Wyzlic’s note: this review was written minutes after finishing the book. It is fawning, it is unscripted, and it is a bit wandering. I will revise this soon, but for now, I just want to get my thoughts out and share them with anyone who happens by.
YA gets a bad rap at times. It’s too cheesy, too formulaic, too insipid. It follows what’s popular just to make a buck. It will never enter the realm of classic, canonical literature.
The Fault in Our Stars may give reason to people who claim those things to re-think their stance.
This story of pain and laughter, of friendship and love, of dying and living, is truly remarkable. Hazel, our narrator, is 16. And she’s dying of cancer. And she meets, at a cancer support group meeting, a survivor: one Augustus Waters. And boy, are the two of them a pair. Follow them as they discuss existential free throws, their legacies, and just the honest-to-God truth of being a teenager looking for some meaning in this world.
Something I really love about this book is that even though nearly every single page is touched by cancer, this is not a cancer book. It’s not an issue book at all. It’s a book about life and death, especially that which happens between the beginning and the end. It’s honest. It’s smart. I mean, really smart.
For the literature snobs out there, TFiOS has allusions galore to all kinds of things found in the traditional canon. Vonnegut, William Carlos Williams, Frost, Dickinson, Whitman, Shakespeare, Ginsberg, and Fitzgerald just to name a few. And in case you think these references are being dumbed down because it’s only YA, most of these references are untagged or hidden in the dialogue or narration. Occasionally, the characters explicitly make a reference, but otherwise, they’re just there. Hidden nuggets of Awesome awaiting those well-read enough to know them.
More than anything, though, TFiOS grabs me by the heart and doesn’t let go. It’s hilarious. And it’s hopelessly sad. I really could not stop reading this book. To that end, I recommend it for anyone who loves a good book. It is not a happy book. It will leave you drained. But it’s worth it. Oh, it’s worth it.