I wonder if there is anyone left in the world that can be objective about John Green. And if there is, can they be objective about a John Green book about teens dying of cancer?
“Sometimes, you read a book and it fills you with this weird evangelical zeal, and you become convinced that the shattered world will never be put back together unless and until all living humans read the book.”
I didn’t want to read it as I’m not usually into sob-stories and this one was a sob-fest (I knew it after watching the movie). I’m not going to lie to you, the book is terribly sad. I suggest you don’t read it if you are unwell or depressed, but it raises some very deep philosophical issues about life, death, the universe and everything. It gives me a bit of hope that our young adults might not be scrambling their brains with screens all the time, but engaging with a beautifully written story with some challenging themes
I struggled with this post because when I tried to pinpoint what didn’t work for me – scenes that seemed unrealistic or stereotypical – I kept thinking: how do you know what you’d do in their situation?
Grief does not change you, Hazel. It reveals you
But that’s part of the point of The Fault in Our Starts: it makes us face the possibility. How would I handle the fine balance between protecting my loved-ones and my need to panic, to complain, to revolt, to assign guilt? John Green really knows how to capture a mood, and throw you right in with the characters. It was stunning. I was gripped from start to finish.
That being said, the dialogues were a major barrier. And by dialogues I mean the characters. I’ve read several reviews of the disappointed minority and this seems a common denominator. The unrealistic way these teens talk (“existentially fraught free throws“; “all of this (…) will have been for naught”), might be put down to how intellectual they are, how they had to wise-up and come to terms with their mortality when they should feel invincible.
“Augustus Waters was a self-aggrandising bastard. But we forgive him. We forgive him not because he had a heart as figuratively good as his literal one sucked, or because he knew more about how to hold a cigarette than any nonsmoker in history, or because he got eighteen years when he should’ve gotten more.’
‘Seventeen,’ Gus corrected.
‘I’m assuming you’ve got some time, you interrupting bastard.
‘I’m telling you,’ Isaac continued, ‘Augustus Waters talked so much that he’d interrupt you at his own funeral. And he was pretentious: Sweet Jesus Christ, that kid never took a piss without pondering the abundant metaphorical resonances of human waste production. And he was vain: I do not believe I have ever met a more physically attractive person who was more acutely aware of his own physical attractiveness.
‘But I will say this: When the scientists of the future show up at my house with robot eyes and they tell me to try them on, I will tell the scientists to screw off, because I do not want to see a world without him.’
I was kind of crying by then.”
Also, if you’ve ever seen a Green interview or vlog you’ll know that he is these characters: he’s smart, hip, funny and cynical. I couldn’t escape the image of the puppet master, wanting me to cry hard, and think about the Purpose of Life, Disappointing Heroes and Remaining True to Yourself in the Face of Unimaginable Hardship (while reciting Great Poetry).
Hazel is our main character, she is seventeen and has thyroid cancer with mets and her mother decides she needs to go to a weekly Support Group to beat depression. Hazel has an almost non verbal friendship with Isaac whom she meets at group, both frustrated with the group lead and share looks and sighs with each other. Isaac’s friend comes along to group one day, Augustus (Gus) Waters and Hazel can’t help but notice him, he is hot and won’t stop staring at her. They strike up a conversation, friendship blooms and the two quickly become inseparable. What follows is a journey between two people, brought together by friendship who go through and share so much in a limited amount of time.
There are infinite numbers between 0 and 1. There’s .1 and .12 and .112 and an infinite collection of others. Of course, there is a bigger infinite set of numbers between 0 and 2, or between 0 and a million. Some infinities are bigger than other infinities. A writer we used to like taught us that. There are days, many of them, when I resent the size of my unbounded set. I want more numbers than I’m likely to get, and God, I want more numbers for Augustus Waters than he got. But, Gus, my love, I cannot tell you how thankful I am for our little infinity. I wouldn’t trade it for the world. You gave me a forever within the numbered days, and I’m grateful.”
This is a beautiful story that, looks at friendship, suffering, loss, emotions, humour, attraction and death. Hazel is terminal, she is on a new drug that will buy her some time but ultimately she will die, this sees her holding back from Gus.
The story covers a range of emotions and I found myself moved a few times throughout. The two main characters are only seventeen and sometimes you felt they were very advanced emotionally however maybe due to what they have both been through the author done this on purpose? I would have read this in one sitting however I started it on my phone and only got it on a proper device today and I finished it that way.
“Without pain, how could we know joy?’ This is an old argument in the field of thinking about suffering and its stupidity and lack of sophistication could be plumbed for centuries but suffice it to say that the existence of broccoli does not, in any way, affect the taste of chocolate.”