John Green wants to make you cry, but first he’ll make you laugh

grca_badge_winner-f9454940ba1e5388d3d719979c7f3f51The Fault in Our Stars ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
John Green
Dutton Books, 2012

The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves. ~Julius Caesar

I fell in love the way you fall asleep: slowly, and then all at once.
~The Fault in our Stars

The_Fault_in_Our_StarsAlright, alright! I admit it, it got to me — it freaking absolutely got to me. If I were Superman this little book would be my Kryptonite. Why did I think I would be immune? I was so smug going into this, feeling secure in my awesome, arrogant certainty that the sure to be oodles of maudlin and reams of cliches would keep me safe and sound from any wrenchings of the heart. My overall dubiousness and cynicism would serve as my protective shield, offering immunity against such ruthless emotional manipulation — nay exploitation — about to be perpetrated against my person. Sick kids? Cancer? Dying sick kids with cancer? Dying sick kids with cancer falling in love? Really? You’re going to go there so completely and unapologetically and still expect me to respect you in the morning?

Despite all the obvious pitfalls lying in wait for John Green, he manages to avoid just about all of them (seemingly with ease). I experienced a level of integrity and commitment to the subject matter that gave sufficient weight and depth to what could have just as easily turned out to be breezy and shallow.

That’s not to say that this story wallows in gloom and gravitas — far from it. It’s funny. I laughed out loud — out loud — and when I wasn’t doing that I snickered, grinned, and tittered (yes, there were a few titters). I also bawled like a baby, but the laughter came first, and the tears were earned.

Hazel Grace — our terminal narrator — is lovely. You will notice she doesn’t always act or speak like your average teenager, and that’s because she isn’t one. Hazel has been in a staring contest with Death since she was 13 years old. He hasn’t beaten her yet, but it’s changed her, in more ways than any of us non-terminal people could ever comprehend. Our casual intellectual acceptance that we are all terminal and will one day die is not nearly the same as carrying Death on your skin and in your bones, to feel life seeping out of your pores and stalk you in the night. To sit on your chest and steal the breath from your malfunctioning, fluid-filled lungs.

Augustus Waters is sheer delight and I don’t give a donkey’s ass that the way he and Hazel speak to one another is unrealistic because it is filled with such a sincere sweetness and adorable, lovable humor I couldn’t get enough. It broke through my armor, tore a hole through my cynical self, and had me falling head over heels in love with these two. Each is defiant in the way that only a young person battling Death can be defiant, they are warm and insecure and brave and foolish and selfish and sad and real. I’m not going to say realistic — we could argue that point til the cows come home — but not once did they ever stop being authentic.

What can I say? I loved them. I loved this book. Okay?

Okay.

Occasionally, I like to play around with book trailers. Here is one I made for this lovely little book.

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