I've been subscribed to the Vlogbrothers for quite a few years now and I've always enjoyed their videos. I've been meaning to read some of John's (can I call him John? Seems a bit personal but hey, we're going casual on this review!) work for ages but I've just never really got around to it. The Fault In Our Stars was always the one I intended to start with, although I only really knew that it had people called Augustus and Hazel in it and that it would make me cry. I think the fact that they are making a film of it was sort of a kick up the bum for me; it gave me a deadline to read it by. Seeing as my reading of Pride and Prejudice was heavily influenced by The Lizzie Bennet Diaries (A project involving Hank Green) it seemed oddly fitting that I move onto John's book next. So I did!
Totally legit adult John Green
Given that one of the only things I knew about it was that it would make me cry, naturally I decided to start it on a train surrounded by people! Of course! I started it during the epic saga that was my journey to Swindon as I finished Pride and Prejudice while on the train, so was able to start it on the coach. From the moment I started it, I just really loved it. Every time I've tried to describe the book to people they respond with "that sounds really depressing" and give me a funny look that says "why on earth would you choose to read that?" And then I have to explain to them how they don't understand, it's wonderful and funny and light-hearted and it just happens to have moments in it that will make you cry your heart out but YOU SHOULD SO TOTALLY READ IT. I don't know if it's just the way I describe it so I have borrowed this description from goodreads.com:
"Despite the tumor-shrinking medical miracle that has bought her a few years, Hazel has never been anything but terminal, her final chapter inscribed upon diagnosis. But when a gorgeous plot twist named Augustus Waters suddenly appears at Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazel's story is about to be completely rewritten."
So yeah, they have cancer. But it's not one of those books about cancer where the character is a flawless angel and they suffer through bravely and are an example to us all etc etc. It engages with it in a way that is truer to life. Yes they have cancer. And yes, they experience all the awfulness that comes along with that. But Hazel and Augustus are not perfect, patiently suffering angels. They are fully formed characters that are flawed but still interesting, likeable people. I'm not sure if I'm fully explaining myself properly and anyway, the book itself explains this much better than I can. I think I just like the fact that for once these people are just people who have cancer, rather than being used as an example about why we should feel grateful for what we have. This is their story. It's not using them as a vehicle to preach to other people and it doesn't reduce their lives to being a lesson to others.
I think the main thing about this book is that I just love the characters. I love the different sides of Augustus Waters. Augustus, the charming, epic gesture-y guy who buys cigarettes he never lights just for the metaphor they represent and Gus, the kid who is more vulnerable than he initially lets on, who misuses big words and gets so excited about flying for the first time. Hazel endeared herself to me pretty much straight away; she's just an extremely likeable character. It was small things about her that I really enjoyed though, such as how she always defends Monica and the way she isn't afraid to stand up for herself when Peter Van Houten is being an ass. As a narrator she is very entertaining and engaging.
About a week before I read this I saw the definition for the word "book hangover". I believe it was sourced from urbandictionary.com, but it goes as follows:
"When you've finished a book and you suddenly return to the real world, but the world seems incomplete or surreal because you're still living in the world of the book"
I think that's probably the most accurate way to sum up how I felt when I finished it. I read the book in less than 24 hours but I had felt so immersed in the story. I wanted to be able to talk to the characters, to ask them how they feel about certain events, just to talk to them because I felt like they were my friends. I think it is a great testament to John Green's writing that I had to remind myself that these people did not actually exist. It's been a long time since I have felt that immersed in a story that the characters just become real people. I laughed out loud reading this and I also cried, albeit in a very self-contained manner as I literally read the whole thing in the presence of people. I finished it whilst waiting for my train home and that was actually the moment where I had to contain myself the most. I just felt slightly lost knowing it was over. I didn't feel ready for the journey to end. To some of you this might sound really dramatic (if any of you are using the phrase "it's just a book" then I have no idea what you are doing on this blog) but I personally feel that these feelings are the greatest compliment I can award to the book. I eagerly encourage you to read it, and when you finish come back here and we can gush at each other in the comments. Just a tip though, try and read it in a private space!
So for those of you who are fans of John Green, any recommendations of which of his books I should read next? After I finish this reading challenge I fully intend on starting another of his books. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!