's story is about to be completely rewritten.

Brief Thoughts on The Fault in Our Stars
This book is beloved by many, and I know that I'll be a bit of the black sheep (at least in the book blogosphere) in my thoughts on it. I'm choosing not to write a full review because I can't really find the words to explain how I felt about this read. I never cried or even came close - mostly because I felt like the book was trying too hard to make me cry. And, to be honest, "trying too hard" is kind of how I felt about the book overall. I can understand why people love it so much, but it just wasn't the book for me. At the end of the day, I don't think I'm the right reader for John Green.

As a big character reader, I think I struggled with Green's book because I didn't like the characters. They felt too pretentious and unrealistic to me. It was hard for me to get past that there was one teenager who talked and acted this way - let alone two who lived in the same city. For me, every single character in this book read like versions of the same person... John Green. For the most part, I felt like I was just seeing "the man behind the curtain" on every page of the book. An author has their own voice and style, yes, but Green's felt like it completely overwhelmed every element of this story. I couldn't separate him from his characters. Again, that's just me. Most readers have really fallen in love with the people in this book, so I'm totally in the minority there.

Overall, I didn't like The Fault in Our Stars. It's one of those books that make me want to write a really rant-y post about all the things that annoyed me. There are a few lines and moments that I enjoyed, but it was mostly a miss for me. It felt too contrived - like it was constantly trying to make me FEEL the emotions while also trying to celebrate its cleverness. I found that really irritating. I thought about writing a longer, more thoughtful post about this book but decided against it for a variety of reasons. Most people love it, and I didn't. It happens sometimes!

So Quotable
"Sometimes, you read a book and it fills you with this weird evangelical zeal, and you become convinced that the shattered world will never be put back together unless and until all living humans read the book. And then there are books [...] which you can't tell people about, books so special and rare and yours that advertising your affection feels like a betrayal."
*After writing several mini reviews, I decided to note the difference by calling it "Brief Thoughts" on the book. I'll continue to use this moving forward whenever I write a shorter, less in-depth post on what I've read. I liked giving myself the freedom to write less and want to continue to do so when I feel I don't have a lot to say.

15 comments:

  1. BLESS THIS REVIEW, FOR IT IS PERFECT.

    Especially:

    "I never cried or even came close - mostly because I felt like the book was trying too hard to make me cry. And, to be honest, "trying too hard" is kind of how I felt about the book overall."

    That's at least 75% of why I, too, am so completely over this book and John Green in general.

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  2. I have been resisting reading this book for a really long time -- I read another book with such a similar premise Before I Die by one of my favorite authors Jenny Downham and am pretty convinced others on this specific topic/sub-genre just aren't going to do it for me. That other book? I cried buckets -- I just don't know if John Green's book will reach me in that way and that's kind of the point of books about this subject, I think anyway. Can't really judge as I haven't read it, but let's just say I take the hype with a grain of salt and I'm not sure it will be my cup of tea either.

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  3. I'm totally in the Love camp on this book, but I wonder if I would have been if this had been my third JG book instead of my first. He does tend to write the same characters in every book and delve into the same themes. While I do agree that both Hazel and Gus are "too" smart for teens, I generally enjoy smart so that's an easy flaw for me to forgive. Also my cousin who had cancer was super smart so I'm pretty sure I was seeing her in Hazel a bit so it made sense to me.
    I appreciate your review a lot - it's hard to write an "I didn't like it" review when everyone else LOVED it.

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  4. OMG I'm so so glad I'm not the only one who felt this way. To quote you, "They felt too pretentious and unrealistic to me." I completely agree! While I did enjoy the book otherwise, (Hazel was a bit more tolerable for me, so her stream of consciousness wasn't as difficult to deal with as the interactions between her and Gus), I couldn't get past how stuffy and pretentious this book was! Again, I didn't dislike it but I agree with so many of your points! I didn't love the other book I read by Green either, Paper Towns. You're so right about Green's voice overtaking the book. Great review!!!

    Amanda i solemnly swear

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  5. i love you so much; you have no idea.

