Tuesday, December 20, 2016

The Fault in Our Stars Review (Spoiler-Free)



This book is depressing.

Not the vague sort of depressing that makes you shrug and forget about it later, but the kind of depressing that makes you cry so often that towards the end of the book you stop noticing the tears rolling down your face.

Then again, I'm a teenage girl who read it straight through from 10 pm to 1:30 am, so I suppose crying is to be expected.

This book is just so...ugh, I can't figure out how to describe it. The first thing that comes to mind is it's really, really good. The second thing that comes to mind is it's really, really depressing.

I'll start with the really, really good aspect. Let's use headings for this bit. Headings are cool.


***


Why The Fault in Our Stars is Really, Really Good

1. Writing style

There was something on almost every page that gave me chills. John Green puts ordinary things in such delicious ways. For example: 

"I cut a glance to him, and his eyes were still on me. It occurred to me why they call it eye contact."

"His every syllable flirted." 

"I enjoy looking at beautiful people, and I decided a while ago not to deny myself the simpler pleasures of existence."

"Kaitlyn never wore open-toed shoes on account of how she hated her feet because she felt her second toes were too long, as if the second toe was a window into the soul or something."

"You could hear the wind in the leaves, and on that wind traveled the screams of the kids on the playground in the distance, the little kids figuring out how to be alive, how to navigate a world that was not built for them by navigating a playground that was."

"I fell in love the way you fall asleep: slowly, and then all at once."

2. Point of View

I suppose this could fall under writing style, but it deserves a section to itself. Green chose a first person POV, and as an aspiring writer I was amazed (and a little jealous) at how well he included Hazel's thoughts and opinions so I forgot I was reading a book and became immersed in Hazel's experiences. (All of the above quotes are from Hazel's narration, except for the "beautiful people" one, which is a piece of dialogue.)

Also, Hazel's sarcastic narration made me laugh out loud. A lot. *ignores the fact that I was sleep-deprived while reading it*

3. Questions

Yes, this book is technically a romance, but it seems that the main point of it is to examine the "problem of pain," as C.S. Lewis put it. It's basically a bunch of existential crises strung together, as the main characters deal with the excruciating pain, humiliation, and death that arise from terminal illness. 

It examines questions such as "Why are we here?", "Is life worth it?", and "What happens after death?". But what's cool about it is it examines these questions from the point of view of modern teenagers. This made it relatable and it revealed to my sheltered self what a lot of modern non-religious youth are struggling with.

If that doesn't sound fun to read, then this book is not for you. 

***


Why The Fault in Our Stars Is Really, Really Depressing

1. Answers

In this story there are a lot of questions, but there are no answers. Hazel shoots down all the usual explanations of pain, questioning God's existence and denying typical expressions about pain having some sort of point such as showing us the joy of life. 

That's the main reason that I'm still feeling down after finishing this book: a lot of people probably think like Hazel. And it makes me sad that people live with such a nihilistic view of life: that we're just random conglomerations of atoms and the best thing we can do is "notice the universe." 

It's like a Douglas Adams book, but without the humor. 

2. Cancer

I've never been close to anyone suffering from cancer, so before I read this book I didn't realize how much suffering cancer patients go through. Green goes into excruciating detail with the treatments and the humiliation that the main characters have to deal with. It would be okay if it was a fantasy story but it's just really sad to read about this stuff knowing that all of it is real and that people have to endure that kind of suffering now. 

It puts my own little struggles into perspective.

3. I can't think of a third one. So there you go. 


***

Content Warning

There's a sex scene in the middle that I had heard about from other people and I could see it coming so I just skipped it. It's immoral and completely unnecessary to the plot. I'm disappointed that Green included that. The romance would have been much better without that stuff.

Also, there's pervasive language. Only one instance of "strong" language, which is sort of understandable because it's at a really heart wrenching moment. But still, that is also unnecessary and limits the accessibility of the book to those who are willing to wade through the crude language. There are a couple suggestive comments too.

***

In conclusion, would I recommend this book? With the content warning and the depressing factor in mind, probably not. It's a hard decision to make though because it's so well-written and there are so many beautiful moments in it and a genuinely stunning passage about true love. 

Am I glad I read it? I learned a lot from it, some of which I listed in my review and some of which I didn't. So yes, I think I am glad.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'll go read some C.S. Lewis to cheer myself up.

Have you read The Fault in Our Stars? If so, what did you think? Do you have a favorite Young Adult book (if you dare to wade into the genre at all)?




4 comments:

  1. This was interesting to read. I've been prejudiced against tFiOS since 1). I found out that everyone and their brother was reading it(I have an irrational prejudice against super popular books, like Divergent) 2) I heard there was an...inappropriate scene which sounded scandalous to me at the tender age of 13. :)

    So I haven't read it yet and I probably won't for a while, but you've convinced me it would be a good read someday just for the purpose of vicariously experiencing the worldview of many people. And for the writing style. :)

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    1. I can kind of relate to the principle of avoiding popular books--when tFiOS was super popular I assumed that it must be poorly written and shallow. But it looks like general opinion has pretty good taste sometimes! Someday I hope to hear your opinion on it. :)

      P.S. I think holding off is a fantastic idea. There are a couple things in there that I wish I hadn't read, plus the depression after it lasts for a good day at least. xD

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  2. So why would you recommend a book that only leaves people depressed and encouraging premarital sex? Which by the way is NOT true love because true love is sacrificing and doing the best for the other person and you can not fully give oneself except in marriage when you become one and when you are fully open to receiving children. Love is more than infatuation. I'm pretty sure you can find other good books without compromising with books that write about immoral things and put them as okay.

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    1. First of all, thank you for your thoughtful comment. You bring up a good point that I should probably have considered more in my review.

      I haven't yet solidified my thoughts on where to draw the line on literary content, so I'll just share a few related thoughts:

      I agree that this book does not portray true love. That isn't, however, a reason not to read it. Many books that are considered classics don't portray true love: "The Great Gatsby," for example. We seem to read a lot of books with broken, fallen people and regard them as some of the best literature of all time. ("Of Mice and Men" and "Animal Farm" also come to mind.) We read literature like this not because it demonstrates pure goodness or how we should virtuously act, but because it helps us to see some sort of truth. For example, "The Great Gatsby" helps readers to see the truth that great ambition, when paired with a selfish goal, is fruitless in the end.

      I would argue that "The Fault In Our Stars" can have (emphasis on "can") a similar effect. Even though it did portray an immoral worldview, it helped me to realize that when you have a materialistic worldview, pain doesn't make sense. It's definitely a sad truth, and that's why the book is depressing. But it helped me see how the modern world thinks, and it made me want to help people who think that way and to keep from falling into that ideological trap myself.

      That was my personal experience, though. I'm not sure the book would do that for other people, and I'm still not quite sure that I should have read it. So thank you for making me think further about that, and I look forward to hearing your thoughts if you choose to continue the conversation.

      God bless,
      Art3mis Took

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