Talk about being late to board the bandwagon, but I finally decided to read That Book. You know, That Book which was made into a movie and has a rabid fan-base which will bite off your ear if you insult it? Yes, that’s the one. The Fault in Our Stars. I orignally didn’t read it because of how terribly depressing it was. Also, I hate bandwagons. “Be not like dumb, driven cattle,” says the poet Longfellow, and I agree. However, in a curious turn of circumstances, this was the only book available to me. So I read it.
What I Hated:
Why does it seem like every John Green book has beautiful protagonists? Especially with the advent of selfies and social media (Narcissists: they’ve never had it easier!) a lot of emphasis is placed on physical attractiveness, but this book takes it a step further. Hazel and Augustus are not only more beautiful than average, but their existence matters a lot more than the average person’s because they are. Strangers passing by see them eating at a canal-side cafe and shout how ‘beautiful’ they are. They both frequently compliment each other’s good looks. It also seems that they lead more meaningful lives because of this. Not only do they look like the perfect couple, but they also are the perfect couple, which makes it better. If a couple were average-looking, but were perfect for each other, it seems they would rank lower than Augustus and Hazel, simply because they didn’t look it on the outside. Yes, Augustus has a prosthetic leg (and cancer) and Hazel has a puffed-with-steroids face (and cancer) but it is clear that none of this impacts their beauty.
This is pretty subtle, but observe carefully and we notice that everyone is at Hazel’s beck and call. Kaitlyn, her friend, agrees to go to the mall with her as soon as Hazel suggests it. Kaitlyn is not repulsed with or awkward about Hazel’s illness, probably because she respects Hazel for her good-looks. Augustus showers her with compliments and lets her know that he is her’s for the taking. Her loving parents dote on her. The folks and The Support Group for cancer kids are supportive of her. Lida calls her “strong” and says that she is inspired by Hazel.
3. The Over-use of the word “Okay”:
There’s nothing cute about this. It’s annoying. A good chunk of their conversation involves okay-ing, which gets on my nerves.
4. The Quotable Quotes:
UGH. This independently bothers me as much as the rest of ’em combined. This book is stuffed (and I mean it!) with dumb, stereotyped sentences which stick out like sore thumbs. Examples include: “The world is not a wish-granting factory.” “Some infinities are bigger than other infinities.”
5. The Star-Crossed Lovers:
Hazel’s mother travels with her and Augustus to a foreign country, and then proceeds to leave them alone everyday. Now which mother would leave a sick daughter in foreign country with a sick boy (missing exactly one leg) who the family has only known a couple of months? The sheer improbability of the situation fairly boggles the mind.
What I Loved:
1. Their Affection for Each Other Isn’t Superficial:
Hazel sees Augustus in some downright mortifying moments, but that doesn’t decrease their fondness for one another. Despite their obvious obsession with each other’s outer crusts, they have actual affection for each other. As Augustus’s cancer reaches its final stages, he is no longer the boy he was. He is no longer the tall, muscular basketball player, but a thin, weak boy in a wheelchair. The only part of him which doesn’t point to his illness are his eyes.
2. How Hazel and Isaac Treat Augustus:
His half-sisters and their husbands, who mean well, start treating him like something to be cared for and pitied, when all he wants is to do things for himself. Hazel and Augustus joke with him, and he jovially makes light of their disabilities, saying that his beauty “blinded” Isaac and “took Hazel Grace’s breath away”.
3. Hazel’s Attitude towards her Parents:
Throughout the book it seems like Hazel is rude and selfish, like she takes their love and concern for granted. She never understands their point of view, nor does she try. When she wants to see Augustus and they won’t let her, she throws a fit. It’s pretty obvious that Hazel’s parents want to spend time with their own daughter, whose days they know are numbered. But there is one redeeming part in the book, where she is happy that her mom is training to be a social worker. It lets you see that Hazel’s frustration at being A Sadness in their lives made her rude, that she is good enough to want them to be happy when she’s gone.
4. Hazel’s Blunt Honesty:
She isn’t afraid of admitting to herself what her thoughts really are. She couldn’t be more forthright or honest about what her opinions are, which is great. For example, she thinks to herself that knowing that Gus liked her made her like him more. It’s a small thing, but it goes pretty far to show you the kind of person she is.
4. Their Names:
Hazel Grace Lancaster and Augustus “Gus” Waters. Could there be more perfect character names? They have a great, lyrical twang to them, especially the literary-sounding Augustus.