Warning: Spoilers for both the book and movie
Please… take this with a grain of salt.
I was fully prepared to sit down and tell you my honest opinion about The Fault in Our Stars. I was fully prepared to tell you that although it wasn’t a bad book, the writing sometimes felt a little juvenile, even for a young adult book. I was going to tell you that the relationship happened instantly, without letting me get to know either character, and their honeymoon phase royally pissed me off as it was rubbed in my face for the majority of the book. I was going to say most of the dialogue was great when two characters were going back and forth in a conversation, but it seemed weird coming out of characters with virtually nothing to them. I was going to say there were also too many speeches that didn’t seem natural.
I was fully prepared to say that Peter Van Houten was a less cool version of Dr. House, and his sudden appearance at the end of the book seemed so out of place that I was convinced it was leading up to a new book in which he starts his own journey to move on. I was going to say that Isaac was the best character in the book, if for no other reason than he was a breath of fresh air from the main relationship, and because he was essentially the only other teenager in this story about teenagers (there was also Kaitlyn, but she was so minor in comparison). I was going to rant how Hazel was much more likable than in the movie, because a) the descriptions of her struggle with her cancer are more effective, and b) I feel like she meant it more when saying she was afraid to hurt people with her eventual death, BUT was still a huge tease by telling Augustus that they could only be friends because she was afraid of hurting him, yet still cuddled with him, let him kiss her (Friendly kiss between teenage guy and girl? Ha… okay.), and allowed him to use his wish to take her all the way to Amsterdam. I was ready to hear the argument that Hazel was confused and didn’t know what she really wanted, and I was ready to say if that was really the case, than the book could have portrayed that better.
I was fully, 100% ready to say that Augustus Waters is, quite frankly, the worst thing ever. Pretentious, manipulative, obnoxious, needy, and inconsiderate are some of the words that floated through my mind during the many, many moments I had to put the book down, shake my head, and sigh after reading a line of his dialogue. I was ready to explain how he’s the kind of guy that says funny and likable things, but isn’t the kind of person to get away with it without sounding like a douche. I was ready to state my theory on how he’s only dating Hazel because she looks like his dead girlfriend, and his perfect relationship with her is an alternate ending to his previous one (which would be an amazing element of depth, but I honestly don’t think this was intentional). I was ready to say that it’s perfectly healthy to wonder what people would say about you if you died, but to go as far as to have your friends write a eulogy and present it to you at a fake funeral for yourself is beyond conceited, and the reason that it was funny in Futurama was because the character it was based around was intentionally written as a conceited asshole, and the scene wasn’t meant to show two main characters pour their hearts out about how much he meant to them in a tearjerking moment.
But as I sat down to write this post, a pile of notes neatly arranged on my desk, I found myself having a hard time doing so. For the past couple of weeks I’d been talking to as many people as I could about this book, why they found it amazing, trying to argue all of my negative points with them, etc. I’d gone on many emotionally filled rants about the characters, the relationship, and the writing, most likely pissing a few choice people off.
Maybe I’d just gotten it all out of my system. Maybe I’d spent too much time with the book that I just didn’t care anymore. But when I started writing this review, I felt like I was overreacting. I felt like I believed some of my points, but let myself get carried away in hating things that didn’t deserve to be hated. I read a random chapter again and honestly couldn’t see what I got myself so worked up about. So in a last minute decision, I decided to read the book again in two days before I had to return it to the friend I borrowed it from.
All in all, I had a much more relaxing time reading this the second time through.
I won’t lie, I saw the movie first. I really didn’t want to. The book’s been on my to-read list for a while, and I really wanted to read it before seeing the film. But my friend wanted my opinion on the movie before reading the book (because I’m apparently the only person that hasn’t read it). I liked the movie to an extent; the soundtrack was great, the cinematography was good, the actors were good, but the two leads put me in a really shitty mood. After watching four seasons of The Secret Life of the American Teenager, there was no way I could watch Shailene Woodley and not recall memories of her constantly whining and complaining. And Ansel Elgort… never even heard of him before, let alone seen him in something, but he really brought out something nasty in me. Again, his acting was good, but…
Sigh. It’s a guy thing.
So naturally, as hard as I tried, I couldn’t read through The Fault in Our Stars without hearing them. It’s very much a personal problem, I know. But that’s just how it went. I don’t know if enough time passed for me to put the movie behind me, or if I spent enough time reading to imagine Hazel and Augustus as their own characters aside from their actors in the film, but the second reading was more pleasant. I read the book imagining them as different people, different characters I thought I might enjoy more. And what do you know, I enjoyed Hazel and Augustus. I didn’t even hate Augustus anymore. Granted, I don’t love them like most people do. I still think it was unfair of Hazel to tell Augustus they could only be friends yet encourage romantic gestures, and I still think Augustus is using Hazel.
But… none of that bothered me. At least not nearly as much as it originally had.
I still feel the same about many of the things I was originally going to write in the review. They just don’t piss me off to an intense degree of ranting anymore. Maybe it’s because I’ve spent so much time involved in this story and I’ve just gotten used to it. Maybe the movie really did ruin it for me. Maybe it’s the kind of book that works better on subsequent reads. Maybe it’s because this story had so much potential, and I really wanted to see everything expanded. But I ended up liking it, even with all its problems. Strangely enough, I felt this way after the first read too. Same goes for the movie. But especially so with the second read. And it’s weird, because why would I like this book if I found problems in literally every area? It’s not like this was a book I loved to hate, nor would it be something I’d label as a guilty pleasure.
If there’s one thing I still wish was different, however, it would be some buildup to the relationship. I really wanted to get to know both Hazel and Augustus first, and I really wanted them to know each other more before any feelings formed. You can label that as a personal problem, but I just don’t find a relationship interesting or likable if it’s love at first sight. Something bigger needs to build first.
But honestly, it just wouldn’t be the same book if it worked this way. I guess that youthful rush into the relationship is part of the story’s charm.
Sigh… I honestly don’t know what it is with me and this book.
It’s like the kind of friend that annoys you every time you see him, yet when it comes down to it, you still want to hang out with him. You’d feel guilty or weird if you didn’t invite him to do stuff with you, and even though he pisses you off, you’d still rather him be there than absent from your life.
I know this “review” has been all over the place, but as you can tell, so has my opinion on the book. Again, please take it with a grain of salt. The overwhelming amount of praise and fans of this book makes me nervous that I’ve pissed a lot of people off. I honestly did end up liking the book. I don’t know why, all things considered, but I know when I think a book is just okay, and I know when I don’t care for a book, and The Fault in Our Stars didn’t fall into either category. I legitimately liked it. I didn’t love it. But to be fair, I don’t think I’m the type of person this book was written for.
But… well, I still liked it. Don’t know why. But I did.
Info for my edition of The Fault in Our Stars:
- Published 2012 by Dutton Books
- Hardcover, 318 pages
- ISBN 978-0525478812