I’m generally reluctant to jump on bandwagons, but sometimes my curiosity gets the better of me and I have to see for myself what all the fuss is about. Such was the case with The Fault in Our Stars by John Green.
While I expected it to be an easy and engrossing read, I’ll admit that I didn’t expect to love it. Here’s why:
1) It’s classified as Young Adult (YA) Fiction. Prior to reading TFIOS, I hadn’t really read any YA novels since I was about 13, because a) I hated being a teenager and would prefer not to vicariously relive that period of my life, and b) I just assumed that any book aimed teenagers would be shallow and simplistic. (Side note: Remember that saying about making assumptions? Yeah, that.)
2) Sometimes I feel that writers exploit cancer by using it as a tool for guaranteeing a strong emotional reaction from their readers, because they know that nearly everyone has had some kind of experience with it, either directly or indirectly. Of course, it’s not necessarily a bad thing to write about heavy issues that we can all relate to, but I did wonder what TFIOS could possibly have to offer that hadn’t already been covered in the array cancer-centred fiction that preceded it.
3) The bandwagon thing. I’m way more critical of things that everyone loves (probably not my best quality, but anyway).
Thankfully, my slight skepticism came back void. Here’s why:
1) John Green doesn’t patronise his audience. He seems to operate from the perspective that teenagers are intelligent and do concern themselves with some of life’s more profound questions – questions that the majority of people will continue to wrestle with for their entire lives. There are also lots of cool (but not immediately obvious) symbolic themes and metaphors running through the book, for those who enjoy a little artistic excavation. Plus, the lead characters do NOT talk like real-life teenagers. This actually irritated me a little at first, until I heard Green explain that the dialogue was not supposed to be an accurate depiction of teenage discourse, but had been intentionally stylised in order to show what the main characters might think/hope they sound like.
2) Although the central story is a romantic one, Green doesn’t romanticise cancer itself and offers a pretty accurate and gritty depiction of its many ramifications.
3) Sometimes bandwagons become bandwagons for a good reason.
So, count me among those who are aboard the TFIOS bandwagon! I really enjoyed this book, and recommend it to anyone looking for an easy yet thought-provoking read. The writing style isn’t at all taxing, yet there are enough layers to keep the reader engaged from beginning to end. The first layer is the love story. The second layer is the issue of mortality and how scary it is to be confronted with death in a real and immediate manner. The third (and my favourite) layer is the greater question of what constitutes a meaningful life. (There are probably many more layers that I didn’t uncover in the first read.) I love that John Green has encouraged people, young and old, to think deeply about these questions, because questions are the beginning of discovery.
Have you read The Fault in Our Stars? What did you think of it? Let me know in the comments section below!
Photo of books courtesy of L on Flickr.