Book Review: John Green, The Fault in Our Stars

The_Fault_in_Our_Stars

‘Some infinities are bigger than others.’

Reading Ages: 13+
Category: Realistic Fiction
Overall Rating: ★★
(Spoilers within this review.)

It’s quotes like the one above that make this book worthwhile. John Green tries his utmost to make this a book, not about the suffering side of cancer which many novels of this style would take, but rather about the survival and perseverance of the human spirit; and while I think this to be a noble endeavour, I feel as if he hasn’t quite managed to utterly convince me through his writing.

I had this book recommended to me by a friend, and ended up reading from her copy. I was given a certain expectation of it: we have similar tastes in novels and she was perfectly clear that for her there was no better book in the world, classics included. So as I opened it and began reading, it is fair to say that perhaps it would have been easier to delve into it with a more open mind. However, it is the truth that I found myself struggling through it page by page, waiting for the excellence to really shine through. Unfortunately though, at no point did I truly feel like I had connected in any way to the characters or to the story itself.

John Green is truly the master of dialogue, it is fair to say. Hazel’s wit and quick-fire exchanges with Augustus are entertaining and captivating, and Isaac’s views are read fondly. Yet instead of letting Hazel, Gus and Isaac develop into their own personalities from those opening dialectics and create for themselves more rounded, realistic characters, I felt that Green spent the novel ruthlessly imposing this piquant dialogue upon his characters, until they were rather crushed and malformed. It is for this reason that I found it impossible to relate to Hazel’s frustration and disappointment upon meeting her literary hero, Van Houten, or even to Isaac’s dim, (no pun intended) dry perception of the world around him after he loses Monica.

I spent the entire novel preoccupied, waiting to fall in love with Hazel and Gus as a couple, to feel moved and touched by a delicate, fragile vignette. However, I came to the realisation that the writing was too obtrusive and – for want of a better word – ‘clunky’ for this ever to present itself to me. I am able to see why the book has been such a raging success, and why so many people would deign to call it their favourite book of all time; but I think that when stood beside others of its genre and style, Green’s constant, almost pushy attempts to compel the reader into tears or laughter would show The Fault in Our Stars up against far more linguistically formidable foes.

Overall, the book has a  hint of tone and edge to its simplicity which moves it beyond an adolescent book, but could never transcend that invisible line and become the kind of novel an adult might pursue, or any form of modern classic. The writing is not unpleasant, but at times forceful and a little cumbersome and heavy-handed, with many conversations seeming as if they’ve been squeezed out. If you’re looking for a good experience in reading for plot and for pleasure, with all honesty, take this up. If you are looking for a little more from the writing, however, I would suggest something more classical.

Five stars for effort, but a two-star performance for anyone wishing to take pleasure from their literature.

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2 thoughts on “Book Review: John Green, The Fault in Our Stars

  1. I haven’t read this, or any other John Green books since I tried Looking for Alaska. Regretfully, I loathed that book and I just know I would be angry with everyone who recommend The Fault in Our Stars if I read it, so I’ve chosen not too. I’m that person and I’m accepting it. That’s why, reading your review made me so happy because I felt like, FINALLY, someone is being honest. I adore Neil Gaiman, but not every book he writes is pure genius and I think the same should be said for John Green.

    • I am in much the same situation – after finishing The Fault in Our Stars, I haven’t ventured into his other works as it is evident that his writing style doesn’t agree with me. Of course, I have nothing against his intellect or talent, which he does have; it is simply a subjective decision. I completely agree with that – people try to squeeze wisdom from every drop, and while their individual quotes are stunning, the book itself doesn’t hang together for me. Glad I’m not alone, too!

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