The Fault in John Green’s Stars

The movie adaptation is out. Here are my two cents from the novel, which I finished a year ago. And no, I don’t plan to watch the movie.

The best thing about this book is its title. That’s it. With a title that references Julius Caesar, I had high hopes.

Yes, I belong to the group of people who thought that TFiOS was disappointing and grossly overrated. I’ll go a step further and say that I hated it.

The main reasons why the book irked me so much, aside from it not meeting my expectations are: 1) contrivances and 2) reader manipulation.

As a reader and hobby-writer, I put a lot of weight on language and word-usage. I was not impressed. Every once in a while, John Green has some good quotes, but the overall language is nothing spectacular in my eyes, and that doesn’t even include the god-awful dialogue. I don’t expect characters in novels to speak exactly the way people sound in real-life (one of the weird counterintuitive aspects of dialogue is that completely transcribed conversations sound weird when written out), but some of the dialogue… ESPECIALLY Gus… his speeches to Hazel– I cringed. With every line I felt John Green trying too hard.

And that leads me to my next point regarding John Green– he tries soooo hard to make the plot and dialogue emotionally evocative that it feels manipulative. He creates a sense of “profoundness” by adding the facet of cancer/death. I felt that was cheap. I felt he was crassly exploiting cancer as the element to make their love story compelling. And it truly was the only element that made it compelling to me– their time together being limited. But what of it? The classic overused carpe-diem-because-memento-mori. But other than the expiration date on their relationship, what else is there? It leaves us with two cookie-cutter “quirky” cynics.

And that leads me to my last and most important point– “quirky.” Agustus Waters is nothing more than a manic-pixie dream boy. Once you let that idea impress upon you, you realize that the entire novel can be reduced to a formula. A very trite one at that. Hazel could have been a dynamic and strong female lead. Instead, John Green created Gus to rob her of that. Gus– a heavily contrived, unconvincing, and incredibly annoying plot device. Oh Gus. I hope you fall into that endless void and fall into your self-proclaimed oblivion off the literary map where you can choke on your juvenile pretentious existentialist claptrap.

In summation: here we have what is ultimately just another cliched love story dripping with sickly sweet cutsey-quirkiness where boy saves girl, imparts some grand life lessons onto the “heroine” and grants her some “joie de vivre” (while he himself suffers the perils of mortality). Thank you, John Green.

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