I actually finished reading ‘The Fault in Our Stars’ (by John Green) last week-end, but I’ve put off writing about it because I prioritised finishing the last of my NZ posts, and I haven’t had an awful lot of time and/or energy, finishing work late more than once this last week… Also, I’m not entirely sure what I really think of the book.
Let me say, straight up, that I did like the book. It’s written well in the sense that it was easy to read quickly; I just kept reading page after page, and before I knew it, I’d finished the book. I also liked that the characters and the story seemed so real. However, I can also appreciate the author’s note at the start about how it is a work of fiction: “Neither novels or their readers benefit from attempts to divine whether any facts hide inside a story. Such efforts attack the very idea that made-up stories can matter”.
This is quite possibly more resonant with me after having just read ‘The World According to Garp’ prior to reading TFIOS. I’m kind of still wondering if I still have remnants of a book hangover from ‘Garp’ because even though I took a brief pause (can’t remember how many days – just a few at most) before starting a new book, I was still thinking about ‘Garp’ as I read TFIOS and, evidently, I’m still thinking about it now. (Note that I didn’t take a break from reading – I just went back to ‘Great Expectations’ instead of starting anything new.)
As an aside, one of the parallels between ‘Garp’ and TFIOS was that the protagonist in each novel talked about the books that were important to them. For Garp it was ‘The Secret Sharer’ (Joseph Conrad) and ‘The Man who Loved Islands’ (D.H. Lawrence) – both of these are now on my to-read list. For Hazel it was ‘An Imperial Affliction’, which is a fictitious fictional book by fictitious author Peter Van Houten. I will admit, I was a bit disappointed when I realised that it wasn’t a real book.
Regardless, it doesn’t detract from the story, except maybe that there isn’t that feeling of being able to continue the connection with the novel via other novels. But I’m digressing…
Having an interest in health/medicine, I did like the references to drugs and hospitals and whatnot. And although “Phalanxifor” is not a real name for a real drug, the basics about her treatment are all there and realistic, such as the “moon-face” adverse effect from her anti-nausea medication.
I have to warn you now that there’s a spoiler in the next paragraph. I know that most people who do care about what happens in TFIOS have already read the book or watched the movie (or both) but in case you have not done either of these, and you do want to find out what happens for yourself, then consider yourself sufficiently warned. Just don’t even read the rest of this post – go and read TFIOS instead.
I’m sorry, but I can’t sufficiently discuss TFIOS without talking about the ending.
The main thing I liked about how TFIOS ended was that Hazel didn’t die. Once her case was introduced as being terminal, and then she started having complications with fluid in her lungs, it was sort of expected that she would barely survive the whole novel. But it would have sort of sucked for it to end like “An Imperial Affliction”, mid-sentence. It does still leave unanswered questions, though, like how much longer does Hazel live, what her parents do after she’s gone, etc.
On the other hand, I reckon it is ok that Augustus died by the end of the book. If I feel like over-analysing it, I could say that TFIOS essentially finishes when he dies because, in the same sense that AIA finshed when Anna (the protagonist, afflicted with cancer) dies or is just able to continue writing, TFIOS ends after Augustus dies because, for Hazel, that’s worse than dying, herself. Too much?
Well, I’m not much into literary romance and whatever, but the relationship between Hazel and Gus was kind of adorable. And I can understand all the hype (and the memes) now.
There’s also quite a lot of humour in the book, too. It’s good that it’s not all sad and waiting-for-people-to-die. I have to commend John Green for making Hazel so likeable. I’m always especially amazed at how well some male authors write female characters. TFIOS is written in first person, from Hazel’s perspective, and she does some great commentary.
Perhaps what I’m most disappointed about with TFIOS is that it was too short. After reading ‘Garp’ gradually over a few months, it feels like TFIOS ended too soon for me. And there’s little to no chance for a sequel! Except maybe about her parents… Who knows…