Thursday, May 3, 2012

The Fault in Our Stars - John Green (Audio)

Admission:  I am an avid reader from the Mid-West, and...I've never read John Green (until a few weeks ago).  Some would threaten to take my card away for this.  In the Young Adult literary world, and honestly the literary world in general, the man is like a Rock God.  


And he lives in Indianapolis, which is just up the road and across the field from where I grew up.  (Does that give me the right to look him up next time I'm in town?  Probably not.) 


I made it my goal in 2012 to take a huge bite out of Green's backlist.  Between my daughter and I, we have most of his stuff.  It is just a matter of doing it.  


My first opportunity came when I saw that his latest publication "The Fault in our Stars" was carried by my library on audio.  I hesitated only three minutes before I ordered it because I knew the book was about teenagers with cancer.  Serious downer, I know, but I had been assured that it was about so much more than that.  Of course it is.  Every time there is a book about kids dying of cancer, it is ALWAYS about so much more, otherwise why on earth would we read them?


Synopsis:  Hazel Lancaster's premature demise is a foregone conclusion.  Stricken with terminal thyroid cancer at 13 (which has also affected her ability to breathe), she knows her days are numbered but attempts to live as normally as a 16 year-old with cancer can.  Then she meets Augustus at a support group.  Handsome and clever and a survivor of bone cancer that took a leg, Gus is smitten with Hazel.  And the two of them decide to rewrite the story of what remains of their lives.


They play video games.  They watch movies.  They take revenge on a girl who dumped their friend with eye cancer.  They share their favorite books.  They obsess over one particular book about cancer that has an unsatisfying ending (we can relate, yes?) and decide they need to track down the author in Amsterdam to retrieve answers.  Hey, being a kid with cancer comes with perks, right?


The value of keeping a promise.  Finding true love and allowing it into your heart despite the risks.  Leaving your mark on the world.  Coping with loss.  Making wishes.  Creating your own endings.  These are just a handful of themes that lie between the pages of this unforgettable novel.


My thoughts:  I won't lie.  My first hurdle WAS getting past the idea of kids dying.  As a parent, it is impossible not to imagine all of these horrible things, put yourself in the position of Hazel and Gus's parents, and over-think everything, which is what I do best.  I walked away from that emotional journey marveling at  a few things.  Just because these two were sick, the parents STILL didn't let them go to the basement unsupervised.  They still forced their kids to do their homework, bullied them to eat something, but did not smother them with over-protection.  This book had cool parents.  I like that, because parents are generally shit-heels in YA novels.


I completely fell in love with Hazel and Gus.  They were both highly gifted, well-read, insightful kids with snappy and snarky dialogue.  They both had their moments of depression, but generally they rolled with the punches and allowed themselves to laugh at their circumstances, refusing to be martyrs.  It felt like a skewed version of "Juno".  


It became clear to me in my inaugural journey through Green-land that the man just GETS IT.  He gets teenagers, he gets terminal illness, he seems to get all the issues that are on the minds of people who are faced with death.  Did Green interview children with cancer?  I'm not sure, I haven't scrounged around on the Internet to find out his sources of inspiration, but it certainly appears he has done his homework.


And his writing is poetic and gorgeous.  


And the book has been optioned for a movie by Fox 2000.  I haven't decided who I would imagine as Gus, but in my mind there is only one to play Hazel.  AnnaSophia Robb.  It was her face that was in my mind throughout the entire book.


A few words about the audio production:  Our narrator for this audio was Kate Rudd.  Who was truly amazing.  She is a young actor who embodied a teenager's attitude and inflections, and while I've never listened to her before (but hey, she narrated "Wonder"!!!), I'd pick up anything she has done.  Brava Kate.


I THOUGHT I uploaded every disc to my iPod, but when I got to what I assumed was the end after five discs, it told me to "insert disc 6".  I nearly had a cat folks.  This was a rip-your-hair-out meltdown in the making.  So yes, I bought the thing on my Kindle so I could finish.  That is just how good it was.


5 out of 5 stars  







19 comments:

Nymeth said...

Yes, I imagine that reading this book as a parent is a completely different experience. So glad you loved it as much as I did.

Carrie K. said...

This book made me bawl so hard! And laugh. I love Green - I've read everything he's written except the one he co-wrote (Will Grayson, Will Grayson).

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Yay!!! I am so glad you read it and loved it. I’m so glad you’re first experienced with Green was a good one. Because he and I are both Indy people I’ve had a chance to go hear him speak a couple times so I know a little of the background for the story’s inspiration. Before becoming a writer he worked as a chaplin in a children's hospital for awhile and that's where the idea started, but at first he kept trying to write it from an adult, male chaplin's POV and it didn't work. Later he met a girl who was dying of cancer. She was a teenager (she passed away before the book came out) and Green became friends with her. He said Hazel isn't her, but maybe a bit inspired by her.

Oh, for your next Green I would recommend Paper Towns because it's set in Florida.

Ti said...

This is on my list!! I thought I got it from Edelweiss but that one was The DOG Stars. I apparently got the wrong Star book.

Nise' said...

I have this in print, but now think I need to listen! Decisions, decisions.

Julie P. said...

I just read WONDER yesterday because of your review and now this? If you don't stop, I'll have to start skipping your reviews! LOL!

Zibilee said...

I bought this one when it first came out and the hype was huge! I gave it to my daughter, and I am not sure she read it yet, but I am sneaking it back. But then again, I might have to go for the audio, as I love a great narrator, and audios have seemed to be going faster than print reads for me lately. So glad you loved this one. I can't wait to get to it!

Meg @ write meg! said...

Oh goodness, I haven't been brave enough to pick this one up yet -- even though I've loved past Green books and think he's a phenomenal writer. I'm just too worried this will knock me on the floor.

bermudaonion said...

I don't think I could be a cool parent like that. I'll have to be brave and read this one of these days.

JoAnn said...

Wow, what a review! You know I read about 1 YA title per year and was kind of afraid to even touch this one, but you've convinced me. The ratings on audible.com are phenomenal, too!

Anita said...

Well crap,I bought this book, and it's still waiting for me. I'm not buying or accepting any more books until I read these YA books that are waiting for me!!!
Wonderful review Sandy, looking forward to reading it.

Pam (@iwriteinbooks) said...

This was a wonderful review! I haven't read a John Green since Katherines and I need to get my hands on this one.

rhapsodyinbooks said...

I knew you would love this! Hardly anyone has been able to resist it! I loved all the characters, and Hazel's mom was great. I think I have to re-read it already!

Alyce said...

I have heard so many good things about this book, and yet as you know there is that knee-jerk reaction - that gut instinct to skip books with dying children. Not having that last disc - wow, your buying the book to finish it gives me even more incentive to read it.

Jenny said...

I've been thinking about making this one of my next reads. It sounds so amazing! I'm new to John Green as well but seems like I need to change that.

I loved Juno too!

Jenners said...

I suppose I shall have to try it. Everyone who reads it just raves and raves. I could see you "having a cat" when you realized the last disc was missing! ACK!

Marie said...

I'm probably going to break down and actually pick this up at work soon. There's just been so much praise for it and I've been trying to add some quality YA into my reading.

Jackie Bailey said...

I also worry about reading about children dying. I've seen so many rave reviews for this one, but a part of me is resisting as I can't see how it can avoid being sentimental. I know I'm going to have to try Green at some point, just so I know what everyone else is talking about. I hope I enjoy it as much as you did.

Kathleen said...

Without your rave review I'm quite sure I would have steered clear of this one because of the subject matter but you have convinced me that it is worth a read.