When I decided to sample some recent, successful, YA fiction books, The Fault in Our Stars (TFiOS) was at the top of the list. I’d seen some images from the film, so I knew the book was about sick teenager, and I’d seen people wailing about how heart breaking the book was. It has that same insane popularity around it as One Day did a few years ago. So I had to read this book.
Look, if there was any book targeted at young adults – especially the teen end – this would be it. I think I would have cried buckets if I’d read this when I was 16, but (alas) I am far, far older than that.
The last YA book I tried to read – Divergent – was, I suspect, the most boring book in creation, so right away TFiOS had an advantage (it would have had to be utter pants to be worse than that book). It took me under one day to read TFiOS, I didn’t want to stop reading it. I wanted to find out what happened to Hazel.
I was sure that the author would end the book the same way that Hazel’s favourite book ended. While he didn’t do what his fictional author did (ending the story in the middle of a sentence), he did leave readers hanging (well, at least this reader).
I liked the main characters, but the whole relationship was built on coincidence. Sure, maybe two kids that have cancer can meet at a local support group, discover that they live 20mins away from each other, and be attracted to each other – but throw in the fact that both of these kids have the vocabulary of a particularly arrogant Oxford don, and it becomes just too much.
Seriously, who talks like that?
Maybe Hazel had been influenced by the (awful) book that she was obsessed with, and its drunken, broken down author (my favourite character in the book – he was brilliantly nasty!).
I did like the way they both refused to be patronised. I also liked the way Hazel changed due to her relationship with Gus.
However, I became interested in the book because of Hazel, she was the character whose story I was invested in. When, in a plot twist that could be seen from space, Gus grabbed the spotlight, I wanted to scream. The author wasn’t going to just leave her story unfinished, was he? Hmm…
The romance reminded me of something else. It was like Twilight, but with cancer rather than vampires and werewolves.
How was it like Twilight? Well, we’re meant to think of Hazel as having no life. She’s just waiting to die, rewatching TV shows and reading the same (really, really bad) book repeatedly. Then she meets a charismatic and mysterious boy who sweeps her off her feet and changes her life. A boy who will do anything for her, a boy who she feels is too good looking for her, a boy who’s just as different as she is.
She turns into Bella.
Now, in a book about star-crossed lovers, of course the story is going to be about the relationship, rather than the characters in the relationship, I just wish she’d been a bit less passive.
Green wrote the story with Hazel as the narrator, telling the story in present tense (which is how most YA books are written, I think). But, you can still have a strong main character narrator (Katniss, anyone?). I suppose Hazel’s passivity could have been because she was busy being very sick, and had no energy to be proactive, relying on others to push her forward.
Still, I didn’t want to put the book down, and the dark humour was brilliant.
You know you’re a cynical old boot when you can read a book that has made millions of people cry buckets and yet you don’t shed a tear. I fully embrace my cold, cynical heart! (Okay, I did feel my eyes well up at one stage – when Hazel was fighting her parents to leave the house towards the end of the book.)
I don’t hate the book. I’m glad I read it, and it has a strong message about living your life while you can and not holding back for anyone. But, like One Day, I feel like the reading experience suffers because of the epic hype around it.