Finally Jumping On the John Green Bandwagon
It wasn't because it was popular--I love best-selling YA. I'm a Divergent, Hunger Games, and HUGE Harry Potter fan. It wasn't because I hadn't heard about it before--I have an 18-year-old avid reader in my critique group and a Twitter account. No, my resistance came from the subject matter mostly. I didn't want to read a realistic contemporary fiction book about teens that have cancer.
But I'm so glad I did. By the time you're reading this post, I will have finished the book and most likely dabbed a few tears from my eyes. It is an utterly depressing book, if you only look at it from the subject matter--kids with cancer are not fun to read about. It can not possibly have the typical happy ending we often want, where the two main characters ride together off into the sunset. Cliche, yes? But it's what many readers want.
Then why is this book so popular? Why did it become a movie? What draws us in? My guess is the characters, the humor, and a setting that we are not used to.
Hazel Grace and Augustus Waters are amazing teenagers--smart, funny, appreciative, loyal, and good. They are not perfect--Green throws in some typical teenage behavior every once in a while, but Hazel and Gus are a pleasure to read about. I read the pages quickly and turned them even faster because I wanted to see what intelligent, witty, hilarious thing they would say next. Green created a brilliant supporting cast to go with them, from Issac to both sets of parents to the eccentric author living in Amsterdam. I haven't had the chance to Google “Everything I Need to Know About John Green” yet; but when I do, I'm hoping for some insight into how he developed these characters.
I know it's strange to say that a book about kids having cancer who fall in love while mutually admiring a book about kids with cancer is humorous, but TFIOS (what our friends on Twitter call this novel) is laugh out loud funny. I giggled several times while reading this book, so much so that my three-year-old asked me, “Mama, what is so funny?” I could not explain to her the Night of the Broken Trophies or the Support Group jokes or the fact that the kids with cancer made fun of cancer perks while taking advantage of them--because she wouldn't understand. I didn't understand until I read the book, but John Green is a brilliant writer, and he knows how to draw readers in with humor.
Finally, I didn't know much about this novel besides the cancer part before I started reading. I don't want to do a bunch of spoilers here, if there is anyone left on the planet who hasn't read this book yet; but part of the novel takes place in Amsterdam. At first, I thought--no way. Why would this teen cancer novel take place in a city known for prostitution and smoking pot? But there is a part of the novel set there, and instead of those things the city is known for--we get an inside look at the Anne Frank House while two teenagers with cancer fall in love.
The Fault In Our Stars has been reviewed so many times--it's not like you needed to see another review here today. But we are writers. When a writer reads a book that is marvelous, she should take the time to figure out why and see if she can incorporate any of these lessons into her own writing. So, I'm trying, and probably will be for a long time, but I'm so thankful I finally read this wonderful novel, and I think it will change me in more ways than one.
Have you read The Fault In Our Stars? Is there another book you've read that made you want to be a better writer?