Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The Fault in Our Stars

To begin, I want to share my brief goodreads review:

It is a rarity that I will give a book 5 stars. Sometimes I will sit on it, only allowing the distribution of four stars until I feel empowered enough to give them five. Other times I just know. This was one of those times. I have also a tendency not to let go of a book. I will cling to it, wanting more, yearning for it in ways that grip my core. I proclaim that the book "stuck" with me. But for this book it created a different kind of "sticking." It stuck with me, certainly, in an emotional way in which I am okay with bearing. The language was beautiful and struck my soul. The storyline held on tighter; the topic of cancer is a common one in my family due to our own issues. This is one of those books where, if someone were to say they simply do not "like" to read, I would think of it. I would consider all that they are missing out in the world. All the things they could understand all the better. And this book would be in my mind's eye. I would suggest anyone to read this. Anyone.

I wrote that the moment I put the book down and typically I wait until the night or following day to write a "fast" review. By fast I mean I don't put it off for days like I typically do. But this book left me feeling so many emotions that I was unable to figure out just what to do next. So I wrote the above paragraph.

It's unfortunate but much of YA literature has this stigma of being poorly written. When people discuss a YA book I've heard it go so far as to saying, "It's good. No, I mean it is really good. It's not Twilight YA or anything like that." But I suppose that could sum it up. There is YA literature much like there is adult literature that doesn't have much substance and isn't particularly moving or well written. Some are downright brainless and pretty horrible. Others may not have fantastic writing but the storyline is interesting. Then there are the ones that break the YA stereotype. The books that are beautifully written and leave you shocked and breathless. Typically, these books are the ones where readers go, "This shouldn't be in YA, it should be in Adult" as if only Adult's can have decently written literature. As if young adults are too young or stupid to comprehend a well written book.

Aside from books that become huge sellers followed by a cult-like following, I rarely see anything on Goodreads have close to a 5 star average for ratings when there are multiple ratings at a time. This book, however, manages this. Or maybe "manage" isn't the right word to use because I feel the near perfect rating by thousands of users is completely deserved. 

I've seen this book plenty of times on bookshelves, tumblr, and Goodreads and yet I didn't hear much about it. Maybe I wasn't looking to hear about it, maybe I was oblivious. But upon hearing that there was an opportunity for me to meet John Green I looked a little more into his writing. Whoa. Now, this is my first John Green book but all of his publications look awesome and one has been challenged (so expect me to have a review for that in next year's banned books week). The Fault in Our Stars was the book I settled on to read due to a blogger raving about it. I didn't know what type of books she was into, if she liked silly stupid stuff or what have you, but for some reason I trusted her opinion that this book was Capital-A Awesome.

Right away the Author's Note was striking. If the author talks like this in his note, uses that language, it was setting me up for some damn good reading. The book was even better. First off, let it be known that this is a love story. But it's also a story of survival. I kind of moan when I hear of a YA book that's a love story. Again? Really? Was I that obsessed with love stories when I was a teen? Because I really don't remember being so. If you think in similar terms, knock that out of your mind right now. This may have a love story element but it isn't what makes the book. There are so many factors to this story, so many points, that my head was reeling in a pleasant way. 

Hazel, our lovely main character, is sarcastic, smart, and a damn good fighter. Despite having terminal cancer she has learned to deal with her bleak outlook on life and still lives. She knows what her end will be like and she seems to have accepted that. All she wants, really, is to help protect hurting as many people as she can when she does go. Her sense of humor certainly hasn't gone away and the mentions of her life with cancer are done in a way that doesn't make you entirely scared the entire time you read the book. People tend to do that, get scared at the mention of cancer. They get nervous and anxious and really don't particularly like hearing about it. But you realize that this has been her life for many years. 

Then you have Augustus. This handsome boy who enters Hazel's life when she least expects it and causes her to experience more than she had ever thought she would. He brings life into her life and makes her ask questions or argue her opinion in ways that she hadn't before. 

Hazel, in many ways, makes us face what makes humans incredibly uncomfortable while Augustus is more so like the rest of us. We hope to bring some meaning to the world and fear the idea of oblivion. We fear being meaningless. We fear death. Augustus picks apart every detail he has and is often times philosophical but oh my goodness, the language used is so powerful and well worded. But I digress, Hazel is accepting of her future and feels very strongly that not everyone needs to make a huge change in the world. In fact, they won't and probably can't so why waste the time over that?

There were many times that the book left me laughing, literally, and many other times where I was equally saddened and fighting off the urge to cry. When I was nearing the closure of this book I kept stopping and sitting it aside. I didn't want it to end. I was a masochist. It hurt to read at many points but it was so good. So beautiful. Then I would snatch the book as if someone were trying to take away a favorite toy and I'd gobble up the next few pages before putting it down again.

When I finished the book I felt a certain ache in my heart. This book is beautiful and well written and so, so worth the read. But I was left not entirely sure how to feel. I currently have someone very dear to me suffering from cancer and I've known others who have had it as well. Generally, I've been avoiding any literature that has to do with cancer because of what my family is currently experiencing and I was worried that this book would be too tough for me to get through it. It would end up leaving me raged and broken and a mess. But, somehow, it sort of helped. It comforted something within me that no one has been able to comfort; something which I did not know existed. 

And I can't wait to tell John Green as much.

If you are in the Washington, DC area this weekend come to the National Book Festival. I'll be there, excited as ever with my copy of The Fault in Our Stars in hand. Check the schedule to see when he'll be speaking and doing his signing plus all of the other author's that will be there. If you're intending on going to the book festival, let me know and maybe we can meet. 

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