Author; John Green (American)
Genre; Realistic Fiction.Young Adult fiction
Publisher/Year of 1st Publication: Dutton Books. Jan. 10 2012
Number of Pages; 316 (my hardcover copy)
Other Titles; Paper Town, Looking For Alaska, An Abundance of Kathrines
Tells the story of two cancer stricken teenagers – Hazel Grace with Thyroid spread to the lungs and Augustus an amputee with a prosthetic leg who fall in love. Set in Indianapolis, every other thing is woven around this plot and the story title is gotten from a scene in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar where Cassius says to Brutus; “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, But in ourselves, that we are underlings.”
It is a good read. But while John Green does well in setting the 21st century mood for these teenagers, he does a rather shody job developing their speech. In that, the generation of iPhone, game playing teenagers he portrayed even as exposed to information as they mostly are hardly converse or have monologues in the manner in which was laid out in this book.
For instance, Augustus saying to Hazel Grace that;
”I’m in love with you, and I’m not in the business of denying myself the simple pleasure of saying true things. I’m in love with you, and I know that love is just a shout into the void, and that oblivion is inevitable, and that we’re all doomed and that there will come a day when all our labor has been returned to dust, and I know the sun will swallow the only earth we’ll ever have, and I am in love with you.”
I know no teenager who speaks like this. This has nothing to do with their intelligence but teenagers who like each other no matter how mature do not say “the sun will swallow the only earth we’ll ever have” much less a dying teenager.
It just seems like Greene originally started writing this story about grown ups and somehow later decided that weaving it around two teenagers in love would be more refreshing.
Perhaps it worked, because I was genuinely consumed by their love and friendship, their sickness even. I nearly shed a tear. It is a sad story. Cancer stories are always sad stories but this is told in some funny measure which tones down the usual heartache that cancer stories come with. This does’t diminish the tragedy that palpitates through the novel; of being alive and willing your heart to not fall in love because you know that you will die soon. For instance on their date in Amsterdam when Augustus wears a really nice suit that may be his death suit. As you read though, occasionally you may get a sense of hope that disappears just as quickly as it came.
The two main characters are charming, they remind me of old age for some reason.
The language is easy, it reads like teenagers gisting during break time, which is why I fail to understand why Greene doesn’t portray that in the conversations between Hazel Grace and Augustus, the two major characters. They sound like an old wise couple rather than 17 year olds whose parents still force them to eat or who still get grounded for getting home late.
I like that as sad of a cancer book as it is, it doesn’t fail to recognise colour and life even in its drab world. The colour and sound of Amsterdam where the couple go at some point in the novel is a welcome pump; champagne, good food, walks, flowers etc
I may have had too high hopes before reading this because of the buzz that came with its release and especially since it became a major motion picture but it is a good read. And while I’m not eager to read any other John Green work soon, I would say that this one is poignant, leaving you reaching to your core for something to soothe it.
****NOTE; I did find out as I wrote this review that Shailene Woodley was cast in the movie to play Hazel Grace and I must say she fits perfectly the type of face I pictured for Hazel while I read the book.