Monday, 16 June 2014

The Fault in Our Stars - book review

I’m quite late on the bandwagon, and I must confess I’d only heard about “The Fault in Our Stars” through Twitter. Sorry, English Literature A-Level. But I saw the book for £4 in Asda, and knowing that I had a long train journey the next day (coming home from Uni means a trip from Manchester to Norwich – done it more times than I can count, and I swear it gets longer every time!) I bought it.

I flicked open the front cover on a bench outside the supermarket as I was waiting for my boyfriend to pick me up, and even from the first couple of pages I was absolutely, utterly, completely hooked. The story follows Hazel, a 16 year old girl who has cancer that will inevitably be terminal, but whose life is being prolonged by a treatment called Phalaxifor (a drug that I deeply regret to say is fictional). At the wish of her mother, she attends a support group for young people with cancer, where she meets Isaac and his friend, Augustus. She and Augustus fast form a bond that continues throughout the book, as their lives and relationships progress.

Everything I’d seen about ‘The Fault in Our Stars joked about the necessity of having 5 boxes of Kleenex in arms reach at all times whilst reading it. I was definitely no exception to this rule – I did in fact have to put it to the side whilst on the train because my face began turning unattractively red and blotchy, and I’m afraid my British nature doesn’t allow for any form of public emotion. It IS an incredibly emotional book; however the sadness of the story isn’t what stood out to me, not really. Unlike many other books I’ve read of the same ‘theme’, I felt very much as if I was reading the story of young people who happened to have cancer, rather than a story of cancer patients. By this I mean, the characters were fascinating ones, and the story would have been just as compelling without that tragic element. Hazel is bright, passionate and intelligent, and very much lives her life as a normal teenager. Refreshingly, not a teenager that seems to be “rebelling” – just one who enjoys going to the mall, watching marathons of America’s Next Top Model, and above all, reading. When Isaac loses his sight completely due to his eye cancer (sorry, spoiler alert!) he appears much more upset about being dumped by his girlfriend. And Augustus is probably one of the most charming, generous and charismatic young men I’ve ever had the pleasure to read about.

This isn’t to imply that John Green sugar coats the story – without giving ANYTHING away, he doesn’t, and things that I wished hadn’t happened, happened. He remains startlingly frank and realistic until the end of the book, and I think that’s what I love most about it. The development of relationships was extremely touching, most notably for me between Hazel and her parents, and of course with Augustus. The book isn’t written to be mushy, or overly sentimental – just very real, and I think it’s that realism that draws you into the story and leaves you feeling truly happy to be alive. 

9.5/10 and a pat on the head for you, Mr Green. I can't wait to see if the movie lives up to the book!