I’m not opposed to variety.
I was scrolling through the vast shelves of a crowded library today (they apparently had goats, which I don’t really understand the big deal- considering there are farms LITERALLY everywhere, even directly across the street), and I remembered an author that my mother recommended the night before.
I found said author, along with a book she published recently, and that’s that. So, yeah.
On to our special little review. (That’s not all that special.)
The great thing about books, is there are many different ways to write them. Most commonly in YA, we see a first person’s prespective in past tense.
The Fault in Our Stars is a book that does just that, in an OKAY way.
But, if you look hard enough and read in between the lines of seemingly well-formed sentences, you begin to see an entirely different perspective coming into play-
The language and tone then shifts from a teenage girl’s to a grumpy, overly-opinionated old man.
As I reread this book, I decided I would focus not on the tragic tale of Hazel Grace Lancaster, but on this ominous other person bleeding in between the lines.
Which meant I had to pay more close attention than ever to what was being written and more importantly, what was left unwritten.
This colored me conflicted, between the faults in Hazel and the faults of the author himself.
So, allow me to divulge my opinions today in the form of short bursts of rambling thoughts:
I did some tallying, the first of which was the use of language only for (what I believe) is the sake of seeming smart while being inherently stupid. Nope, wait. That was a rather mean way to put it. Let’s just say, words you normally wouldn’t here the average teenager say or think. (Although there’s plenty of that! Believe you me)
There’s around 50 of these words. And you know what. Good. Cool. At least there’s the hope of someone learning a new word. So yay. (There’s a point to this a little bit later👇👇👇)
Secondly, I tallied up any referencing to gross teen crap. 93 times there moments that included sexual humor, the alluding to sex itself, and mushy teenage love. (Although, the latter is an easier pill to swallow.) But you know what, it’s all typical now. Unsurprisingly typical.
Now, cursing wasn’t tallied, specifically because I was reading an edited version. (Curtisy of younger me) But there were quite a few black marks where I’d replaced words with crap, butt, butthead, and WOW….so, we can only assume this book is not without it’s swearing.
The other two sections I tallied up relate to the cranky old man lurking in the ink and the pretentious dialect. (And before any of you TFIOS fans start raging, Hazel herself uses this word twice: once to describe the books she reads and again to describe herself)
He makes an appearance 134 times, 54 of those times are when he’s referencing religion. (Whether it’s in the form of making fun of it, or questioning it)
The man, I discovered, is kind of an idiot. He thinks he’s smart by rambling on about theory and reality and questioning the existence of the most arbitrary things- like why are scrambled eggs breakfast exclusive??- but in doing so, proves they know nothing at all.
He’s also angry. Angry at the universe. Angry at God. There’s a brewing spiritual animosity, and through it the heart of the man is revealed. He’s a pessimist, and he refuses to allow himself the pleasures of any hope this world might have to offer. What kind of life is that?
The man, is Peter Van Houten. No, not the author of the book that Hazel adores, but rather the way he’s affected her life.
She lives, breathes, and bleeds his words- they influence not only her speech, but how she views the world in general. His book that resonates with her very being, her soul.
So, it’s only natural for her to talk and live out the ideals of this story that she so deeply treasures. She’s a teen after all. They sure do like to copycat. (Some never grow out of it either.)
But then, we also need to recognize the man who influenced Van Houten.
And that would be John Green- the author of TFIOS.
If you take a brief moment to watch any of his YouTube videos on religion… he’s very much the angry, aching man as the fictional author Peter Van Houten and our main character, Hazel Grace. He struggles, just like many others in this world, with this painstaking question: why would a loving God allow kids to get cancer?
I won’t answer that today.
So where does this leave TFIOS?
It’s kind of like Inception. You’ve got a broken author who writes a book about a girl with cancer and it includes a broken author….. that fictional author creates a book about a girl with cancer….. and that book is read by the main character who has cancer….. and either you understood what I just wrote or you didn’t. Like the movie.
(Actually, I understood Inception, but I really don’t know what I just wrote.)
Anyway, this novel is a tragedy laced with humor, well-written dialogue that for the most part exemplifies teens, it’s a cute enough love story with tear-jerking moments, and it really doesn’t sugarcoat cancer. It shows it for what it is- a horrible disease that claims the lives of people of all ages.
Yet, it’s also got some problems. There’s no hope for the characters after death, and it sends the message that there’s really no hope for you either.
I’m not going to slap my beliefs at the end of this but I will say that taking a closer look at this turned a fluffy little YA novel with bittersweet moments into one pretty messed up read.
But, that’s the thing about books: they demand to be read. And reread. 🤣✌️😝