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The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

For the past few months, I've been a member of an international book group called the YAckers. The YAckers is an invitation only YA book club that utilizes Facebook as its base of operation. Our motto?
Saving the world (and defenseless tortured bunnies) from shitty books. 
Obviously this book group and I were Meant To Be. Each month, the Keeper of the Book *moment of silence for the dread Keeper* is drawn by random number generator (because we're fancy), and that person is responsible for choosing a book and leading the discussion in our Super Secret Hideout. The discussion is then compiled and posted on our of our blogs. These are very . . . frank . . . discussions of the books. They are not reviews, but rather our gut responses. As my pal Sya says, if you are easily offended, have a heart condition, or are heavily pregnant, you might want to move along. As luck would have it, February was my month to be Keeper, and the book we read was The Fault in Our Stars. Cause the ladies in our group just have good taste that way. Obviously, you should beware of spoilers, yes? Yes. So. The following is essentially how it all went down.
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I started off the discussion with the question, "So anyone into TFiOS yet? I'm just really enjoying it so far."

MelissaSo, I picked it up last month, and read it practically in one sitting. Then again, I'm a John Green fan, so it was to be expected.

Angie (yours truly)Great! Aaron and I are reading it aloud together, and it's been so fun.

SyaYeah, I read it a few weeks ago and thought it was his best work yet.

DonnaI've yet to read any John Green and I haven't gotten my copy of this yet, but this is per usual. I usually wait until the last minute to read our books.

SabrinaI read it! I agree, none of his previous books were specially great for me, but this... wow. I never cry in books. Until now, apparently. Loved it a lot more than I thought I would.

DonnaI finally started reading it. The voice is phenomenal. The thing is I just recently read CATCH & RELEASE by Blythe Woolston and the set-up is really similar: two teens with the same issue that nearly killed them bond. I'm wondering how similar the two will end up being.

LauraI'm almost half-way through. God, I freakin' love John Green. And I'm perfectly ok with the teens in this book talking above the level of normal teenagers because in a perfect world (one created by John Green) we'd all have been a hell of a lot smarter at that age. Emily, I know you've read this book and if you don't start talking about it I'm going to round up twenty snotty faced, sticky-handed, incontinent children and BRING THEM TO YOUR STORE. 

DonnaIf I keep reading these contemporaries with effed up dying teens I'm going end up slitting my wrists. I need something insanely light after the bender of contemps I've been on. Not to say it wasn't good. But holy crap. Like a 48 hour Lifetime marathon. And I liked the voice but it was a bit reaching for the teens. Is this typical of Green? It's the only book of his I've read.

Emily: Ah! Sorry. Ok, first John green book for me and I loved it! I balled my eyes out and fell in love with the main characters. It's been October since I read it, so let me look at a copy and think of some smarter things to say. Laura keep the snot away from me!

LauraIf by typical of Green do you mean he makes teenagers sound smarter and a lot more interesting than they actually are? Then yes. :) However he really only writes characters that are outside the norm and usually gives a plausible reasons for their intelligence (you know, honors students, graduated early, child prodigy, read a whole hell of a lot). Like I said, perfect world. Go with it  Donna...believe....believe...

DonnaIs this where I clap my hands wildly and the book will come alive?

MelissaI can see the perfect world criticism (?) of Green's work... but I find him incredibly funny so it makes up for that. That said, I like his vlog a whole lot better than I like his books. Oh, and this one wasn't nearly as funny as his last three... which is sad. I missed the humor.

Sya I'm so glad that everyone is enjoying it - I loved it big time. I think that Green has, in the past, had a tendency to write his protagonist as, well, himself. However, in TFIOS it's as if he's created An Imperial Affliction almost to give his more wildly existentialist philosophies free reign (as well as giving him opportunity to play beautifully with writing and structure). Due to this, Hazel and Augustus actually seem less smart than his previous characters and therefore more believable (although still WAY better than actual teenagers, sadly). I certainly think that Hazel is his most successful protagonist yet.

Emily: Maybe I'm the only one who had this experience, but I have a couple of book clubs with kids very similar to the Hazel and Augustus. I mean, I know they were smart, but like Sya said, I felt like they were believable smart. I haven't read his other books, so I have no idea how this books characters stack up against the others, but Hazel and Augustus weren't unbelievable for me. However, the author Peter Van Houten showing up in Hazel's car at the end of the book was really unbelievable for me. And weird. And unnecessary.

MelissaI think the whole thing with Peter showing up at the end was a bit far-fetched. And kind of weird.

DonnaAgreed. I probably would have maced that guy if I were Hazel.

SyaYeah, it did seem a bit weird, but then he WAS a bit weird. You could totally have cut that scene and the book would have been no worse off.

