Saturday, 22 March 2014
Sorta-Review: The Fault In Our Stars - John Green
I could lie and say I read this book because I wanted to, but I read this book because Zoe begged me to. I did not want to read this book. I was depressed and I wasn't sure I could handle it. Plus it was insanely popular and I have never, nor am I ever inclined to, read a book or watch a film when it's already such an overwhelming rave.
It was a double edged sword, I guess. I didn't want to be influenced, but if it didn't become so popular it never would've caught my eye in the first place.
When I decided to read it a few days ago, I didn't feel any better than when I eventually bought it, over a month ago, but I needed a distraction from my own thoughts and I'd just finished reading another YA book that WASN'T bad so I was in the mood to try another. Additionally, it was half price at the bookstore where I worked and with my staff discount I got it for £3.20. The bargain just made it better, really. :3
I tried to read with an open mind. I choose to read fantasy books as I enjoy them the most, but I'll also read any book that has a remotely engaging premise or will help me improve as a person. This includes self help books, crime, historical fiction, Sci Fi, and of course from my degree, classics, poems, plays, essays, journals and critical texts. With this book, I liked that the narrator was a voice I didn't normally hear in a book - a cancer patient.
So I began reading...
And three pages in, I was bored. Hopelessly bored. I put it down about three times by chapter three (I dunno why all the 3's) because I wasn't compelled to read on. But I did go back to it, more out of duty (I hate not finishing a novel, even if I dislike it - George Orwell's 1984 and Stephen King's 11.22.63 still have their bookmarks in but they're killin me) than intrigue, but slowly intrigue was first and duty second.
The humour jarred against my usual comedy preference, and I didn't feel very much drawn to Hazel as a character, despite her condition. But as the book went on, I grew accustomed to the humour and the bantering between Hazel and Augustus was really entertaining. That was about a third of the way through.
When I got about halfway, it got to the Now I'm Struggling To Put This Down phase, so I managed to finish it in about 3 days, which was a bit of a surprise to me as it's been some time since I got stuck in a good book. I has read Sally Green's Half Bad (no relation... er, I think O_O ) directly before and finished that in just over a day, so I think I'm getting back into the swing of things, still got stuff to read for uni though.
I began to love this book for the moral and social issues it raises; like how effortlessly like everybody else these cancer patients seem to be, except for that one drawback that infringes on their health; like how people are compelled to say something nice simply because of the illness an no necessary but the people was a good person; the cancer perks; people saying 'He/she fought bravely' and Hazel remarks, 'as if there's any other way to fight'; how, when people remark on someone after their passing, it seems everybody experienced a different side of them. There's a lot more things, that's all I can think of right now.
I love the dialect of the teenagers in the book. It's just so accurate! Sometimes it just made me laugh. I like how engrossed they were in video games and literature.
Like I said, I read Half Bad just before. But when I thought about the plot devices and choices, I'd never think 'Why did Nathan do that?' but 'Why did Sally Green make Nathan do that?' That may be because of the way I've been trained to analyse from school, college and now uni. But I think it's because it FELT like the events had being orchestrated, not just because it's a fantasy but because the actual story DEPENDS on the element of uncertainty. Nathan never knows what's going to happen to him so we wait on Sally Green to tell us.
But with The Fault In Our Stars, I can't impress how authentic it feels. The characters themselves and the way they speak, the events, there's a sense of everyday life that felt so lifelike. I felt like Hazel was REAL, as if this book was her factual autobiography, which is such a weird experience.
The bit when they went to Anne Frank's house reminded me of the book 'My Name Is Anne: She Said, Anne Frank' by Jacqueline Van Maarsen, Anne's best friend. I remembered it because even though this fictional book felt real, Jacqueline Van Maarsen's own biography felt like fiction to me when I read it. I loved the book but i didn't know why I couldn't connect with it as non-fiction. I kept forgetting that it was a retelling of actual events. It's just all very bizarre.
So pretty much EVERY PERSON I have ever spoken to about this book said they laughed AND cried. As I said at the start, I tried not to think too much about how it SHOULD be making me feel and thought about my own actual response to it. The first time I burst out loud laughing just just before the halfway mark, when Augustus finishes An Imperial Affliction and sends this mortified text in capital letters like, OH GOD YOU CAN'T DO THIS TO ME WHAT IS HAPPENING or words to that effect, and I just rolled around laughing, because I can think of so many friends who'd send an identical text to me about something, or me to them.
And I know I shouldn't, but I did have the brief thought, 'One down.'
As for the crying, well I didn't 'cry' as such. The saddest parts of the novel, I couldn't cry. I felt kind of numb, and small, and insignificant. The only bit in the whole book that brought tears to my eyes was when Hazel's mother admits she going to become 'a Patrick', as Hazel kept calling it, and suddenly my eyes were stinging and my throat closed up. But I don't know why that bit in particular made me plummet into a dark hole. Not because of the book, but because of the way I felt because of the thoughts I had because of the themes of Desolation I was thinking about that came out of the book.
After I read it I kind of had to stop and breathe a bit, then then when I continued I was fine. I didn't even cry. I felt confused afterwards because I just couldn't pinpoint that feeling - was I connecting it to my own Mum somehow? God, I don't know. I just can't explain it so all I can do is stop talking about it.
I probably shouldn't be saying this on my blog, but afterwards I sat and thought about my depression and wondered why, even with the thought of the suffering of others in my head right now, their pains so much worse than mine, my depression wouldn't go away. And I felt selfish and horrible, even though I can't seem to control it, no matter how hard I try. It just tires me out. I felt miserable.
That's the one word I think of when I think of this book.
Everybody in this book experiences some level of agony, but for the cancer patients it's of a different kind. Reading it is incredibly uplifting as it is depressing, and I didn't feel sympathy for Hazel because as a person (sorry, I mean character. See what I mean?) I couldn't connect with ehr. What I did connect with, though, was the ways he thought about things. That's what made me want to keep reading. Being inside her head was pretty wonderful, because she's very clever and sensitive and her moral values are high. Her personality is bleh.
As Literature Acknowledging Literature
I imagined studying this at school. I don't like saying this about books, but this book would actually be great for that because there's so much SYMBOLISM (I swear, just so much it's crazy), so much to learn from it, so much that you can take and analyse and think about. SOOO many lines form this book are quote-worthy, possibly because of all the repetition. 'Okay? Okay.' 'That's the thing about pain, it demands to be felt.' And so on, and so on. I did wonder why Augustus was described as a 'plot twist' in the blurb and I got my answer - by talking about fiction in the book, it's quietly acknowledged itself as a work of fiction and plays with that. I like that.
I'm not doing okay right now. I am breaking. Blu tack will not put me back together. More cups of tea, for now.