The Fault in Our Stars

The Fault in Our Stars - John Green For a long time I've been intimidated by The Fault in Our Stars for the most obvious of reasons: its popularity. This book is so popular that for a while I was a little put off and felt like I wasn't quite ready to read it yet. Now, cancer has made its unwelcome appearances in my family, but it hasn't been close enough to me to personally affect me (my grandmother died of lung cancer, but this was before I was born) but close enough to know that it is a serious illness that nobody wants to get. And now that the film has been released, I was determined to get it read as soon as possible and my expectations were sky high. And while I didn't cry, I did enjoy this book.

The Fault in Our Stars is the story of Hazel, who is living with terminal lung cancer, and Augustus, who has been clear of cancer for a while but lost a leg from his ordeal, and the relationship that they develop after they meet at a cancer support group for teens. At the beginning of the book, I had a bit of trouble getting into the story and didn't really start to enjoy it until about half-way through when things started to move forward at a better pace. And also get more heartbreaking, but I'll move onto that in a bit. I guess I just wasn't a fan of long chapters that are pretty much Gus and Hazel talking about their illnesses in metaphors and being pretentious. Don't get me wrong, I like me some good metaphors, but when they're inserted into character dialogue and then become an important part of that character's personality, I start to get sick of them pretty quickly. Now let's talk about the sad stuff. I knew that this book was going to be sad, I mean this is a book about teenagers living with cancer. What I didn't expect was how quickly all the happy was going to come crashing down. I'm not a crier at all, but this the fall in this book did leave me with a bit of a lump in my throat. I've only experienced a relative having cancer once in my life (my mum's uncle died of cancer a couple of years ago and my nana died of cancer before I was born) and my experience was nothing compared to this book. I didn't get to see that person suffering and seeing it in this book made me glad that I didn't see that in my life. And I think that's what makes books about terminal illnesses (not just cancer) like this important for young people, we're able to see the pain that people go through even if we don't experience it for ourselves in reality and I think it helps us to understand.

I had a bit of a mixed reaction to the characters and I'm not sure about whether that's a good thing or not. At the beginning, I liked Hazel and didn't like Gus, whereas at the end, my sympathies got projected onto Gus and I got annoyed by Hazel. I think this is one of the very few times that this has happened when reading a book, but I guess it shows how well-rounded they are as characters as they don't stay having the same personality all the way through the story. I didn't like Gus at first because of how pretentious he is, which is one of my biggest pet peeves not only with fictional characters, but with real people. Every time he started speaking in his silly metaphors, I was rolling my eyes so hard because it was just too much. And then we get to the end and my reaction to him was completely turned on his head because I felt a huge amount of sympathy for him. As for Hazel, I really liked her at first. She was snarky and just the right amount of cynical. However, her snark and cynicism just went overboard for me at the end of the book. Like, I realise that you're angry, Hazel, but you should let everyone else be sad in their own way and express their sorrows how they want to and feels best. Just because people aren't doing things the way you do them, doesn't mean that they're wrong. Apart from Hazel and Gus, I liked all of the characters in this book. There were very few characters I didn't like at all that I wasn't supposed to dislike, and there were very few that I felt indifferent towards either.

Reading about cancer or terminal illnesses can be incredibly difficult for a lot of people because the disease takes far too many lives and it hits incredibly close to home for some people. As I'd said above, there have only been two cancer deaths in my family that I know of and they were both elderly people (if 64 counts as elderly that is), so books about young people living with the disease can be important because even though it is devastating for a person of any age to get it, we always see it as more tragic for people who are barely even adults to have no choice to live with cancer or even have their lives cut short by it. I think that books like The Fault in Our Stars are important because there are people who are have not had cancer affect their family, and books like this can help up to understand not only what people who live with the disease are going to, but people who are grieving too. Another thing I feel like I have taken from this is that cancer patients and people living with chronic illnesses don't always want our sympathy and that not everyone is hopeful about life as people on TV are. This is something that I'm definitely keeping in mind in the future.

Overall, I really enjoyed The Fault in Our Stars, despite its couple of issues that I had with it. The story was both heart-warming and heartbreaking, with its cast of lively and well-rounded characters that help to tell an important message and I think may stay with me for a while. I'm not sure if I'll read any more of John Green's books in the future; we'll just have to wait and see about that.