the love song of j. alfred prufrock

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

I am not much into contemporary books. I am just not comfortable with modern fiction though I do try to read at least one or two each year. Also, this novel belongs to a genre that I am not much of a fan of, Young Adult or YA lit.

No, I didn’t need a boxful of tissues as many of my fellow readers said that I would. Books rarely make me cry (Goodbye, Mr. Chips being one of the very few exceptions). So, it’s not really the book’s fault. But yes I liked The Fault in Our Stars much better than I thought I would.

The Fault in Our Stars, published in 2012 (thus making it the most current book I have ever read!), is John Green’s fourth novel.

16 year old Hazel has terminal cancer. No longer going to school and disconnected from her friends, home has become her entire world. At her parent’s insistence, she joins a cancer support group and Augustus Waters, a cancer survivor, steps into her life. Life becomes, suddenly, much more interesting and kind of livable. But faced with her own mortality at every turn, how long can she hope for it all to last?

Hazel reminds me of someone I know, especially the way she speaks.

“Out of nowhere, Augustus asked, ‘Do you believe in an afterlife?’

‘I think forever is an incorrect concept,’ I answered.

He smirked. ‘You’re an incorrect concept.’

‘I know. That’s why I’m being taken out of the rotation.’”

I liked how her character didn’t change completely during the course of the narrative. The bleak moodiness her character shows early on doesn’t absolutely vanish. Yes it decreases but her character retains its true essence.

I found the way Augustus keeps calling Hazel, ‘Hazel Grace’, irritating. In fact, there is something about Augustus that kept me from feeling totally sympathetic towards him. I know he is just a frightened teen posturing to hide his insecurities but I just didn’t feel connected with him somehow.

Hazel loves the book An Imperial Affliction because she identifies with the main character Anna. Her love for the book, her trip to Amsterdam to find the rest of Anna’s story, all of it is supposed to make the reader feel more connected to Hazel’s pain. But I found those parts to be kind of hollow.

What I liked was how Augustus and Hazel connect with each other. Parts of their time together, like the night they have dinner at Oranjee, came vividly alive. Augustus’ friendship with Isaac, another cancer survivor, also rang true.

The characters of Hazel’s parents are nicely summed up by Hazel herself,

“Appraising myself in the mirror as I brushed my teeth, I kept thinking there were two kinds of adults: There were Peter Van Houtens—miserable creatures who scoured the earth in search of something to hurt. And then there were people like my parents, who walked around zombically, doing whatever they had to do to keep walking around. Neither of these futures struck me as particularly desirable.”

I liked the character of Lidewij Vliegenthart. She is an unrealistically nice person but I wish such people did exist in real life.

I deeply distrust contemporary writers, having read a few really bad current books. But John Green is not half as bad as I thought he would be.

I loved how Green quotes from various poems! It seems like we have a similar taste in poetry. The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock by T.S. Eliot and Nothing Gold Can Stay by Robert Frost deserve special mention.

The book is designed to tug at your heartstrings and it does do so, especially the last part. It is a sentimental book and normally I don’t do ‘sentimental’ (barring some Victorian lit and a few others like Goodbye, Mr. Chips). But overall I enjoyed The Fault in Our Stars. For a book from an era and a genre I don’t particularly enjoy, I would say it was pretty good.