Friday, August 3, 2012

Review: The Fault in Our Stars (Green)

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AUTHOR: John Green
SERIES: none
PUBLISHER: Dutton
PUBLICATION DATE: January 10, 2012
ISBN: 9780525478812
PAGES: 336
SOURCE: public library
GENRE: realistic/contemporary
GIVE IT TO: HS
SUMMARY: Sixteen-year old Hazel has battled cancer since she was thirteen. She nearly succumbed to it until a medical miracle bought her some more time. When her mother encourages her to attend a support group for teens with cancer, Hazel goes reluctantly only to please her mother. There, she meets Augustus Waters, a 17-year old boy in remission after his leg amputation 14 months ago. Love ensues, and both characters really learn to live.

REVIEW: Let this be a lesson: Never judge a book by its Goodreads rating. I hate it when I go into a book with high expectations. It's why I prefer to read not-yet-published or very recently-published books, so that I don't see review after review singing its praises. I expect too much, then ultimately feel so let-down.

So I'm going to be the prickly pear amongst the reviewers going positively ga-ga over The Fault in Our Stars. Is it a bad book? No. It is decently-paced and interesting enough to keep me turning pages. I like Hazel and Augustus as characters, and their romance, while boring, is also kind of sweet. The story does not glorify cancer or make martyrs of its characters. I liked it enough to keep it a day past its library due date because I still had 100 pages to go, although that was mostly to see if I would change my opinion after reading the ending. (I didn't. If anything, I liked it less.)

The story itself was okay, but the dialogue drove me nuts. The characters (all of them) are just so darned philosophical, witty, articulate. Augustus and Hazel are teenagers, but they talk to each other as though they were 50-year old English professors. They quote books and poetry (from memory) right and left, and their vocabulary is stellar. Their conversations overflow with off-the-cuff puns and irony and wit. I understand that reading is really important to both of them and that they have lots of time to read during tons of stays in hospitals and cancer treatment centers. But teenagers, even those who read a lot, just don't talk that way. And adding the words "like" and "um" every few lines and forming declarative sentences into questions do nothing to make the dialogue more believable. Ditto the random Capitalizations and tangents about scrambled eggs and Maslow's Hierarchy. Ugh.

My other issue with the dialogue is that this book is marketed as young adult. It is intended to be recreational reading for teens. Most of the raving Goodreads and blogger reviews I've read have come from adults. My question is, do teens like it as much as adults do? Does the pretentious dialogue turn them off?

I realize it is unfair of me to review a book through the lens of its glowing reviews, but the reviews were what led me to The Fault in Our Stars in the first place. The hype caused me to read it, and I just don't see what all the fuss is about.

One last point of contention: Did that mall mother really let a total stranger put her cannula (nasal breathing tubes) into her 6-year old daughter's nostrils? Yuck.

THE BOTTOM LINE: Overrated. It is well-paced and interesting enough, but for me, the hype is undeserved. If you like tear-jerkers, stories about cancer, and star-crossed romances, then I encourage you to read The Fault in Our Stars. Most readers like it much better than I do.

STATUS IN MY LIBRARY: After several student requests, I ordered two copies of TFIOS. It's incredibly popular, and I am planning to order more copies on my next book order.

READALIKES: Before I Die (Downham)

RATING BREAKDOWN:
  • Overall: 2/5
  • Creativity: 2/5
  • Characters: 3/5
  • Engrossing: 3/5
  • Writing: 4/5
  • Appeal to teens: 2/5
  • Appropriate length to tell the story: 5/5

CONTENT:
  • Language: mild-medium; some light profanity sprinkled in. No F-words that I remember.
  • Sexuality: medium; some kissing and talk of sex, one intercourse scene that describes no body parts and is over within a couple of paragraphs.
  • Violence: none
  • Drugs/Alcohol: mild; Augustus puts cigarettes in his mouth but never lights them, teen characters drink wine, one adult character is drunk on scotch and offers scotch to the teens

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14 comments:

  1. I think of I read this now I would think it was over rated. However at the time I liked it. Not love but liked. It wasnr the best but I couldnt point out the particular point I didnt like.
    L

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  2. I appreciate the honest review. I was kinda on the fence with this one. Thank you for sharing it.

