Monday, January 13, 2014

The Fault In This Book

There are a couple books that I want to review on here but, to be honest, I worry about posting any type of actual criticism on the Internet these days. It's not as if the reviews are going to be scathing or anything but actual valid criticisms can still upset people whose goal in life seem to be making the Internet into a whitewashed feel-goodery. It happens more on some sites than others but seemingly having an opinion outside of what the hivemind has already pre-approved is a major no-no and people will call you out on it.

Maybe it's because I'm not an actual critic so I'm just spouting my opinion and criticism just because I can and think that makes me a better person, I don't know. I'm just trying to get people to read my stuff. The same people who spout the value of being able to do what you love and want are the same people who want to stop any form of criticism that goes against what they love and want. Also, I tend to comment on things made by professionals who should be able to handle criticism not 14-year-olds who just posted a story they wrote when they were 8 and are asking people to "be kind."

The first I want to review is John Green's The Fault In Our Stars which is a very good book and well worth a read but I do think it falls far from Green's Looking for Alaska, which I read first and consider one of the best books I have ever read. In fact, just a cursory search of criticism on TFIOS, people have the same complaints as I do of what's going on the scene is described in detail meaning the character's thoughts and emotions are talked about it instead of inferred, the characters are your typical know-it-all teenagers who think the world is ridiculous and there's something keeping the two characters who should be together apart. The something in this case is cancer.

Hazel Lancaster is a 16-year-old cancer patient who is forced by her parents to attend a support group for kids living with cancer which is where she is introduced to Augustus "Gus" Waters. Hazel and Gus start, I guess you could call it dating, and Gus even uses his "Make-a-Wish" wish on getting Hazel to meet her favorite author in Amsterdam. The meeting does not go very well and the rest of the book is dealing with trying to remedy that. Green has said that TFIOS is completely different from his other books in that "it’s narrated by a girl; she is not in high school; her concerns are somewhat different from the concerns of my previous protagonists; etc." The main character/narrator may not be in high school but she is still of high school age and the only concern different from his other protagonists is the cancer which is treated just like any other type of concern high schoolers/teenagers have. I'll admit that I have known very few people with disabilities and diseases and that includes cancer but what happens in books, anything fiction really, is that they all say they want to belong and be treated normally but seem to refuse to actually do anything to belong and be treated normally. Hazel and Gus do this repeatedly throughout the book. Hazel has a high school friend who you see a couple times in the story but it seems to just be as a reminder to the audience that Hazel, at 16, is an adult and no longer in high school. It may also just be a reminder that these characters are sick which I think is worse in that it shoves their disease down our throat.

The other thing I noticed is that Gus is only a character through Hazel's eyes so we really only ever get her side of Gus. I've seen arguments online about whether or not Gus is a Manic Pixie Dream Girl or, in this case, a Manic Pixie Dream Boy. A MPDG/B is a character with "no discernible inner life, and usually only exists to provide the protagonist some important life lessons." When Gus is not with Hazel we don't know what his life is like and we never really learn what he wants out of life outside of Hazel. Even towards the end, Gus is only ever doing things for Hazel. And I understand that he wants to be remembered but I feel that was just added in to justify him doing all this for Hazel. Any hopes and dreams and life Gus had immediately got pushed to the side after meeting Hazel.

I also understand that I am not the target audience but I still think TFIOS is a decent read. It's entertaining and a fairly quick read so it won't take up much of your time and it does keep you wanting to know more but I would recommend Looking for Alaska as I still think about that one. Maybe if I read TFIOS first I'd place it higher on the pedestal but I can't change that now.

John Green's website is here.
You can order The Fault In Our Stars and other John Green books here.

Until next time, I remain...
~Brian

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