It Cant Get Netter Than This
7 March, 2014
This book has two terminally ill people as its main characters. So yes, this book will make you cry. But dont let that dissuade you (if something like that would. Personally, if someone tells me a book will make me cry, I'll read it just to prove them wrong. Or not.) This book may feature cancer patients, but it is not a cancer book.
The story revolves around Hazel Lancaster and Augustus Waters (it's starting to feel like every guy names Augustus is awesome!), who meet each other at the Cancer Kids Support Group meeting, through their mutual friend Isaac. A significant part of the book centers around Hazel's favourite book, An Imperial Affliction by Peter Van Houten (which, before you Google it, is not a real book. But I wish it was.)
John Green's characters are always unique; a set apart from the normalcy of their counterparts in the young adult fictional realm. They positively revel in their geekiness and engage in what I like to call intelligent humour.
Hazel and Augustus are no different. Both frank to a fault, they engage in such witty banter, filled with humour, and silliness, and intellectual stuff, that sometimes it's a struggle to believe that it's teenagers who are talking this way. Sample this: (This is what Augustus thinks of Hazel, and I dont think you can get to know them both, and they're way of talking any better than in these lines)
"Do you realise how rare it is to come across a hot girl who creates an adjectival version of the word pedophile? You are so busy being you that you have no idea how utterly unprecedented you are."
And that brings me to Green's writings. I've noticed something in young adult books: They're often in very simple language, with only a handful of words for which you'll find yourself stretching a hand for the dictionary. Which is not at all a bad thing. But for those who say that 'superior' writing can be found only in the classics, it only proves them right.
John Green does not follow this unwritten rule. An that's one thing I love about this writing. He doesn't 'dumb it down' just because we're young. Instead, I feel like he expects us to get better. In fact, when faced with criticism for the books 'unsuitability', he said, ″The thing that bothered me about [the Daily Mail piece] was that it was a bit condescending to teenagers. I'm tired of adults telling teenagers that they aren't smart, that they can't read critically, that they aren't thoughtful, and I feel like that article made those arguments.″ This just about sealed it for me. I could hug him!
He uses words like hamartia, bacchanalia, promiscuity, and delves into concepts of true love, philosophy, mythology, literature, but not in a preachy manner, and not in a boring way, and no, it does not feel like you're sitting in a History/ Architecture class (*cough* Dan Brown *cough*). He even challenges Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs (the psych student in me was grinning in glee :D), and makes a convincing argument against it. It's obvious that every sentence and dialogue has been well thought out (or maybe that's just the way he thinks. Leads you to wonder what a fascinating place his mind must be).
Take the title itself, for instance. The Fault in Our Stars. It comes as a denial of one of Shakespeare's notions. The author says,
Never was Shakepeare more wrong when he had Cassius note, "The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars / But in ourselves"
The idea here is that fate doesn't doom man. It's man's own failings that send him to his downfall.
Green disagrees. It's not their fault that they have cancer. It's not from any personal failing that they are confined to doing only so much. But the beauty, or rather, the irony of it, is that they can still live, and make decisions, despite the fault in their stars. Or, in Hazel's words:
...that I was living of cancer not dying of it, that I mustn't let it kill me before it kills me...
The epigraph of a book often contains a quote trying to convey the theme/intrinsic concept of the book. Green couldn't have gotten it any better, and technically, he's quoting himself here:
As the tide washed in, the Dutch Tulip Man faced the ocean:
Conjoiner rejoinder poisoner concealer revelator. Look at it, rising up and rising down, taking everything with it."
"What's that?" Anna asked.
"Water," the Dutchman said, "Well, and time."
-Peter Van Houten, An Imperial Affliction
The characters have a number of discussions about the concept of time, and realise the now famous quote that 'some infinities are greater than other infinities'. Also, within the short time that Hazel and Augustus spend together, they still manage to pack in so much of meaning and quality than in many that last for much longer.
You gave me a forever within the numbered days, and I'm grateful.
The Fault in Our Stars has been classified as a Young Adult fiction book, but I think NPR's Rachel Syme was spot on when she said: "[Green's] voice is so compulsively readable that it defies categorization".
Bottomline: This book will make you laugh out loud, chuckle quietly, become sentimental, sob like your heart is breaking, ponder complex concepts like the existence of the universe and mundane stuff like 'What makes 'breakfast foods' breakfast food?' and result in an overall enlightening entertainment. Specially recommended for those who are nerds/geeks and proud of it.
Problem in saving your vote. Try again.