Performancing Metrics

There's A Book

Today I’m delighted to welcome Jess from Alice in Baker Street to There’s A Book! I’ll share a little more about Jess at the bottom of the post, but for now here’s Jess’ guest review of The Fault in Our Stars by John Green!

Image from “The Infinite Booklist” Blog, I unfortunately didn’t get a signed copy.

So, I have a confession to make: I do not read young adult, or for that matter adult, contemporary fiction.  I never have.  I’ve never really connected with the characters/ narrators of those types of books before. I’m more of a historical fiction kind of girl. (this is of course not to say that these books don’t have merit, I’m sure they do, they’ve just never clicked for me)  So when I started to hear about The Fault in Our Stars, I wasn’t very interested. I wasn’t on the radar at all when all of the pre-publishing hype was going on, but I first saw the title on a syllabus for a freshman writing class this fall at my university using YA bestsellers.  Up until that point I had never even heard of the author, John Green, shocker I know, but not that odd for me considering as I’ve already said that I’m just not a contemporary fiction person.

So for example this is soooo not me.

Months passed and I heard mention of this book again at the Publishing Perspective conference, at which some sort of major online presence and fan base was alluded to, although I felt outside of the inside jolk among all these agents and editors and well “real” publishing people. When I got home I started investigating… What was this book really about?  Who was this incredible John Green?

???? Hm…

And so finally, I decided to take the plunge and order the book.  Let me interrupt for a moment and say that my mom is really anti popular culture, but in a really cool way…so it’s now three times in my life that I’ve had this funny conversation with her about a book, which has been all over the children’s/YA publishing world and rapidly spread through the pop culture monster, and how it surreptitiously shows up in our house. Usually the talk goes something like this, “Oh, I didn’t know we got an order in from Amazon? Oooh let me see what you got!” She then goes through the small pile of books and usually second to last, a stream of light sets off an alarm from this book that she’s heard of but never thought that I, her daughter, would succumb to reading, only to find that there it is.  I then use my wonderful excuse of, “Mom, you know, I have to stay on top of theses things, stay up to date on the big ones in publishing, I’m studying children’s literature, after all?”  (while I look sheepishly from side to side, avoiding eye contact).  Then she laughs and just says, “Wow” and goes back to looking at the other books.  Of course this is all an inside joke but for the next few days when she finds me reading it she gives me this look of, “Really?”. In case you’re curious the three times that this has happened so far are back in 2009 with the first Twilight book, this past March with The Hunger Games (which even I could not believe I was reading, but thoroughly enjoyed) and this past July with yes, you’ve guessed it, The Fault in Our Stars.

Hazel Grace is a normal girl.  A normal girl who happens to be suffering from terminal cancer, a girl who deftly vacillates between teenagery utterances and profound thoughts with ease. “You are going to live a good and long life filled with great and terrible moments that you cannot even imagine yet!” This is Augustus Waters.  He is a young man who has survived cancer and lives life with energy and chooses his actions in terms of their metaphorical resonances, as in he sometimes walks around with a cigarette in his mouth, but don’t worry, I’ll let him explain himself:

“They don’t kill you unless you light them,” he said… “And I’ve never lit one.  It’s a metaphor see: You put the killing thing right between your teeth, but you don’t give it the power to do its killing.”

“It’s a metaphor,” I said, dubious.

“It’s a metaphor,” he said.

“You choose your behaviors based on their metaphorical resonances…” I said.

“Oh, yes.” He smiled…”I’m a big believer in metaphor, Hazel Grace.”