    Jenea @ Books Live Forever

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  3. I haven't read it yet but am planning on it sometime. Thanks for the honest review. I read 2 books this past week that didn't earn stellar reviews from me either. :)

    Shannon
    http://www.irunreadteach.wordpress.com

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  4. @Shannon--I hate getting in a reading rut. It seems like I love several books in a row, then several in a row are just okay or are not good at all. Hope it picks up for you!

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  5. I feel the exact same way about the book. Especially what you've said about the dialogue. Thank you for alleviating my fear that I was the only person awful enough to say a bad word about this book.

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  6. I felt the same way, I guess I don't have enough "feels", but I can say that I liked it better after we find out who is going to die(hope it's not a spoiler that in a book about terminal cancer someone dies). I didn't think the characters were believable, and the romance is only something a young adult reader could relate to. So disappointed and wondering if my peers (all the glowing reviewers I've seen) have some terrible reversion to teen-aged fantasy.

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  7. I totally agree with you. I kept reading it to see if it got better, but it did not. I got so tired of it I could not read the last 20 pages. Pretentious and too much of everything.

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  8. I somewhat agree with this, except for the dialogue bits. I hope you realize that teenagers are just as likely as speaking maturely to each other as older adults. Just because they are teenagers doesn't mean their intelligence level is lower than anyone else.
    Also, yes, it appeals to teenagers just as much as it appeals to young adults.

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    1. WARNING: This is a kind of long rant, LOL.

      I'm a teenager myself, and I'd like to address what you said about the dialogue bits. We speak like older adults (though I honestly don't think that we're ALWAYS mature...ha), and I do agree that our intelligence level isn't lower, though depending on the teen, our knowledge level maybe a little lower. However, in The Fault in Our Stars, the main characters simply do NOT talk like the teens or adults that I know. Some people out in the world may talk like these main characters, but what are the chances of two people who always speak in metaphors or pretentious words or recite poetry or always manage to sound so witty and smart 24/7 meeting each other? My friends and I can be very witty occasionally or be really smart-alecky, but we're not like that all the time. Hazel and Augustus' dialogue always seemed so... staged. At some points in the book, John Green scrambles to make the dialogue to sound more like teen talk by adding in random "like"s or "um"s or "whatever"s. Those words sounded really awkward next to the pompous, beautiful, fancy words and whatnot. Yes, I understood all of the vocab used in the book, but I never use any of those words except when I'm writing. In real life, do I talk like that? No. Only the adults spoke realistically. Even Hazel's friend Kaitlyn who goes to a public high school spoke oddly.

      Okay, I'm really sorry for spouting out like this. I hope that you do realize that I'm NOT upset and stuff, I just really want to express my opinion. I'm a talkative person, so I also tend to rant a lot. Sorry.

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    2. @Anonymous 4:23--Thank you so much for saying that! When I first saw your warning, I was prepared to read yet another person going off on me because they think I said teens are stupid, but I am really glad yours wasn't that case at all. You agree with me!

      To anyone who thinks I am saying teens are stupid--please get over that. I am not at all suggesting teens are stupid. I am only saying the dialogue is unrealistic and pretentious--not just for teens, but for anyone regardless of their age.

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  9. It appeals to teenagers just as much as it appeals to adults**

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  10. I totally agreed with this review! 50 year old English professors is exactly right! So many people thought Augustus was such a dreamboat, and I just thought he was damn annoying. Who applies metaphors in everyday speech like that?! It makes him so much less attractive to me, and so much more like a pretentious, stuck up guy who thinks he's smarter than everyone else.

    I also totally agree with your point in the "Teens are intelligent," debate - yes, most teens can have sophisticated conversations, but John Green takes it a step too far. Nobody talks like that, and it makes the characters so much less relatable, and more snobby sounding.

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  11. I agree with this review 1,000%! There were parts in the writing and dialogue that were so bad, so egregious and so inaccurate to how people (never mind just teenagers) communicate with each other, that I was actually wincing. Like you said, the story was fine at best, but the writing was just so horrible and so contrived that I just couldn't get past it at all.

    Again, I totally agree that teenagers can be smart and can discuss intelligent things and ideas, but am I actually supposed to believe that a 16 year-old can quote an epically long poem like The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock at the drop of a hat? Literally no.

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