Thursday, March 28, 2013



One of my favorite bloggers, Bonnie, has started a book club! Each month she picks a book, we all read it, and then on her blog she'll write her thoughts and lets others comment and/or share their own thoughts on their blogs to link back to hers.

This is the second month of the book club. Last month Bonnie had us read Gone Girl, but I wasn't able to get my hands on a copy without having to pay $20+ ... so I opted out. (OF COURSE now my library has a copy...sigh. That's what happens when books become popular.)

However, for March, Bonnie chose The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. How wonderful! I may or may not have already read it and have two copies in my possession. (One is on my iPad, the other is a signed copy.) Ha.

So warning - if you haven't read The Fault in Our Stars yet STOP READING RIGHT NOW BECAUSE THIS POST CONTAINS SPOILERS! Just close this window, maybe bookmark the page, go read the book, then come back.

If you have read the book though, by all means continue.

Even though I had already read the book, I decided to re-read it really quick to have it fresh in my mind. But I love re-reading books. You get a different perspective every time you read it.

Side note- don't ever read this book "real quick." While it is a faster read I plowed through this novel in 2 days and I feel like it was a really poor choice for my emotional health.

Here are the questions Bonnie provided to get thoughts going:

+ Do you see Hazel as a likeable narrator?  How about a realistic one?

I enjoyed Hazel. She's witty, smart, and overall honest. Just completely honest. There are definitely times while reading the book I'm thinking "What teenager actually talks like that?" But overall I really liked Hazel. Even though I don't have cancer, with all of my hospital visits I could relate to her a lot and she got me thinking about my relationship with my mom a lot too.

+ Why did Green choose to add Peter Van Houten and the trip to Amsterdam to the story?  How did that affect or change the book?

This was such a huge part of the story. The second time reading TFioS I thought about Augustus and Hazel's relationship with the book a lot more and why they love it so much. They wanted to know what happened to the characters in their book I think because they want to know what happens to the people they love after they've left. So when they meet VanHouten and are denied this, they are forced to really have to deal with the fact they don't know what's going to happen.

They also are two characters who are trying to be honest about everything that is happening to them, so they try to make it as dismal as possible. But when they are truly faced with the hard facts and someone who really has lost all hope, they question their thoughts about everything. I feel like after the trip to Amsterdam their attitudes changed.

+ Was the book too sad or tragic for you or did it somehow leave you feeling uplifted?  How?

A mixture of both for me. The last chapters of this book when Augustus is battling cancer and Hazel is dealing with her grief after, it's so heart wrenching. Green doesn't leave out the unpleasant details of cancer at all. It's an ugly reality of life, forcing the reader to really look at dying and grief in the face. It's emotionally draining.

On the other hand, TFioS also shows that people are important. Hazel and Augustus never did anything spectacular or "big" in their lives. But they are still important. They are still special. They still matter. Even if after they are gone they will be forgotten and will not have made much of a mark on the work, they are still important.

+ There are some graphic scenes including Gus peeing his own bed and vomiting all over himself.  Why do you think Green chose to add these.  Are they appropriate?

Those were rough scenes to read - even the second time around. We want our characters to be dignified and strong all of the time. Then even when they aren't, we want to see them overcome their weakness. This doesn't happen in TFioS. But that's the reality of dying. So many times in "cancer books" and other stories about people who die, have sickness, disabilities, etc. we try to make it look more glamorous than it really is. I felt like this was 100% appropriate.

+  What makes Gus and Hazel's love story unique?  Do you see them as real characters- why or why not?

To be 100% honest- they really aren't that unique. We've all seen and heard stories of two people who fall in love and one of them dies of some horrible sickness.

At the same time though - it is rare that both of them are sick. They are also unique because with the storytelling it showed sickness and dying in a real way, and people having to live with it. Not because it's for a movie and it's all glamorous and romantic, but in the harsh reality that it just sucks and they do their best to support each other in it.