So they meet one night at Hazel’s support group, and connect when Augustus declares, after being asked, that his greatest fear is oblivion, “I fear it like the proverbial blind man who’s afraid of the dark.” (12)  To which Hazel, who rarely feels the need to speak up at Support Group, feels compelled to respond (I’ll quote it in full, because it’s a great response):

“There will come a time,” I said, “when all of us are dead.  All of us.  There will come a time when there are no human beings remaining to remember that anyone ever existed or that our species ever did anything.  There will be no one left to remember Aristotle or Cleopatra, let alone you.  Everything that we did and built and wrote and thought and discovered will be forgotten and all of this”—I gestured encompassingly—“will have been for naught.  Maybe that time is coming soon and maybe it is millions of years away, but even if we survive the collapse of sun, we will not survive forever.  There was time before organisms experienced consciousness, and there will be time after.  And if the inevitability of human oblivion worries you, I encourage you to ignore it.  God know that’s what everyone else does.” (12-13)

You may find what I’m about to tell you odd, since this is a book about two teenagers with cancer, but this is literally the first book I have laughed out loud in.  John Green takes us, his readers, on an emotional journey that is unforgettable.  I laughed out loud, I cried, I was profoundly stirred intellectually and moved.  The Washington Post’s review captured this well in saying that “John Green deftly mixes the profound and the quotidian ”.

 As I come to a close, I don’t want to leave out the fact that I so thoroughly enjoyed the way that Green fleshed out Hazel’s parents.  Most novels and films for young people push parents to the side, or make them a figure of annoyance for the teenager, but here Green has provided Hazel with human, honest  and real parents who care, who have hopes, who have fears and who relish in the “small infinity” that they have been given to live in with their daughter. (See a quote below from Hazel’s dad for evidence)

John Green has filled Hazel, Augustus and all of the lovely characters in this book with such life, energy and honesty. I didn’t want it to end, but more than that this book opened my eyes, made me really think, helped me think about what I believe in and in all of the tragedy hope still emerged, a hope that can perhaps only be found in the stars.

~:~

Here are some of my favorite quotes, some even with cool images that I found made by other readers, and there are many, many more quotes I loved and I’m sure perhaps I’ve left out what that I thought was one of my favorites, but I’m still improving my dogearing skills, so you’ll have to forgive me :

- Sometimes, you read a book and it fills you with this weird evangelical zeal, and you become convinced that the shattered world will never be put back together unless and until all living humans read the book.  And then there are books like An Imperial Affliction, which you can’t tell people about, books so special and rare and yours that advertising your affection feels like a betrayal.

- (read this one slowly and take it all in because it’s truly wonderful)  

…then Dad said, “You know what I believe? I remember in college I was taking this math class, this really great math class taught by this tiny old woman.  She was talking about fast Fourier transforms and she stopped midsentence and said, ‘Sometimes it seems the universe wants to be noticed.’

“That’s what I believe. I believe the universe wants to be noticed.  I think the universe is improbably biased toward consciousness, that it rewards intelligence in part because the universe enjoys its elegance being observed.  And who am I, living in the middle of history, to tell the universe that it—or my observation of it—is temporary?”

“You are fairly smart,” I said after a while.

“You are fairly good at compliments,” he answered.

(Here’s the quote Jules, I think you got it spot on!)

- It was a kind of beautiful day, finally real summer in Indianapolis, warm and humid—the kind of weather that reminds you after a long winter that while the world wasn’t built for humans, we were built for the world.

-“Kind of hard to believe anyone could ever find that annoying,” Augustus said after a while.

“People always get used to beauty, though.”

~:~

So much love for this book:

And a wonderful tumblr post John Green posted a few days ago about inspiration for this book, Esther Day and remembering.

I want to thank Jess from Alice in Baker Street for sharing her wonderful review of The Fault in Our Stars by John Green! I was so delighted when Jess approached me about guest posting. This is primarily because I love her blog and her writing. If you haven’t had a chance to stop by her site I’d highly recommend it! Until then, here’s a little more about Jess and her lovely site:

An undergraduate’s musings on children’s literature, publishing, art (mostly illustration), film and occasionally a few tidbits on education, especially the homeschool variety.

Find The Fault in Our Stars by John Green at the following spots:
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Powell’s Books | Indiebound | Book Depository | Goodreads

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3 Responses to Guest Book Review: The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

  1. Bravo! That was awesome.
    This pretty much seals it, I should stop being scared of tears and try this book.

  2. I forgot just how many lovely quotable parts this book had. Love that one about evangelizing books.

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