The Fault In Our Stars – John Green

The Fault in Our Stars
“that’s the thing about pain, it demands to be felt.” – augustus waters

Source: Bought
Title: The Fault In Our Stars
Author: John Green
Published: January 10th 2012
Pages: 318
Genre: YA, Contemporary, Romance, Realistic Fiction
First Line: Late in the winter of my seventeenth year, my mother decided that I was depressed, presumably because I rarely left the house, spent quite a lot of time in bed, read the same book over and over, ate infrequently and devoted quite a bit of my abundant free time to thinking about death.”

Synopsis: 

Despite the tumor-shrinking medical miracle that has bought her a few years, Hazel has never been anything but terminal, her final chapter inscribed upon diagnosis. But when a gorgeous plot twist named Augustus Waters suddenly appears at Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazel’s story is about to be completely rewritten.

One of John Green’s more recent contemporary stories, The Fault In Our Stars, is an incredibly powerful and thoughtful novel following the conceptual trace of life, loss, the meaning behind being alive and the legacy of death. The protagonist, Hazel, is a sixteen-year-old girl who has, from the start, been written down as a terminal cancer patient and has been bought only a sliver of extra relief due to a miracle drug that would help prolong the years of her already-seemingly-tragic life. She views the world with a blunt honesty and truthfulness, believing nothing more will come to her life – that is, until she meets Augustus Waters, another cancer kid from a mutual support group. The story follows the blossoming of their philosophical, thought-provoking and inspiring relationship while they deal with the inevitability of oblivion, fate and death.

The storyline focuses almost entirely on the relationship between Hazel and Augustus, detailing their intense and deep-rooted theories and ideas on the whole mystery of life. Hazel is a strong and incredibly realistic female protagonist with a rather bleak outlook on life at first – she accepts that she will not live the same life as many others around her yet still yearns for it. She is smart, witty and her voice is both intellectual and stimulating, which is also another reason which draws Augustus’ attention to her.
Augustus is very similar to Hazel in the philosophically-inclined thoughts sense. A living and breathing metaphor in himself, he questions the world around him constantly yet remains optimistic always, even though he accepts the probable death of all his fellow cancer patients. He helps Hazel grow as both a woman and a character and their relationship is both intense and heart-breaking.
Their struggle with coming to terms with cancer leads them to ask all the questions that many adolescents often find themselves asking – Who am I? Why am I here? What is there after death? What will I leave behind, what will become of the human kind once we’re all gone?

Green’s writing was, as usual, concise yet elegantly poetic, with the ability to make you gasp at the beauty of sentence or twist of a word. His imagination never fails us readers with the constant appearance of breathtaking metaphors often accompanied by some deep thought-provoking underlying connection to reality – such as with Augustus and his cigarettes that he puts in his mouth yet never lights;
“It’s a metaphor, see: you put the killing thing right between your teeth but you don’t give it the power to do its killing.”

While I certainly did enjoy this read, it did have its flaws. For quite significant portions of the novel some of the dialogue and description was quite pretentious, especially regarding Augustus’ character. His lines were almost crossing the brink of ridiculousness – however, I understand that pretentiousness was actually acknowledged as one of his personality faults, so to some extent this was expected. And while Hazel was respectfully mature for her age given her situation and her experiences with being forced to confront the hardships of life earlier than regular teenagers, some of her thoughts and lines weren’t always realistic in what a teenager would say. In many of these instances Green’s own personal voice leaked through, his voice of which I’m quite familiar with due to a regular subscription to his mini YouTube empire (shh…!).

The story is swamped with tears and heartbreak issued from loss and death, but never fails to baffle readers with beautiful writing and deep meanings. The emotional intimacy of the novel takes your breath away and leaves you questioning everything about being alive – the purpose, the point and the proceeding. John Green has yet again stunned the literacy community with this tragically reflective story and it is truly a worthy achievement by itself.

Rating: 3.5/5

Stolen – Lucy Christopher

Stolen

“and it’s hard to hate someone once you understand them.” – gemma toombs

Lucy Christopher’s young-adult contemporary novel, Stolen, was thought-provoking and intense, dealing with the difficult and equally controversial topic of kidnapping. Set from the perspective of Gemma, a sixteen-year-old girl that gets taken from an airport by an attractive yet not-quite-there-in-the-head young man, the story is the telling of a heartfelt letter from the girl to her captor. Written in the uncommon second-person tense, the novel intensifies as Gemma’s own feelings do as well – with contrasting emotions of love and hate, confinement and freedom and hope and hopelessness.  
The story starts straight off the bat and the pacing in the novel was fairly consistent. Throughout the middle portion of the novel it occasionally felt a little dry and repetitive, but it wasn’t difficult to push through and still kept you very interested. Unravelling the mind of Ty, Gemma’s captor, was certainly a strong-suit and the way that Christopher has realistically built his backstory and his perspective is highly admirable. I often found myself understanding Ty in some areas, almost agreeing in others. And that was part of the fantastic thing about this story – it was so realistically honest that you couldn’t point out who was wrong, only who was more wrong. Was he the martyr or was he the villain? And that’s the point – nobody is either, because everybody is both.
Ty’s perspective on humankind, civilisation, freedom and wilderness was truly intriguing and relatable. You find yourself wanting this creep locked up yet aching for the tortured, lost boy. And the way that Christopher handled that – the way that Gemma handled that – was very well done. She reacted the way any sane teenage girl would and utterly freaked out. 
Sometimes I found myself getting tired and a little frustrated with the repetition of the Australian landscape and the wilderness, yet I suppose this could be considered as both a blessing and a curse. As an Australian myself (born and bred), sometimes I felt like shouting YES! I GET IT! IT WAS HOT AND IT WAS BARREN! MOVE ALONG PEOPLE! But other times, my breath was stolen by how accurate and vivid the descriptions was. And it did make for a fantastic setting, and I can imagine that many other people who have not yet had the privilege to visit Australia would now have a fairly realistic view on it (if you left out the beaches, forest, cities, oceans, reefs, mountains, snow, etc). I also found metaphorical meaning in the smallest details – the presence of the camel and how I viewed that to signify Gemma as she was with Ty, and how when he had to let the camel go it showed how Gemma had to leave behind part of who she had grown to become while with him. The second-person tense was effective and gave a closer sense of understanding between the reader and the characters and also helped establish the relationship between them both. 

In conclusion, Lucy Christopher’s novel was both achingly beautiful yet very thought provoking (and don’t even get me started on this gorgeous cover!). It addressed heavy issues yet did so with grace and respect and for that, it is a great achievement. While it no doubt had its flaws, the overall reading experience was intense and enjoyable which is, after all, what we all look for in a book.