This month the YA Book Club, hosted by Tracey Neithercott, read The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. Let me start by saying I am a fan of Young Adult literature because I think it can be thought-provoking, can be well written and can be meaningful. This is so true for John Green’s writing. I was a smidge–just a smidge–reluctant to read this book because of all the hype online. But, there’s so much hype for a good reason.
I saw the Seattle John Green reading/show/event in January, so I know how he feels about his articulate, sometimes overly mature characters that he often writes in his books. Yes, there are teenagers out there that are thoughtful and well read and this is typical for characters in Green’s books. It definitely elevates the writing and in this particular setting where the kids are at home, sick, and in Hazel’s case already taking college courses, it is fitting. The relationship between Hazel and Augustus is so wonderful. The characters are completely enamored of each other, but individually they have no idea how “utterly unprecedented” they are (123).
The trip to Amsterdam is so perfect and not perfect for the characters all at once. I appreciate that there was a wrench thrown in the cog during this trip that should have otherwise marred their vacation. And even with that wrench, Amsterdam was what I think everyone wishes a trip with a significant other would be like. There is a special meal where Hazel and Augustus get to ” ‘ “[taste] the stars” ‘ ” (163). I felt submerged in their world in Amsterdam and relished every moment. I could picture the springtime snowfall and the streets of Holland.
This may seem little, but I liked Hazel’s attitude on breakfast and how eggs are categorized exclusively as a breakfast food. 🙂 I learned during my trip to Sweden that meatballs and bread and oil can be breakfast faire. Hasn’t everyone thought about (when dining at a we-serve-everything-all-day kind of food joint) that they would like the fish and chips for breakfast? Or a salad? This is just a small part of her characterization that helped Hazel come to life.
Hazel’s parents are well written–they seem like the ideal support system. They don’t lock up Hazel or pity their daughter to a fault. Their grief, their angry parent moments (and Hazel’s typical teenage moments) relay a balanced parent-child relationship but not a necessarily perfect one. How could Hazel ever understand how her parents feel about the inevitable loss of their only child? Hazel’s dad address that beautifully on page 278 when he relates her feelings of loss to the way they’ll feel when she passes. I get teary just thinking about this all over again!
What I loved the most is how Green addresses death and being remembered. I think so many people want to leave their mark and be remembered when they die. Augustus even has the numbers for how many dead people there are to living people. Hazel says it best when she says to Augustus, “‘You say you’re not special because the world doesn’t know about you, but that’s an insult to me. I know about you'” (240). Everything about these characters is raw and felt. I think the reader expects them to be angry, bitter, sad and holed up, but they emanate love, truth and peace. Is it possible for a book to bring you some peace about life and death? I think this novel may have done that for me. The fact that Hazel and Augustus live such short lives but love so much in that short time definitely left me feeling like their lives were filled to the brim. They came, they saw, they conquered, right?
“‘It is a good life, Hazel Grace'” (236).