Book Review: The Fault in Our Stars

I know it’s not fair to compare the powerful The Fault in Our Stars by John Green to Wonder by R.J. Palacio and Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper, but how can I not? It’s not that the plots are similar. But the way that Green pulls the reader into the heart and mind of a character struggling with illness (or in the case of wonder, a birth deformity) follows a similar path, and I could not help comparing in my head the three novels and how it was affecting me — my heart. Green’s novel has been praised for its honesty of character, and I agree. Hazel, the narrator whose battling terminal cancer, is alive with voice in this book, and her truthfulness and toggling between seeing life for what it is and wishing it held out more for her and the people around her is touching.

Still, I felt a bit of a detachment from Hazel, and from her friend, Augustus, whose life force holds the story together. I’m not sure why I felt this detachment because I did care about Hazel and I did admire the way that Augustus believed in living to the fullest, and was touched by the love that he had for Hazel. But unlike the main character in Wonder, where I wanted to reach out and hug and protect  August (almost the same character name — odd, right?) because his inner voice was so authentic, and so powerful  — and in Out of My Mind where you just want to scream out to the world on behalf of the forced-silent Melody — here, I didn’t quite feel that emotion.

Green is clearly a gifted writer (this is the first book of his that I have read) but I felt as if I was being manipulated as a reader through the use of cancer as the plot device. Maybe this is because my own family has been touched by cancer, and its impacts, and I needed that detachment as a reader. I’m not discounting that. I’m happy that I read The Fault in Our Stars and I understand the high praise it has garnered (and might garner more in the coming weeks). For me, though, I found it missing something I can’t quite describe.

Peace (in the book),



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