Last month we promised a closer look at this book as well as the movie version. I bought John Green’s novel last year to take to Ireland with my family; we were staying on a beautiful beach in Renvyle among sheep farms and tiny pubs where The Quiet Man was filmed. At night, exhausted after tramping around Connemara and climbing Diamond Hill with my family, I sat and read chapter after chapter. I just couldn’t put the book down.
My fifteen-year-old niece (also staying in the house with us) had already read Fault several times. We had several intense discussions about the plot and characters - fascinating to me, since I love to get a glimpse inside the teenaged mind whenever I can. She adored Augustus and Hazel Grace, wanted to read An Imperial Affliction, a book mentioned in TFiOS. Meanwhile, I sneaked a few looks at the Goodreads reviews – mainly positive, although a lot of them stated the conversations between Augustus and Hazel Grace were too highbrow, too adult for teens.
It didn’t seem to bother my niece one bit.
In fact, the smart tone was one reason why I loved the book (cigarette metaphor and all) – John Green refused to ‘dumb down’ the characters. The author said he worked as a chaplain at a children’s hospital, and stories about sick kids “oversimplified and sometimes dehumanized them.” For me, at least, Augustus and Hazel Grace were extremely vibrant – and for my niece as well. Gus was alive, that good-looking boy. And Hazel sprang right off the page, irony, oxygen tank, and all.
The movie has garnered good reviews from Time and the Boston Globe; it also hit the cover of Entertainment Weekly. I was shocked to see they left off Hazel’s breathing nubbins on the magazine – and my nine-year-old daughter picked up on it as well: “Mommy, where are Hazel Grace’s breathing tubes?” Chew on that, EW, and remember sometimes the flaws (and the faults) of fiction make it beautiful.
I decided to read TFiOS after I saw a piece of fan art with Gus and Hazel saying “Okay” to each other. She intrigued me so much I knew I had to have the book, so I loaded it into the Kindle just in time for the Ireland trip. There, tucked in an attic room looking over Renvyle sands, I read it twice in a row – once in great, greedy gulps, a second time more slowly to taste the language. Yes, the egging episode was shocking. Yes, the novel is sad. Yes, the cigarette metaphor was weird. But I loved Green’s bravery in confronting issues of life and death with desperate, chaotic, adolescent adventure – a confrontation with life grown-ups rarely understand.
It helped the title came from my favorite lines from Julius Caesar: “Men at some time are masters of their fates / The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves that we are underlings.”
If you haven’t read the book and enjoy YA real-world fiction, do load it onto your Kindle or Nook for the beach or lake, wherever your summer destination may be. Make certain to bring tissues as well, though. And take a few hours to see the movie.
I read two other books during the vacation: Ready Player One and Ruby’s Fire. They were both YA-centered fantasy and perfect material for travel and summer reading. Next month I’ll talk about those books as well as a few other suggestions for poolside and movie night.
Buy The Fault in Our Stars at Amazon