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)
- 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
- 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