To preface: I am not a fan of John Green. I don’t like him or his writing, and I’ve never understood the craze surrounding him. This review might offend some people, but that’s not my goal.
I find Green’s stories hard to swallow, especially the super hot, mysterious, angsty girl falls in love with dorky “nobody” guy trope. I read Looking for Alaska ages ago (in high school) and I don’t think I ever even finished it (due to the trope listed above), and I read Will Grayson, Will Grayson a while before TFiOS and didn’t like that one much, either.
I feel like an enormous outlier here because everyone I know thought The Fault in Our Stars was fantabulous and moving. Welp… I really, really didn’t like it. I don’t often give one star reviews, and in fact my original rating of this was three stars. But as time went on, I got to thinking about how I remembered the story over the years; I wasn’t remembering anything sweet or meaningful or deep about the book — those parts weren’t sticking with me. Instead, I was remembering a lot of the bad. A lot of the parts that made me grimace. To put it plainly, the only parts that were memorable were the aspects that threw off my suspension of disbelief — and there were a lot of them.
And some might call me heartless for that, but it’s true. Just because a book is sad, and just because it makes the reader cry (and I did cry at the end) doesn’t make it a ~good book~. In many of my angry rants to friends and family regarding this book, I’ve mentioned this: John Green books always seem to me like the same basic outline with different names, and a few highly-quotable lines mixed in. For instance:
- “It would be a privilege to have my heart broken by you.”
- “Some infinities are bigger than other infinities.”
- “I fell in love the way you fall asleep; slowly, and then all at once.”
- “That’s the thing about pain: it demands to be felt.”
- “My thoughts are stars I cannot fathom into constellations.”
- “You don’t get to choose if you get hurt in this world, but you do have some say in who hurts you.”
- “I’m in love with you, and I’m not in the business of denying myself the simple pleasure of saying true things.”
- “I believe the universe wants to be noticed. I think the universe is improbably biased toward the consciousness, that it rewards intelligence in part because the universe enjoys its elegance being observed. And who am I, living in the middle of history, to tell the universe that it-or my observation of it-is temporary?”
What? I’m sorry, but do these sound like the types of things 16- and 17-year-olds say? Even those going through something as devastating as cancer? No.
So, below is my vague reasoning. Remember, this review is a few years late and not very specific. Besides, let’s get real: I’m not going to waste my time rereading a book I hated when there are about ten thousand books I still need to read. Anyway, here’s a bulleted list of reasons I remember:
- Romanticized illness. Ughhhhhhh.
- A deplorable main character. Although I have no examples of this because I haven’t read this book for a few years, I remember her as being kind of insufferable (which is understandable since she’s terminally ill). She’s grumpy, mean, and the only thing that makes her happy is Augustus. Even if this could be realistic in some scenarios, it just annoyed me as the angry feminist I am.
- [She’s kind of like the Bella Swan of YA fiction, meaning she compares every. single. guy to Augustus and finds them all lacking (because they’re not “hot enough”. At one point, she meets her friend’s boyfriend and actually thinks to herself, “He’s cute, but nowhere near Augustus.”]
- It’s a book about teenagers that doesn’t actually sound like teenagers. It sounds like snobby college students who are studying philosophy because they have too much money and no career path (think Karen from How I Met Your Mother). And to add on to this…
- The dialogue and thought processes of these characters are terrible. It’s so unrealistic that I just felt like squirming the whole time. [Refer to earlier quotes for the full, cringe-worthy experience.]
- And perhaps worst, we have the most over-the-top, “deep” love interest in perhaps the world of literature (or at least the world of John Green, which is bad enough) who pretends to smoke cigarettes by putting them in his mouth and leaving them unlit, and then saying pretentious crap like this: “It’s a metaphor, see: You put the killing thing right between your teeth, but you don’t give it the power to do its killing.”
What do you think? Do you agree or feel like I’m totally mangling Green’s message? I’m always up for a discussion. Let me know in the comments below.