TFiOS: The Re-Review

11870085About a year ago, I wrote a review of John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars, and described it as “the first good book I’d read in read in a long time.” After re-reading this book nearly a year later? Maybe not so much.

Disclaimer: While I no longer stand by my original review of the book, I won’t take back what I’ve said about it (meaning I won’t delete my whole rant about its awesomeness). It’s true that when I first read TFiOS, it was after a long reading break, after which I encountered a giant slump. And it’s true that when I first read TFiOS, I was a year younger and much less experienced than I am today. And while it’s not my aim to destroy the good name of John Green’s novels (I LOVE his Crash Course videos, and have found I am apparently a history nut, too), I’ve found the disparity between my original and updated ratings to be too large, and so I must express my newfound opinion.

WITH THAT SAID, The Fault in Our Stars did manage to make me feel many feels.

Noteable distinction: this book did not make me feel ALL the feels.

Hazel and Augustus were wonderful people! Which I think is perhaps what hurts the most in the entire book, because although they are fictional (well and truly), we come to love them. And let’s face it, when I read a book about CANCER KIDS, it’s always going to make me feel sad, because with CANCER KIDS, especially with terminal CANCER KIDS, someone is not going to make it to the end of the book. Which does make me very sad.

I also really loved the plot line. I think one of the many reasons I was able to love this book in the first place was because it wasn’t just about the romance. The plot focused on Hazel and Augustus meeting Peter Van Houten, the author of their favorite book. It’s about them wanting to do something bigger with their lives and not wanting to be “just cancer kids,” and it’s hard-hitting and real and powerful and raw. But I think the first time I read the book, this made up the ENTIRETY of the novel for me, and now it doesn’t.

So what made me NOT like the book as much as before?

Me with every book.

Hazel and Augustus were wonderful people! Um, yes, this WAS just in the things I liked section. But the characters are simply not believable. I’m around the same age as Augustus and Hazel, and I have yet to meet any teen who talks the way they do. They launch into huge speeches and gesture at things and talk about oblivion and essentially sound like pompous sixteenth-century philosophers. I think that teens can have thoughts like these, but most of us don’t express them, at least not in this way. I’ve thought at least 50% of the things in this book prior to reading it, and yet I didn’t voice or express them, because it’s not normal. Augustus is the perfect guy. He was the star of the basketball team before he lost his leg, apparently very attractive, hyper-intelligent, talks like a pompous-sixteenth-century-philosopher, and is not selfish at all. His only hamartia, or fatal flaw, was his cancer… but technically that’s not a hamartia, because a hamartia refers specifically to a personality or character trait.

Cancer is not accurately portrayed. My aunt had terminal illness, and sadly passed away four years ago. And while I’d prefer not to know this from experience, I am familiar with the limitations of people like Hazel. My aunt could not walk very far, and had to be wheeled around in a wheelchair half the time. She couldn’t drive, because it was (1) tiring and (2) a potential safety hazard to those around her. I have also heard from other reviewers on Goodreads that they have (sadly) known people with Stage IV cancer, who were unable to venture out of the hospital.

The romance wasn’t… romance? I felt like Augustus and Hazel made better friends than boyfriend and girlfriend. I didn’t necessarily feel any love between them in a romantic sense; I saw the love between them as more like best friend love.

All the characters seemed like a small part of one bigger character. There were small differences between each and every character, but at some point in the book–despite other characterization–I felt that every character spoke like a Hazel or an Augustus, in a highly intellectual way. Even Hazel’s dad and her seemingly-not-hyper-intelligent friend Kaitlyn.

I didn’t get the logic behind the cigarette metaphor. I get it’s a metaphor. And I understand the “You put the killing thing in your mouth, but you don’t give it the power to kill you” thing. But there’s still some flawed logic here: when you BUY cigarettes, MONEY still goes to the CIGARETTE COMPANY, promoting the making of MORE CIGARETTES. So technically, if you bought them but didn’t light them or bought them and lit them, the overall effect on the cigarette company would have been the same.

So yes, overall, this review looks largely negative. But it was an okay book.

It’s not a book I wouldn’t read ever again, and it’s not a book I’d do a yearly re-read of. But it’s definitely a good story with some great points in it, hard-hitting, and real. For more praise, look at my review from last year. It’s a book a lot of people LOVED, so maybe it’s just not the book for me anymore. Either way, I still encourage you to read it and form your own opinions, because I certainly can’t do that for you.

Original Rating: 5/5 Wagging Tails

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Re-Review Rating: 3/5 Wagging Tails

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16 responses to “TFiOS: The Re-Review

  1. I notice, on the rare occasion that people take issue with this book, it’s with the somehow unrealistic characterization of Hazel and Augustus’ musings. I had no such misgivings concerning their dialogue, but just about everything else I didn’t like.

    And I disagree about it not being a love story – the entire story revolved around Hazel and Gus falling in love – but I do agree that they were better friends than lovers. I never knew how to articulate that, but you hit the nail on the head with that one.

    Great re-review. c;

    • I don’t know…. I feel like teens THINK like Hazel and Augustus, but they don’t actually SPEAK like Hazel and Augustus. Teenage speech is littered with “likes” and “ums” and the teenage species as a whole is generally not as spontaneously eloquent as Hazel or Augustus, at least from my experience.