LauraI get that it was added as a means to explain why Van Houten was the way he was. It was almost as if Green couldn't stand to have a bad guy in one of his books but I was already completely comfortable with accepting that he was just an eccentric jackass just for the sake of being an eccentric jackass. I felt his behavior alone was enough of an explanation and agree that the whole van scene (which was creepy...I kept picturing Richard Dreyfuss as the creepy child molesting teacher turned mailman on Weeds) could have been left out- "it" the proverbial all-encompassing "it" wasn't about him and his background wasn't necessary. But boy did I love this book. It's impossible to not love they way John Green (and I like to believe he puts himself into his books too) sees the world through the eyes of his characters. I've fallen completely in love with his skill with language and turn of phrase. This is possibly the most depressing book I've ever read and I bawled my eyes out the entire time. But even while I had ugly snotty face, -I- was not depressed. It's almost impossible to be when Green continues to subtly maintain a sense that life, even when in a completely shit time, is just so damn interesting and marvelous and I loved his realistic approach to "the bigger picture". My copy of this book is covered in dogears and tear splotches. There might be some snot in there too.

MelissaI'll be the heartless bastard, heret: I didn't cry. Not a bit. Not even tiny drop. I figured 1) it was a book about cancer, someone will die and 2) it would be very typical and somewhat cliche to have it be -- spoiler -- Augustus. So, I expected that. That said, I agree with you, Laura, about John's view of the "bigger picture." One of the things I've always liked about him is his philosophical view of life and the afterlife, and I thought that came through pretty strongly in this one. The best thing for me when reading TFiOS (even though it's not my favorite John Green; Paper Towns is, followed closely by Katherines), is that I thought he got philosophical and reflective without being pretentious. He attempted the former in Looking for Alaska, and it just came off as snotty and pretentious. This time, I felt like it was more genuine.

Sya I totally agree - he's managed to pull of a novel that explores pretty deep existentialist themes without appearing to talk down to or patronise his readers. It definitely works far better here than in Looking for Alaska.

LauraI have Paper Towns! I forgot about Paper Towns! I will read Paper Towns!

SyaI struggled with Paper Towns the first time I read it. I really didn't like the female character. But then I realised how clever clever CLEVER Green is and wrote about it here (if you wish to see why).

MelissaAh, I can see how Margo would be off-putting. And I went back to my review; interestingly enough, I said that Katherines was my favorite. But I think what you discovered,  Sya, is what I felt: there's genius in that book, and it's the one that has stayed with me the longest.

DonnaIt has come to my realization that Green is a literary writer of YA. I liked his book but I think if I read more than one of his books a quarter, I may set it on fire. I HATE existentialism. HATE, HATE, HATE. So when they got to talking about that part, my brain went thbbpp thbbpp thbbpp and shut down. I totally skimmed anything deep and read simply for the character's stories. I don't want to wax poetic about life in a book, I don't want to ponder the bigger meaning. I just want to see what happens with the plot. He is far more awesome than adult literaries and his sense of humor is spot on but Green is a small doses writer for me.

LauraWell all this literary what-not and heavy thinking and reading into stuff and well thought out discussions with references. Aren't we smart....I'm reading vampire porn.

SyaI feel better now,  Laura, I felt we were getting a bit highfalutin...

Laura Sya I do hope that when you said highfalutin or even thought it, you did so with a southern accent.

SyaOf COURSE! Is there any other way to say/think it?? I think not.

SabrinaI need to show up here more often! This discussion was very insightful. I totally agree with the crazy author in the van part--completely unnecessary. And I did not see the Augustus dying coming, I thought he was just there to make her time left meaningful, like any other cancer story. So yes, I bawled. Paper Towns was good, but it had like a huge whole in the middle...

Angie I just keep thinking about the ending. And how Green is so good at them in general. I remember when I first discovered him, I read about his obsession with last words and all the famous last words people have uttered over the years. Somehow that has to have played into his comprehensive understanding of how to end a story. Because it's always the right way. Even after ups and downs and various characterizations and explorations of thought and meaning and the universe, his endings impress the hell out of me. They're quiet and personal, which make the stories quiet and personal. Which is what endear them to me. This one may be my favorite of his, though I quote the end of Looking for Alaska to myself often, when I'm at the part of my day or week when I need to be reminded of something real and good. But I felt closer to Hazel (and actually Augustus, too) than I have to his other protags, and so I think that's why his last words (literally) and hers (narratively) struck such a chord.

DonnaI kept expecting this one to end like the fictional title in the story which escapes me at the moment. Something with affliction in it? That it would just end abruptly because Hazel was going to die. It was a shock that Augustus died because I kept expecting it to be her and while I felt the ending was abrupt, it didn't feel unfinished. I'd still like to know whether she survived. Or not. But I guess that's the point.

Sabrina I did too! Although as soon as I thought it I went straight to the last page and saw I was wrong, but that wouldve been cool...

Melissa: I never thought Hazel would die. Partially because, up front, Green states (or has Hazel state) that he loathes cancer books, and how all cancer sufferers need to be made out into heroes or victims. So, I figured he wouldn't kill off his main character. But, since it's a realistic cancer book, someone had to die, and Augustus was the most likely candidate. Sounds callous, but it didn't shock me. Move me, yes. But not shock me. I liked what you have to say,  Angie, about Green and endings. There was this line in his story from Let It Snow, I think, where he had his character say there is no happy endings, only happy middles (or something like that). I think his books are somewhat the same way.

