Sometimes, after I finish a book, I feel like I should really have liked it more. But something is just off, or one of the characters annoys me, or some scene that I think should have been really powerful was lacking. For me, that was the case with The Fault in Our Stars.
Don't get me wrong - I thought the idea behind it was really interesting and something not often touched upon in YA. Kids with cancer and how they deal with it, how their loved ones try to cope, how to live when you know your time is limited, and how hard it is to feel normal when there's nothing normal about you. A romance doomed from the start in one way or another, especially since this one was born in a childrens' cancer support group. Hazel was diagnosed with Stage IV thyroid cancer at age 12, and has only lived to age 16 by a medical miracle. She's kept alive through a concoction of oxygen and chemicals, and pretty much only attends this support group to make her parents happy. And I know she has cancer and probably has some sort of right to be as cynical as she is, but she kind of drove me crazy at the beginning of the novel. I didn't like her attitude, and I wasn't really sympathetic to her case. Which kind of makes me feel like a terrible person, but just because you have cancer doesn't really give you a right to be like Hazel.
And then there's Augustus Waters. In remission, his outlook on life is so much brighter than Hazel's. And then they end up together, and Hazel becomes a little bit more likeable. Her thoughts become more relateable, and she actually kind of starts to act like a 16 year old. I almost wish parts of the book had been written from Augustus' point of view. It definitely would have been interesting to see what he is actually thinking and to see if he's really as happy as he seems.
I really liked the unfinished book that Augustus and Hazel bond over, and how it leaves so much to be imagined by the reader. If I ever read a book like that though, I think I would be just as confused as Hazel. And as much as I hate epilogues most of the time, I feel like an epilogue would have been appropriate. But then the book wouldn't have the same impact, would it? Peter Van Houten, the author of said book, was probably my favorite character. He seems so put together in his correspondence with Hazel and Gus, but he's really a huge mess. And I love how his story relates so well to theirs.
The one thing that really bothered me was that when the inevitable happens and one of the characters dies, it's really not at all what I expected. The reactions of the other characters, save for the immediate family, weren't what I thought they should be and I was actually really disappointed. I think maybe it was just too predictable. Which, in a case like that, I guess it kind of is... but still. The whole situation was really predictable. A couple other plot points bothered me too, and although the pacing was alright I felt like it was difficult to measure the passage of time. Maybe that was intentional. If it was, well done!
Overall, I really did enjoy The Fault in Our Stars. I just had a few problems with it, and for that, I give it a 4/5. I would recommend it to someone looking for a serious YA novel about things that really could and do happen. A good story with decent characters, and a love story without a happy ending.