Wednesday, May 28, 2014

REVIEW: The Fault in Our Stars by John Green


Knowing that the movie release date was slowly creeping upon us we knew here at SCLS Youth Services that it would have been a calamity if we did not read this book before the movie came out! Now we can hold our heads up high and say that we have read The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. Here are our thoughts!

KIM:


Before I begin this review, I have to admit that The Fault in Our Stars is my first John Green experience! I thought it was very good . . . with some reservations.  I appreciate that The Fault in Our Stars is a tribute to something much larger than ourselves and through the characters and circumstances it allows the reader to take a step back and ponder how he/she fits into it all. I love the tender and honest exchanges between the characters and the tactile descriptions. There are many moments that are beautiful and devastating. However, I got tired of the pretentious language written on the pages that was supposed to be spouting from the mouths of teenagers. Granted, they are intelligent, mature, and in many ways beyond their years teenagers, but I just could not buy into the language. In my opinion, the words were too academic, philosophical and dense which made them seem false. I wanted it to be more honest. I wanted more of the raw, deep and sensitive emotions that were touched upon throughout the novel.  I feel strongly that there were many moments when the language was too abstract for its own good and at times clouded over the very sentiments that it attempted to elucidate. Overall, I feel that the language created distance between myself, as the reader, and the characters.

DEREK:

Those black and white clouds on the effervescent blue background have been haunting me for years. I purchased The Fault in Our Stars by John Green when it was first published. I worked at Barnes in Noble. There, the yellow "Signed Copy" sticker was the first part of the book to haunt me. Calling out to me! I knew I had to purchase it, but I wasn’t brave enough to read the “teen cancer” book. Since then it has been sitting in my "to read" pile calling my name. "A sure tear jerker!" they professed. Were they right? Sure. Throughout moments of this story I found my face scrunching into something that could only be described as a crying pumpkin hiding behind a book. I faced my fears and am happy that I did.

One of the strong points of TFIOS is that it moves quickly. Our two love struck teens Hazel and Augustus meet in their cancer support group in the first chapter. Right away we are sent on to a journey that’s sure to make us sad and even a little hopeful. They are both incredibly charming characters whose blunt thoughts on cancer, love, life, nurses and more is a breath of fresh air in the world of teen books that surround mean-girl-murder and dystopian worlds (although I love both of those types of books!) Hazel and Augustus’s voices have a Dawson's Creekian tone to them aka they use words on a regular basis most teenagers would study for the SATs and then promptly forget. It can be said that their life experiences may have given way to them having more mature voices than other teens’ daily admissions.

Getting past their large vocabularies might trip some readers, but what really matters are the thoughts on life that the reader can come to his/her own conclusions about after reading. It makes you think about hours on this Earth that slip away so easily (I am also guilty of endless America's Next Top Model marathons), memories you may have forgotten, experiences you will always remember, and the people in your life that you love. I enjoyed that this book made me think about my own life experiences. It made me reflect. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green sounds scary when you hear about it, but it is definitely a fear that should be faced.

The next question is will the movie haunt me? I'll bring the tissues.

LISA:
So. You know how the other day I posted about faking cultural literacy? Well... besides previously not having fully read Madame Bovary in high school; I also had never read anything by John Green. And while I didn't out and out LIE and pretend that I had, in fact, read TFIOS when I was in a group of YA librarians who were gushing about the book (or any John Green book, for that matter), I might have smiled broadly and nodded my head enthusiastically in an attempt to perhaps blur the lines of reality and mask my non John Green reading habit. 

I honestly had nothing against John Green, other than the fact that every.single.librarian. loved him. Adored him. Exaulted his books. I was afraid to read anything by him because - what if it didn't live up to all this hype? And, as the mom of two boys, I will admit that I had fear in my heart to read a book about kids with cancer. I'm still tormented by Bridge to Terabithia and A Taste of Blackberries. How on earth could I get through TFIOS?

Well, I'm here to report that not only did I get through it - I really, really liked it, much to my surprise! I think a part of me WANTED to hate it. But I couldn't. The writing was snappy, the plot began at a full sprint, and the characters of Hazel and Augustus wrapped me around their little fingers. I listened to the audio instead of reading the novel, and I think that pulled me into the story much faster. Very quickly - I found myself circling parking lots, not wanting to get out of my car as I needed to listen for "just a few more minutes." 

Like Kim and Derek, I did have some minor quibbles with the impressive vocabulary of Hazel and Augustus. This was, after all, written a few years before the Common Core State Standards tsunami hit our schools - so their rigorous and academic vocabulary at first seemed implausible to me. Where on earth would Hazel and Augustus have picked up such  language and verbosity? But then I thought - as chronically ill children, they most likely were surrounded by medical doctors and appointments filled with polysyllabic words, so I decided that they just might be able to talk like that normally.

Once I let that go (stop singing Idina Mendzel!) I fully jumped into the deeply entertaining, heart wrenching story of Hazel and Augustus. Yes, I was crushed with the knowledge that one, if not both possibly, of the main characters would succumb to their cancer diagnosis. And I will admit that I didn't LOVE the ending entirely. But - I am now comfortable with calling myself a John Green fan. I'm looking forward to reading another of his novels soon... right after my eyes return to normal after I go see TFIOS movie. I will be the one sniffling and taking all of Derek's tissues. I hope he brings a few extra.

2 comments:

  1. I too have held off on reading John Green books in fear they would not live up to the hype. But I attacked his books a few months ago when I found out I was attending his lunch talk at PLA in Indianapolis. I fell in love with his characters, his books and his style of writing. AND after listening to him talk at PLA and my 5 seconds of 1:1 with him while he signed my book...I must say, I am now also a huge John Green fan. He is real, funny, approachable and a lover of books, libraries and librarians. I can not wait for the movie <3

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