      I felt like it was more friendship than romance, so that was what I meant by it not being a love story. Thanks. 😀

      • Oh, I meant to elaborate on the dialogue part – I didn’t find it unrealistic because my friends and I actually talked “like that” as teenagers. I still do. Yeah, a lot of teenagers are pretty inarticulate, but not all of them, you know?

        • Ah, I see. It’s so nice that people actually do talk that way in real life. 🙂 I know my friends and I THINK that way, but we don’t really express ourselves that way because it isn’t the social norm. …Also I don’t think we could stay quiet long enough to listen to those long speeches. 😛 (Sorry for the super-late reply, by the way. I meant to reply to this but I kept seeing it and then getting busy with things. 😛 )

  2. I’d never thought to re-review a book, but I like the idea of taking another look at a book a year or so later to see if you feel the same way. It sure looks like your opinion changed on TIFOS. This is a great re-review. I agree with you that Hazel and Gus seem a bit unrealistic, though I couldn’t quite put my finger on that as the problem back when I read it last year.

    I will disagree that Gus was a perfect guy. Rather, it seemed to me that the “perfect guy” image was a front that he put up to emotionally handle his cancer and his friends having cancer. I think that the scene where Hazel rescues him at the gas station shows a human, scared, less-than-perfect side of him.

    • Well, I’ve actually never re-reviewed a book before, but I thought it might be fun to do with this one. 🙂 Neither could I! I’m assuming you remember the big thing that happens near the end of the book *coughcoughSPOILERcoughcough* but I feel like the shock of a certain character’s death is what made TFiOS stand out to me in the first place.

      Hm, that’s an interesting way of looking at it. I agree. I guess what I meant by Gus being a “perfect guy” was that he fit into every and all social strata. Like, he was popular, good at basketball, had a high IQ, and all-around fit EVERYWHERE, which from my experience is not plausible. But I think after he was diagnosed the personality he put up might have just been a way of dealing with cancer.

  3. Aw haven’t read TFIOS in ages (I’m to scared of the feels to reread). Lots of people who read it didn’t cry (I was ill, so I was practically snivelling from page one). Yes TFIOS isn’t perfect (and certainly not John Green’s best) but I am intrigued about the context behind the book: John Green wrote it while in mourning for 16-year-old Esther Earl who had the same type of cancer Hazel has. It’s heartbreaking stuff. 🙂

    • Hehe, I hear you there. I was sick last week and my eyes were watering practically every second. 😛 (Hence my lack of replies to comments.) I don’t think any book is perfect, but some of them do tend to come pretty close. 🙂 I find that really interesting, actually, to know there was a real girl behind the book, perhaps not as perfect as Hazel. A lot of my best works were written when I was in mourning as well. I think that during the time that we mourn, we tend to reveal our raw emotions and are subject to them more than we usually are. Sorry about that tangent there. 😛 What do you think John Green’s best work is? I’ve read TFiOS and Paper Towns and gave them both 3 stars in the end, but I’m open to reading his books. 😀

  4. I never read it, and I don’t have cancer, but I do suffer from a genetic illness and debilitating chronic pain. Debilitating chronic pain also comes with cancer, and that has a profound effect on you. From the parts of the movie I saw it seemed like they didn’t had any illness. As an example, I’m terrified to get on a plane because the pain is so bad. The few times I have flown, I’m sprawled out on the floor of the airport because sitting hurts so much. I bring plastic bags that the flight attendants can fill with ice. I don’t care that people are staring at me because it hurts that much. Chronic pain also makes you not want to do anything really. It impacts every facet of your life. And with cancer and chemo there are a hell of a lot more problems then just debilitating pain. I haven’t read the book, but I’m guessing he glossed over it. I think as a young person with an illness I’m more aware of this issue than most people, and it does annoy me a bit.

    I’ve read some things, thought they were magical, and then gone back to read it later and the magic has dissipated. Some things get better with time, others get worse, and some stay the same. McCarthy’s The Road gets better every time I read it 😄 I’m scared to reread my favorite book, The Last Unicorn, because I don’t think it will be as magical now and I don’t want to lose that. I’ve rewatched the movie several times and I cry every time ;______; The content is pretty dark for children, but it was made in the 80s.

    • Yes, I do agree there. I didn’t elaborate on the subject of cancer side effects because I wasn’t totally sure if my information was accurate, but your experiences confirm it. It’s funny, because they fly on a plane in the book and yet the thing they’re most worried about is “people looking at them funny.” And the mom takes a sleep pill for the duration of the flight, which is TOTALLY IRRESPONSIBLE when you have a cancer kid who is YOUR RESPONSIBILITY with you. It’s also sort of weird because Stage IV cancer is pretty advanced, and yet the only symptoms Hazel ever shows is puffiness of the cheeks. From the stance of a writer, I’d say she TELLS about her illness, but never really SHOWS it in day-to-day life. I really do think the book isn’t a bad book, but if it’s going to use cancer simply as a plot device, that is so many types of disrespectful.

      I had no qualms with re-reading this and lowering its rating because it hasn’t really been a big part of my life, but for books like, say, Magic Tree House or The Name of This Book Is Secret or Harry Potter which were a big part of my life growing up, I’m always nervous to reread them, too. I end up reading them anyways, but I find the language really simplistic. The plot devices and different levels of Harry Potter continue to amaze me, though, for a book written for twelve-year-old boys.

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