AngieOh, that's nice  Melissa. Happy middles. I really am glad he decided to write Hazel. I wondered how it would go when he did try a more substantive girl (and first person, etc) and I really liked how it went.

***

So overall a lively discussion and a very positive response, I'd say. It was the first John Green for some of us, while some of us have been crushing on his books for awhile now. As for me, I would venture to say The Fault in Our Stars is my favorite of his books now. I am an unabashed fan of Hazel Grace, Augustus Waters, and that beautiful, beautiful ending.

YAckers involved in this discussion: 

Melissa @ The Book Nut
Sya @ The Mountains of Instead
Donna @ Bites
Sabrina @ YA Bliss
Laura @ A Jane of All Reads
Angie @ Angieville

Comments

  1. Awesome job... We all sound terribly smart and hilarious.

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  2. I see so many good things about this book. I just can't do it. The memories of my husband's battle with cancer are just too fresh. Even reading about a young person dying or recently passed away from cancer reduces me to tears. So, it may be some time before I'm ready to pick this one up.

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    1. Em, yeah, you get a pass, babe. No question.

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  3. First of all, this post is my first foray into your blog and I'm absolutely in love with you and your book club and the way your blog posts are written. Thanks for making my day! Oh and I loved this book with a deep fiery passion and have the review on my blog as well.

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    Replies
    1. Jade, first of all, thanks for foraying! I love a good foray, especially when it involves books. In fact, I'm going to foray on over to your blog to read your review of THIS BOOK. This awesome book.

      Don't be a stranger.

      Delete
  4. Wow, we are a trip, aren't we? Thanks for "hosting"... :-D

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  5. Wow, there were moments there when it sounded like we actually read the book. He he he. We have the world fooled.

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    Replies
    1. Laura, just the first step toward world domination, my friend.

      Delete
  6. This was brilliant! Thanks for sharing it. I particular liked Laura's take on why John Green isn't depressing even when he's making you sob, because despite everything he always reminds us that it's still a beautiful world.

    Hope you'll be sharing more of the YAckers

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    Replies
    1. Alexa, oh, I'm very pleased you enjoyed reading our rambling. I wasn't sure if it would be of use to anyone but us. So your comment definitely made me happy.

      Delete
  7. I love this discussion, Angie! It sounds pretty much like a similar discussion I've had with my book nerd friends! Also, I hadn't thought of it that way, before, but you're right--Green just kills (in a good way) endings. I think that's a large part of why I love his books so much is because I always feel so satisfied with the endings, and one of my biggest gripes with a lot of novels is that endings are either abrupt or too drawn out or too tidy. His are perfect.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sarah, what would we do without our books and our nerd friends? Life would be insupportable.

      And as far as endings go, I feel exactly the same way. I frequently finish a wonderful book feeling wistful for the perfect ending it deserved, rather than the all-right one it got. I never feel that way finishing one of Green's books.

      Delete
  8. Don't you just need to have people to talk about books with!?

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    1. Oh, my yes. Janssen, I dream of belonging to a wonderful book group. The couple I've been a part of have just not worked. So it has been delightful participating in a digital one.

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  9. The Fault in Our Stars is my favorite of John Green's books. I've recommended it to everyone I know.

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    1. I keep rec-ing it as well, Lin. Hard not to.

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  10. Raina9:08 PM

    Oh my goodness, this book just gave me so many FEELINGS. I definitely agree with you, TFiOS is my fav of all John Green books. And the ending...it totally killed me in the most beautiful way, if that makes sense.

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    1. Raina, lol. I know exactly what you mean and it makes perfect sense.

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  11. I haven't read this post yet - I am too jealous of your book club to read this, because if you make me giggle or wonderfully offend me, I will end up loathing you all for being so awesome.

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    1. Carla, lol. We are a tad on the irreverent side, which makes me think you'd be right at home!

      Delete
  12. I couldn't really read this post yet either. I have this book on hold at the library, but there are 38 people ahead of me!

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    1. ivanova, oh wow. My sympathies. I hope they tear through it so it falls in your lap soon. It's very much worth it.

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  13. This was one of my favorite books of all time. John is one of my favorite authors, and his books never fail to make me feel ALL THE THINGS! I'm particularly impressed with how he takes a heavy topic like cancer and writes a book that literally made me laugh out loud on multiple occasions, and then cry as well. And I hardly ever cry when I'm reading.

    Are you a nerdfighter, or just happen to enjoy John Green?

    Also, I'm really, REALLY intrigued by this YAckers group. I would so LOVE to join. That would be a dream come true. Can you give me more information on it? Thanks so much, and DFTBA! (Don't Forget To Be Awesome)

    My email is aelv13@gmail.com.

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    Replies
    1. flyergirl, yay for feeling ALL THE THINGS!

      And I wear my DFTBA wristband with pride. Does that answer your question? ;)

      Thanks for your interest in the YAckers, too. I'll convey your interest on to the group.

      DFTBA!

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  14. Everyone has told me it's a great book but I just can't bring myself to read it. Sounds really depressing and I don't mesh with depressing books well. Great review though.

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  15. Excellent review! I thought this book was an amazing and emotional read.

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