Monday, February 13, 2012

Review: The Fault in Our Stars

The Fault in Our Stars
By John Green
Published 2012 by Dutton Juvenile

Like most people, I didn't really need any convincing to read this book. John Green is one of my favorite contemporary YA authors. I saw him speak at ALA Midwinter in January and just couldn't resist buying his latest (and getting it signed!). I started reading it pretty much immediately and finished it the next day.

Hazel was diagnosed with stage IV thyroid cancer when she was 12. A medical miracle at 14 kept her alive. Now, she's 16 and still trying to adjust to what her life means now. Then she meets Augustus Waters at a cancer support group and pretty much whatever plan she'd had for her life before is turned upside down.

Oh. What can I say? I find it so impossibly difficult to write about books that I love. It is much easier for me to focus on all the things that didn't work in a book. So this is going to be a very trying review to write. Because this book is absolute brilliance. So much of its brilliance ties into what I love about John Green in the first place - he is a phenomenal writer. I think he is equally excellent at every aspect of writing a novel - characters, dialogue, pacing, plot - everything is so beautifully constructed that his books just fill me with joy. Perhaps what I love most about Green is how smart his books are - there's really no other way to put it. Even though he writes for a teen audience, he never writes down to them. To me, Green's writing demonstrates his belief that teens are smart and can handle reading about complicated situations and emotions. The success of his books proves that teens don't need to be pandered to with emotionally abusive vampires or sexy werewolves or whatever the latest thing is. Teens will still enjoy a well-written, complex, and emotionally engaging realistic story. I don't think it would be wrong to say that I believe this book is his best so far.

Every page of this novel absolutely sparkles with wit and emotion and complexity and every other thing that you long for in a good book. I will try to say a little bit about each aspect of this novel so that maybe I can convey exactly how much I loved it. The characters - another reviewer wrote something about how Augustus steals the show from the book's own narrator. I tend to agree. However, that doesn't mean that Hazel is any narrative slouch - she is a beautifully realized teenager dealing with some harsh stuff, and it shows. She is a girl that I think I would enjoy being friends with - because she's quirky and I'm pretty sure she wouldn't care what I thought about her. But, it's true - Augustus pretty much does steal the show here. This can only be described as a good thing. Augustus is the kind of character that you totally fall in love with. I mean that - like recklessly smitten. He is basically a dream character and I'm pretty sure no one but Green could have made him convincing. The dialogue - it's witty and clever and funny and real. I wish I talked like this. Green's dialogue jumps off the page and fills the story with energy and sparkle. The pacing and plot - this is a book about kids with cancer. This is not a Cancer Novel. Anyone who grew up reading Lurlene McDaniels (like I did) knows what I mean. In a way, I am glad that this book only arrived now because I would have been severely disappointed with Lurlene's work if I read them side-by-side. I was warned multiple times not to read this book in public and, I have to say, it's sound advice. Because this book is amazing and also completely heartbreaking. This book will make you ugly cry - snot dripping everywhere, puffy red eyes for days after, that horrible hiccupy noise because you can't catch your breath. This book is devastating and beautiful.

I cannot recommend this book enough. Please read it now. But not in public.

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