Friday, January 31, 2014

The Fault in Our Stars

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green, 318 pages

I originally read The Fault in Our Stars in 2012, shortly after it was published. I’ve read most of Green’s body of work, and I fall pretty solidly in the John-Green-Fan column. In fact, in my personal experience he seems to be read more frequently by adults than teens. (My experience is totally anecdotal and is based on observing who checked out John Green books while I worked at a circulation desk; I never kept an official teen vs. adult tally or any other scientific statistics). It seems undeniable that he’s one of those cross-over YA author who appeals strongly to adult readers as well as teens. Even the way The Fault in Our Stars’s book jacket is designed seems meant to appeal to adult readers as much (or more so) than teenagers. The cover doesn’t have any of the common YA cover tropes (e.g. big face, girl in a fancy dress, cropped out head, etc.) and the cover blurb is by Jodi Picoult, an adult author. It’s a book that an adult wouldn’t be embarrassed to be seen carrying around (have you seen some of the YA covers out there? Cassandra Clare, I’m looking at you).

I wasn’t exactly looking forward to rereading The Fault in Our Stars because I remembered vividly how heart wrenching the story was. It is, after all, a Romeo and Juliette tale about teens who have cancer. I made it to just over page 100 before tearing up for the first time (Hazel waking up in the ICU did me in). By the end of the book I was, once again, an emotional wreck (even though I knew exactly what was coming). Overall, I’m happy with how well The Fault in Our Stars held up under a second reading, it still packs an emotional wallop.

I don’t know many people who are as well-spoken and articulate as the teens in John Green novels (I wish I were half as articulate as a John Green teen). Personally, I do tend to enjoy that snappy Gilmore Girls/Juno/Woody Allen style dialogue, but I do understand how it might not sit well with other readers. I did like Green’s presentation of the (markedly less-articulate) parents in the book. Unlike in many other YA novels, they weren’t absent, they weren’t stupid, they weren’t abusive or evil or cruel; they were fairly realistic suburban middle-class parents. (I don’t mean to imply that abusive, absent parents don’t exist, but sometimes I feel like they are the ONLY type of parents that exist in YA novels). Though the book is focused on Hazel and Gus, Green gives us enough of a glimpse into the parental characters to show that they DO have lives outside of their children, which as Hazel points out, is quite a difficult feat since taking care of a kid with cancer is a full time job. I don’t hesitate to recommend The Fault in Our Stars to adult and teen readers alike.


  1. Did someone say embarrassing cover? Saw that one pass through just the other day, haha

  2. ahem.

    Anyways. Regarding the language, yes - the characters are more eloquent than basically any real-life teen, and indeed, more eloquent than basically any real-life person. But I think that's okay. The characters themselves are idealized, so the language follows suit. The whole Van Houten plotline shows that this isn't trying to be a perfectly realistic story. So it's okay if the dialogue veers more towards poetry than realism.