My first introduction to John Green was through a Mental Floss list video. Prior to clicking a link on Facebook about 50 Common Misconceptions, I had no idea who he was. It was several list videos later before I realized he wrote books. I asked my niece if she'd heard of him, and she turned into a gushing praise faucet extolling the virtues of Green in general and TFIOS in particular. Curiosity piqued, I got online, read glowing reviews and articles, and wondered how I'd never heard of it before. Then I grabbed the paperback on my next shopping trip and read it in three or four sittings. And then I promptly forgot about it.
That was last October. I didn't think about it again until a fresh wave of reviews and articles cropped up in the media circus preceding the movie release. Now I can't seem to get away from it, so I might as well review it, right? Right.
This book was just okay for me. It failed to live up to my expectations. It wasn't terrible, but it was by no means great, and I'm struggling to figure out why Green is being hailed as the savior of YA. Perhaps the answer lies in his other books? I personally don't think this book is up to saving much of anything. It's basically just another YA story about a girl who needs a guy to show her how to "live". Meh.
I liked Hazel. I did. She was a pretentious, superior, bitter little bitch--and she reminded me more than a little of myself when I was her age. In my early teens I was diagnosed with non-fatal but chronic illnesses I still struggle with today. At 16 I was almost completely housebound, overly dramatic, and had a tendency to use big words picked up in my extensive reading and documentary watching without really understanding their full meaning. I can relate to the sense of superiority that comes with long-term physical suffering, having had a similar outlook in my youth, and Hazel's constant looking down on most of the rest of humanity was downright nostalgic for me. You know, in a "Wow, I was a total twat back then, wasn't I?" kind of way. The sole reason I liked Hazel was that she made me see myself and subsequently laugh at myself. If I hadn't had that personal experience to connect with, I probably would have hated the mopey little drama llama.
My teenage experience didn't exactly parallel Hazel's. There was no Augustus in my life, and thank goodness, because he is one annoying, creepy-ass kid. Though this book entertained me on many levels, it also disappointed me on many levels, and Augustus was a big part of that. As soon as he showed up on the scene, I felt cheated. I realized I wasn't reading Hazel's story. I was reading the story of Augustus Waters, as told by Hazel. I wasn't interested in his story, and that never changed as the book went on. What with his creepy staring (which was apparently okay because he's hot), his asinine cigarette "metaphor" (thanks for shoving that down my throat, Green), and what I interpreted as his not-so-cleverly disguised quest to get laid, I kind of hated him. You know that scene in Independence Day when the teens are kissing in the truck and the boy says something like "This could be our last night on Earth. You don't want to die a virgin, do you?" THAT is how I saw Augustus in my head. And I was kind of surprised he didn't use that same line, or some unnecessarily wordy version of it. Maybe the kid in the movie should've tried a Venn diagram instead. Anyhow, Augustus didn't ruin the book for me, per se, but I would have preferred a book about Hazel's struggle with health, mortality, and family/friend relationships instead of cheesy insta-love with the young Professor of Fauxlosophy (love and cookies to whoever coined that term).
I'm not sure why so many people love this, but then I also can't figure out why so many people love Twilight or the Kardashians or the sugary lard that is Oreo cookie filling. And it's not that I'm a pop culture snob. I didn't hate it. I just didn't think TFIOS was particularly well written, I didn't think the dialogue was anywhere near realistic, and I didn't care for the romanticizing of a deadly disease or the hypocritical bashing of typical cancer books in what was totally a typical cancer book. I laughed, but probably not in the places Green meant to be funny, and that plus the nostalgia factor regarding drama llama teen me is worth at least three stars, but I'm taking an extra half star off for "That's the thing about pain. It demands to be felt." Thank you, Captain Obvious. :p