And here is Most Anticipated Books of 2012 number two. I admit much of my anticipation for this one had to do with the experience of reading it alongside so many others. It was like a community event. Not that I don't enjoy John Green's work in and of itself, I just tend to want to like it more than I actually do. The Fault in Our Stars is no different. There is so much to love about the artistry in the writing itself and it is beautiful, witty, and heartbreaking, but there were elements of it that I just couldn't fully embrace, all of which had to do with me as the reader and not the book itself.
Synopsis (from Goodreads):
Diagnosed with Stage IV thyroid cancer at 12, Hazel was prepared to die until, at 14, a medical miracle shrunk the tumours in her lungs... for now. Two years post-miracle, sixteen-year-old Hazel is post-everything else, too; post-high school, post-friends and post-normalcy. And even though she could live for a long time (whatever that means), Hazel lives tethered to an oxygen tank, the tumours tenuously kept at bay with a constant chemical assault. Enter Augustus Waters. A match made at cancer kid support group, Augustus is gorgeous, in remission, and shockingly to her, interested in Hazel. Being with Augustus is both an unexpected destination and a long-needed journey, pushing Hazel to re-examine how sickness and health, life and death, will define her and the legacy that everyone leaves behind.
The book has everything one could wish for in a good book. Excellent characterization, tragedy mixed with acerbic humor, a well placed plot, and a story that is moving. Hazel and Augustus are, of course, mature beyond their years. They have had to face questions about life, death, and reality that most kids their age never think to contemplate. The book is really an examination of these questions: What is the meaning of life if there is one? What happens to us when we die? How does knowing we are going to die in the imminent future affect the decisions we make in the present? What is the purpose of living, even if it is for a shortened time? These are all excellent questions. Questions that should be asked and contemplated. I like these questions. I disagree with many of the answers Hazel and Augustus came up with but I loved that they sparked so much thought and could be the beginning of many interesting conversations. I really enjoyed the interactions between these two and their developing romance, which is the real thing: intellectual, emotional, and physical. Hazel is Green's first attempt to tell a story from the female perspective and he did an excellent job. Augustus Waters does take over the story though (or did for me). His sexy charismatic personality was hard not to fall for.
So yes, I enjoyed and appreciated the book. My problem? I actually guessed where the plot was going from my first reading of the synopsis back when it was revealed and had been hoping since then I was wrong. I wasn't, and that is not a fault in the book or the way it was written. That was just me wanting a different story than the one being told. To Green's credit he made me believe this is the only way the story could have gone despite my reservations, and yes I cried in all the requisite places, but I could never shake the sense that I was being manipulated into it, although not in the cheap sentimental way that so many cancer books are guilty of. I do wonder if my reaction to it would have been different if this book had come out before A Monster Calls. It may only be the comparison in my own head between the two that made this one feel a little heavy handed toward the end.