This is not meant to be a review of The Fault in our Stars by John Green because, really, how can you review something that’s already been reviewed so many times and yet bring something new? You can’t, I assume. It’s the fault in my system that I got to read this book only now – more than three years after it was published when everything about this book has already been said.
BUT, as it happens, I still have something to say!
I didn’t want to read this book at first because it’s a total bestseller of all the bestsellers in the world, which means a lot of money. Movie’s been made out of it, which means even more money and I don’t like literature turned into a business. I call these kinds of books “a book meant to be successful” – a book that is written with a purpose of becoming a bestseller. A good example is “The Shack” by… (I don’t remember the name of the author and I can’t be bothered to google it), which was totally meant to be a hit and “surprisingly” it was! So TFIOS is exactly that kind of book. After the success of his previous novels Green was already a hit-maker when writing this one. But I told myself, “it’s a good story to begin with and it’s meant to be funny and sad at the same time, which is something I like so: why not try?
And it was worth reading. It was a good story. Here are some of my comments:
1. It is not common that a male author makes a female character narrate the story. Men writers usually choose to tell stories via a male character or a third person narrative. Why? Because men normally don’t understand women that well and they know that if they attempted to think like a woman they would fail. BUT not John Green. I say he either must understand women very well (lucky the wife of his), or he must have cooperated with some girls when creating Hazel as a character and writing her lines. It’s almost as if he could see into Hazel’s imaginary head and described her thoughts as a woman would. Thumbs up JG for that.
2. I loved how Hazel reread the book “An Imperial Affliction” all over again. The book, I think, represented her own life and that’s why she’s been so desperate for the sequel. She reread it as if she were to find her answers in it. She identified with Anna, the main character, and that’s why the ending of the book so impressed Hazel because that’s how she thought her life would end – mid-sentence, missing a proper ending. She knew she will leave many people behind after she’s gone and that made her desperately wanting to know what happens after the book/her death. She was especially interested in what happens to Anna’s mum because she kept worrying about her own mum. (Partially because she knew her dad won’t be too great a support to her given he was quite a softie – see the third comment.)
3. Hazel’s dad was quite an ambivalent figure in this story. On the one hand, he was described like a very emotionally unstable and weak man but at the same time, by the end of the book after Augustus is gone, he seems most collected and wise. I don’t know, the way he cried all the time annoyed me. I thought: If I had such a dad who’s so soppy and mushy all the time, I’d definitely go mad.
4. I really liked how after Augustus got sick and things became really serious with him Hazel started calling him Gus instead of Augustus. I noticed it right away and then on the page 240 he really said it: “you used to call me Augustus”. It was nicely depicted how a person changes when they’re sick. It’s as if they were two different people: Augustus – a still relatively healthy and a gorgeous, self-confident guy, and Gus – a sick, late-stage cancer patient, who no longer resembles his true self. Cancer takes its toll.
5. One thing that I really didn’t like was Green’s reference to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs on pages 212/213. Maslow identified six types of human needs and arranged them according to their importance, the most basic of needs being at the bottom of the “pyramid”, the most advanced need – self-actualization – at the top. Maslow’s theory works with a “universal” human nature – human as a universal variable. A person’s individualities, such as one’s health condition, social status, profession, intelligence are not taken into account. Only the one who satisfied their basic physiological needs may think about satisfying the needs upper in the hierarchy. Hazel calls this theory an “utter horseshit”. She thinks that the fact of her being insecure in her health makes her locked in the second level of the pyramid – “the need of security” – and that the theory suggests she cannot possibly have upper needs. However, that is an “utter horseshit” because “security” in Maslow’s theory is in no way connected to health, it means security as such: safety, living in peace, freedom… Hazel, apart from being sick, is perfectly suitable for reaching the top of the pyramid – she lives in wealth, has loving parents, is educated, well taken care of…
JG either (a) has an alarming lack of knowledge of the theory (then why not research it better before writing about it?), or (b) researched it thoroughly but misinterpreted it, or (c) deliberately misinterpreted it so as to match the context of the book and to make Hazel kind of criticising the classical account of human behaviour, or (d) he researched it thoroughly but thought he has found a flaw in the theory and perceived his account as a sort of triumph over Abraham Maslow. One way or another, it really was terribly misinterpreted and it would be quite rude and too ambitious from John Green if it was (d).
6. I think that one of the most important messages the book carries is the one that’s summed up in the sentence on page 312: “We’re as likely to hurt the universe as we are to help it, and we’re not likely to do either.” Who lives, who dies, who makes a difference in this world, who is remembered – the universe doesn’t care. From greater perspective, our lives don’t matter as much as we think they do. Hazel knew this and that’s why she was so fed up with Gus whenever he talked about his fear of oblivion. You only get this life and this given number of years spent on this planet. Oblivion is inevitable and that’s why you should be grateful for what you have, for the good, for the bad – and take it as it is. Make the most of what you have been given.