Which isn't that like life? Reality is harsh, but we can still do our best to support each other through it and have our own "little infinities."

But on the other hand - what teenagers actually talk the way they do? I'm pretty sure my friends and I never did.

+ Would you suggest this book to someone who has cancer or is close to someone with cancer?  Why or why not?

Probably not. Not because I don't think it would help them - it's because I honestly don't know if it would or not. Personally, whenever someone tells me to read or watch something about a person who is short or with a disability I automatically disregard it and decide to do the opposite. (At times I'll give in eventually when the other person has forgotten about it.) It's because I don't want someone to assume they know what I am going through and how I feel. Their situation is different from my situation. I also don't want to be defined by being short and breakable. Just because I am doesn't mean I'm automatically going to like something written about someone who is also. Just... ugh. This is why I felt like I could relate to the characters  While I don't  have cancer, their attitudes towards the treatment of cancer is very similar to how I feel about people with disabilities and such.

+ The book is classified as "young adult" fiction.  Do you think this is an accurate genre for the book, or do you consider it too deep for that age group?  On the back cover of the book it says that Green writes "for youth rather than to them".  What do you think that means?

Young adult is just fine for this book. 1) Because it really is written for them 2) There are young adults who actually deal with these issues and ideas, so why in the world would it be considered "too deep?"

I like the distinction between "for youth rather than to them." We always try to tell teenagers what to think (and yes... I'm guilty as charged) and we talk at them ALL THE FREAKING TIME. Writing something FOR them means you are trying to really get into the dirt of their lives. Get to where they are, feel what they feel, think what they think, and write something FOR them. I love that distinction.

+ What did you think of the end of the book?  Did it give you enough closure?

SO MANY FEELINGS! But I thought it was a great ending. You get just enough closure. Enough for the story to end and be hopeful, but not enough that everything is wrapped up in a pretty bow. Because that's just not how life works. We don't know if VanHouten will ever get his act together. We don't know how much longer Hazel lives. We don't know if her mom becomes a Patrick. We don't know what happens to Issac. But we get enough to end the story, which is perfect.

+ What did you think of Green's description of Hazel's grieving process immediately following Gus' death?  What touched you the most about those scenes?

I loved that it was highly emotional, without the ongoing wailing and gnashing of teeth some stories have when a loved one dies. Because you mourn, you cry, you seclude yourself... but you keep living life. You go and play video games with your friend, knowing it will never be the same. You go through the wake and funeral numb, but you go anyway. You look at their old things. Friends try to comfort you but don't know what to say. You grieve  but the world keeps turning. I thought Green did a fantastic job of showing this. I loved the scenes with her parents after the fact. Even though while Augustus was still alive and she was spending so much time with him, they were worried, but when he died they were so supportive and strong for Hazel.

+  What is the significance of the title of the novel?

I had to re-read the section where they quote the poem a few times to try and understand what John Green is saying. It's part of a letter VanHouten wrote to Gus.

I think it's that sometimes fate, the stars, the universe, etc. gives us a crappy hand. We don't always get something pretty and romantic and wonderful. Sometimes it's cancer. Sometimes it's something else. The fault in Hazel and Gus' stars were cancer, yes, but also that they didn't get more time. Time together. Time with their family. Time to see more of the world. (But I would also agree with Shakespeare that there is fault in us as well... oh humanity and our brokenness.)

If this post wasn't already so crazy long, I would add more of my own thoughts beyond the questions Bonnie gave. However - I doubt you want to read that much.

So... now it's your turn. Have you read The Fault in Our Stars? What did you think? If you want to write your own review on your own blog - link it back to Bonnie's!

Also - I'm sponsoring Bonnie next month. Which is super exciting because she's a way "cooler" blogger than I am! :-D

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  1. loved the book... great review!

  2. Love this review! You are so extensive in your answers- I'm sure you were an A student! I especially liked what you said about how we want our characters to be dignified and it's hard to watch them in their weaknesses. I agree one hudnred percent. Thanks so much for participating in this!


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