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  6. This review made me so happy and I don't really know why. I've never read this book or any of John Green's other books and I guess I feel like I should, but I've never done it. I don't think I realized this before I read your review, but I'm bothered by John Green's whole persona and maybe I didn't realize that before because I wasn't sure if it was his fault or just a reaction to hearing so much about him all the time from other people, but you've made me think that it's his fault.

    Also, I'm having a stressful day, but I laughed out loud at this line: "It was hard for me to get past that there was one teenager who talked and acted this way - let alone two who lived in the same city" so thank you!

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  7. I recently finished this book as well, while I liked it, and did cry a tiny bit (only when Hazel and her Dad were in the bathroom at the end). I really had mixed feelings about it and didn't write a review at all - just didn't have it in me. It was my first YA novel since I was a young adult and probably my last for a while.

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  8. "As a big character reader, I think I struggled with Green's book because I didn't like the characters. They felt too pretentious and unrealistic to me." <<< I've read the first chapter or two of every John Green book thanks to a sampler I got, and that is EXACTLY how I felt. It really turned me off from him in general, though I still feel like I "ought" to read this book just to see. Glad to know I'm not alone in my feelings though!

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  9. Hannah, I love that you wrote this review. I did cry - but only at the very end, and I do think that Green was just trying too hard for the vast majority of this novel. After now reading two of Green's books, I'm not a fan of his either, for exactly what you're articulating about his characters just not feeling genuine. He definitely isn't an author for everyone, despite how it might seem sometimes.
    I'm sorry this one didn't work out for you, though. I see that you're currently reading Daughter of Smoke & Bone - I hope that one works out a lot better for you!

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  10. I'm more in the middle for TFIOS. I definitely cried - but I'm a crier when it comes to books. And I did find the way Hazel and Augustus acted a little unbelievable, but I did really like them. And I loved Hazel's parents.

    And I loved Hazel and Augustus's relationship. It was sweet - well, bittersweet really. But I can totally understand why this book wasn't for you. I actually tend to like John Green's YouTube videos more than his books.

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  11. I have tried to read this book so many times because of the legend it is EVERYWHERE and this post has allowed me to let go. My hardcover I got for dirt cheap is in my "sell" bin and ready to move on. Knowing that you didn't like the characters really made me feel fine about scratching it from my TBR. It's just not worth stressing over for me.

    (Also I think the fact that Tumblr spoiled the end for me makes me a little more ok with saying "eh.")

    "Not the right reader for John Green." I LOVE that way of putting it.

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  12. YES. YES x 1000. I really enjoy John Green as a person. I really enjoy Paper Towns by John Green. And I really enjoyed John Green before I learned about YA Contemporary. But his books are formulaic and by that I mean they are all very similar. I realize that I could be beaten, tarred, and feathered for saying that. I like him. I didn't like this book. I felt manipulated. I don't want to watch the movie nor do I want to watch the trailer for the movie. I don't mean to sound MEAN. I was just a little disappointed. I want more like Paper Towns.

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  13. I love your honesty in your review for The Fault in Our Stars, Hannah! I liked this one, but I can definitely say that most of his novels read similarly and blend into one another in my mind. This, and The Abundance of Katherines, are the only stand-outs for me among the ones I've read. This, because so many people loved it and were pretty shocked I didn't cry (because I just didn't feel like crying, and thought it was more hopeful than anything else) and The Abundance of Katherines, because I thought that one was pretty quirky.

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  14. I thought the conversations never matched the age of the characters. But maybe that's just me assuming that teens should talk with a lot less "big-word-know-how".
    - Krys

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  15. This is an amazing review, Hannah. I really loved this book when I first read it, cried on the beach and everything, but thinking about it now, I am not sure if I love it as much anymore. The problem with John Green's books (I loved Alaska when I was sixteen, but I think I would hate it if I read it for the first time now) is that they are, essentially, all different versions of the same story: pretentious, nerdy teen (John Green) is in love with enigmatic, manicpixiedreamgirl (or boy, in this case) and the plot is weak. It annoys me. Like I said, I loved this book at first, but I can totally see where you come from by saying it feels forced. You summed up everything I have been thinking lately. It's interesting to see how much we grow in our reading tastes. (Mentioning the previous post of yours I commented on: I went from being an emotional reader to an analytical reader for this one.)

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