I was trying to write my reviews in order because I'm a sensible kind of person like that, and then I read The Fault In Our Stars and couldn't contain my... Anything. And if you think that means I'm about to gush about it like 99% of the reading population, then clearly you haven't been following me on twitter.
This book. It's kind of terrible. And it shouldn't have been as terrible as I found it and I might be exaggerating its terribleness even to myself because of all the INSANE hype that surrounded it (remember last year when you couldn't swing your bag around the book blog world without hitting someone going 'OMG IT'S THE BEST THING I'VE EVER READ!') but I really didn't like it. And it was set up as something it seemed like I'd like- there was the book-within-a-book thing (we'll get to that later), the cancer thing (not that I like cancer BUT I have a certain interest in the topic and I'm not against reading something heartbreaking), and the thing that's like 'I don't want to make anyone like me because when I die they'll be sad', which is a really depressing but interesting way to be thinking, I think.
But. I hate the characters. Haaaaaaate them. And it's not even that I hated the way they spoke (which was annoying, let's face it), but I didn't feel like I knew them well enough to actually care about what happened to them. It was kind of like reading an obituary of someone you didn't know at all- it's vaguely sad, and you're not happy that they're dead, but you can't really care because it doesn't personally affect you. This book did not personally affect me.
I didn't care about Hazel (the main character- a cancer sufferer, but one who isn't dying just yet) any more than I care about other self-centred teenage characters who believe that their way of doing things is the only way of doing things. Seriously- this girl allows herself to feel whatever she's feeling and that's the only right way to feel it, whereas everyone else's feelings- about her disease, about how they grieve, whatever- are wrong because they're not hers. I'm not saying that's not a very teenage way of acting, and maybe Green's point is that she's allowed to act like a teenager even though she has cancer (which is fair!) but I think it's more 'This girl! Look at how awesome she is. LOOK AT HER.'
And then there's Augustus (I mean, Augustus. Compute on. This is not the last days of Rome. I'm about to get loads of angry comments from Augustuses, aren't I, except NOPE, there aren't any.) I actually liked Augustus (Nope. Can't do it. We're calling him Gus.) in a way that I didn't like Hazel so much, BUT he's not real. At all. There is nothing about this kid that would exist in any way in the real world because he is ridiculous, and not in a good way. (Alley called him a Manic Pixie Dream Boy in her review and I am SO JEALOUS that she's already said it because she's completely right.) And this is just one example of his incredible ridiculousness: He puts cigarettes in his mouth. And doesn't light them. So as not to give the thing that could kill him the power to do so.
You know what, that IS bullshit. It's 'a metaphor' and I get it, but metaphors are really only found in words and not so much in real life, and all I can think when he says that is, 'so, dude actually wastes money buying cigarettes that he doesn't smoke, thus handing over money to the corporations behind millions of deaths? Smart!' And if that had only come up once I'd probably be over it, but it's used again and again in the book as a motif for how awesome Gus is, but if you didn't find that awesome? It's just a constant reminder of how annoying these characters are.
What else? Well, the writing isn't as good as everyone claims it is (it might be good for YA, but I'll take Rainbow Rowell any day) and it kind of disturbs me that someone would read it and find it the most profound book they've ever read. To me, a lot of the things Green says about illness and life and death, I've seen elsewhere, better expressed, and without characters that made my eyes hurt from rolling them so much. In general, the writing kind of swings from authentic** teenage narration (lots of 'likes' and stuff. WHICH was actually really annoying and is it that annoying when I do that in reviews? Please say no!) to a more highbrow way of saying things, sometimes in the same paragraph and WHAT IS THIS? Please choose one way of writing and stick to it. Please?
Now, for the book within the book. There's this book that Hazel really likes (An Imperial Affliction) which sounds like the book John Green wishes he'd written (meooow) and is all meaningful to her and stuff. All of which is cool and I was sort of excited about this plot point. But then, even though it's a big part of the book, it's... kind of a shitty storyline. It turns into a 'never meet your heroes' sort of warning, and then ends with a teenage girl giving a grown man advice that she is in no way qualified to give. The point is, this. At one point, Hazel says to this grown man 'I think you're a pathetic alcoholic who says fancy things to get attention like a really precocious eleven year old.'
That's not what you and your boyfriend have been doing the whole book then (apart from the alcoholic bit). Ok, cool, glad we sorted that out. And here endeth the story of how I snorted during a sort-of funeral scene.***
Oh and by the way, did you know that Gus is really super hot and Hazel thinks she's not at all pretty but he thinks she's the most glorious person ever? Surprise!
I shan't bother you with my anger for much longer, but I will just say this: just before I started reading, I read the glowing praise on the back (SUCH glowing praise...) and the two authors blurbed were Marcus Zuzak (he of The Book Thief TERRIBLENESS) and Jodi Picoult, who I have read exactly two books by before realising they were all going to be the same, and who I am still mad at for the ending of My Sister's Keeper. This set off all sorts of alarm bells in my head, but I read it all the same, and hence I have learned- trust your bookish instincts.
But if you want to read this whatever, you can probably do it in a few hours and it won't hurt your brain much as long as you ignore the emotional manipulation regarding characters you've been given no reason to like (cancer is not a reason to like someone).
*NOT the (500) Days of Summer gif I wanted. But it'll do.**Authentic in terms of the way teenagers actually speak.
***Needless to say, I didn't cry. FULL DISCLOSURE: I did get a lump in my throat towards the end because CANCER IS SAD OK, but I refused to make the same mistake I did with The Book Thief (tricked into crying)