I've found myself a little addicted to watching books reviews and book related vlogs on YouTube over the last month, adding many more books to my must read list. While I love reading reviews I find that I tend to prefer watching reviews as you can really get a sense of the vloggers passion for a particular book more so than you can via text based reviews. Any way, after subscribed to a few new channels I soon realised that a lot of people that I'd be watching had all read and highly rated John Green's The Fault in Our Stars. I knew that a film adaptation of the book was due to be released later this year so it seemed like a great time to pick up a copy of the book and see if it lived up to the hype.
To give you a brief summary without any spoilers, The Fault in Our Stars is a traumatic love story told from the perspective of Hazel Grace, a teenager who largely defines herself by her illness. Hazel has terminal cancer and has found her own miracle in a new drug that is prolonging her life as the disease gradually takes over. She spends her days getting lost in books, however once a week her mother makes her attend a cancer support group for young people, in the hope that she'll make friends and act like a normal teenager.
This is where she meets Augustus, a former high school athlete who is now in remission after having his leg amputated to stop the cancer spreading. He and Hazel Grace quickly become friends, swapping and movie recommendations, most notably Hazel Grace's favourite book The Imperial Affliction which becomes the foundation of their relationship and the rest of the story.
There is a lot I want to say about this book, but I'm going to try not to give to much away or ramble on for ages!
So, first impressions, it took me a while to get used to how Hazel Grace is written. I'm not sure if it was the teenage language she used or even getting used to her way of approaching cancer, but it took me a few chapters before I began to like the character and start to appreciate the book.
Once I had managed to overcome this initial obstacle I couldn't help but fall in love with this book. It is very self aware and has a lot of literary references, something which I loved in The Perks of Being a Wallflower so it was interesting to see how John Green introduced other books into this story. As Hazel Grace is very much a bookish character I really enjoyed getting an insight into her world view via the books that she has read and enjoys. I think the focus on An Imperial Affliction is also a really interesting choice. As Hazel explains very early on, she doesn't like cancer books - and yet her favourite book, An Imperial Affliction is a caner book. Much to my disappointment, An Imperial Affliction is a fictional book existing only in The Fault in Our Stars; however the more that the book is explored by Hazel and Augustus the more I believe that there story is a great representation of this fictional book. In fact, part of me is glad that the book doesn't exist, I don't think it could live up to the image that John Green has created.
Throughout the book there is also a lot of discussions on life, death and love; not something that is at all to shocking for what is essentially a cancer book, however I love the philosophical discussions this story can lead to. Does the universe want to be noticed? Is death for a noble cause better just dying? I really enjoyed Augustus' approached to these questions. He wants to die a noble and almost knight like death and so he lives his life sacrificing his only time in order to give something to the lives of others. I'm not sure I agree that this is a great way to live but I think that if you've suffered from such a terrible illness then you start to value your life very differently.
This brings me on to what I promise will be my final point! Augustus has a habit of carrying an unlit cigarette in his mouth. I've heard a lot of mixed thoughts on this, but I really liked it. Perhaps because I'm a sucker for a metaphors and seizing control from the uncontrollable, but this is a small part of the story that I really appreciated. While the act can be interpreted in many ways, I like to see the unlit cigarette as a way cheating death. Augustus is holding something deadly in his mouth but, by not lighting it, he is denying it its power and taking control of his health in one of the few ways that he can.
Despite being a little sceptical after hearing all of the hype, I really couldn't recommend A Fault in Our Stars enough. I've already recommended it to a few friends and have since bought the John Green box set so I can read the rest of his books. I really enjoyed this book, a lot more than I thought I would and it's definitely something I will read again and again, although next time I'll be more prepared and make sure that there are lots of tissues on hand!