The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

November 12, 2016
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The Fault in our Stars was, quite frankly, not life changing for me. I did not cry while reading it and I could not connect with the characters and I did not understand the motives behind their actions. In particular, Hazel's description seemed inconsistent to me.

At the beginning of the book, Hazel is described as 'shy'

I was a fairly shy person—not the hand-raising type.

But apart from that sentence, there is nothing else in the book which shows that she was 'shy'.

And then she is described as 'not having gone to school in three years' and that her only best friends were her parents and Peter Van Houten. I thought this was supposed to show us why she was 'shy' but then we discover in the next chapter that she goes to college. So what has her shyness to do with not going to school?

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And the way the characters spoke and behaved did not seem real to me at all:

"Come over here so I can examine your face with my hands and see deeper into your soul than a sighted person ever could."

Who speaks like that just hours after they've undergone a surgery that has made them blind, keeping in mind that said person was so disgruntled the last day that he was smashing his friend's basketball trophies?

“It does not taste like God Himself cooked heaven into a series of five dishes which were then served to you accompanied by several luminous balls of fermented, bubbly plasma while actual and literal flower petals floated down all around your canal-side dinner table."

"I was all awash in the metaphorical resonance of the empty playground in the hospital courtyard"

Teenagers CAN speak like that but they just can't come up with sentences like those every second time they engage in a conversation with someone.

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And then there were quotes like these, which, I think, either have too deep a meaning for me to understand (and I honestly am NOT ruling out this possibility) or which do not really mean anything at all.

"My thoughts are stars I can't fathom into constellations."

"I had to notice it as best I could. I felt that I owed a debt to the universe that only my attention
could repay."

I have absolutely no idea why she felt indebted to the universe, given that she, unlike other people, never wanted to be noticed by the universe. So, where did the debt come from?

"The real heroes anyway aren’t the people doing things; the real heroes are the people NOTICING things, paying attention. The guy who invented the smallpox vaccine didn’t actually invent anything. He just noticed that people with cowpox didn’t get smallpox."

I agree that NOTICING things is important but just noticing that people with cowpox didn't get smallpox and then doing absolutely nothing was obviously not going to get Edward Jenner anywhere.

And then there was this quote :

"This is an old argument in the field of Thinking About Suffering, and its stupidity and lack of sophistication could be plumbed for centuries, but suffice it to say that the existence of broccoli does not in any way affect the taste of chocolate"

It didn't prove anything except that Hazel Grace hardly ever traveled outside her suburban neighborhood in Indianapolis , except to Amsterdam (a trip funded by wish-granting people affectionately called 'Genies'), where someone made arrangements for their lunch at a restaurant where the food tasted like God Himself cooked heaven into a series of five dishes.

I'm not saying that to know what pain is, you have to travel the whole world but I feel that John Greene writes about these things with a limited perspective. Hazel Grace felt that it was annoying to be the 'experimental cushion' of doctors, she did not like being hooked to the machine that helped her breathe and was sorry that she had spent her 'Wish' thoughtlessly. I understand why she felt like that and if I had been in her shoes I would probably have felt the same way, but John Greene goes on to make statements that seem to ignore the existence of less fortunate people. I can only say that if she was forced to eat only broccoli everyday, it would definitely have affected the taste of chocolate for her.

"According to Maslow, I was stuck on the second level of the pyramid, unable to feel secure in my health and therefore unable to reach for love and respect and art and whatever else, which is, of course, utter horseshit"

Absolutely! It is perfectly reasonable to expect a hungry and homeless man to appreciate the collection of Rijksmuseum or spend hours studying quantum physics. John Greene thinks that 'health' is a part of 'security' and thinks that Maslow means to say that 'the urge to make art or contemplate philosophy goes away when you are sick.' When people are jobless or unsafe, they spend their time hunting for a job or trying to increase their security instead of making art or contemplating philosophy, but when you're a cancer patient, especially when you have a whole team of doctors to help you, you don't spend time trying to discover new ways to cure your disease and hence your mind is not occupied by the worries that usually accompany the efforts made by a person to overcome his lack of security. So, why would you be 'stuck on the second level of the pyramid'?

However, I do NOT think that there was nothing good about this book. There were some good parts, like when Augustus tried to buy his own cigarettes (though the 'I want to do this last thing before I die' was kind of clichéd'), and when Hazel wonders if her Facebook wall will look like Augustus' after her death. But on the whole, it didn't work for me.

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