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The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Diagnosed with Stage IV thyroid cancer at 13, Hazel was prepared to die until, at 14, a medical miracle shrunk the tumours in her lungs... for now.
Two years post-miracle, sixteen-year-old Hazel is post-everything else, too; post-high school, post-friends and post-normalcy. And even though she could live for a long time (whatever that means), Hazel lives tethered to an oxygen tank, the tumours tenuously kept at bay with a constant chemical assault.
Enter Augustus Waters. A match made at cancer kid support group, Augustus is gorgeous, in remission, and shockingly to her, interested in Hazel. Being with Augustus is both an unexpected destination and a long-needed journey, pushing Hazel to re-examine how sickness and health, life and death, will define her and the legacy that everyone leaves behind.

Actual rating: 4.999999999 stars

Honestly, I don’t know how to write a review for this book without getting personal. So, just a disclaimer; I don’t think this is really a review, this is just a story of how I felt as a reader.

The Fault in Our Stars is definitely one of the most hyped books for 2012. As I am never quite a contemporary/realistic fiction reader, I wasn’t quite eager to read this especially when I have this weird aversion of all things mainstream (no, I don’t think I’m a hipster, I just like to discover new things). So, about seven months later, I thought of reading something short and meaningful so I picked it up (at last!).

Reading the blurb, I thought that this book is about Hazel, of how she battled with cancer, how devastated her family when she passed away, how noble her death was, how her lover finds it difficult to move on, you know, like a cross between My Sister’s Keeper and P/S, I Love You. Haha! Sorry I went for cliché plot because I thought the plot had to be cliché in order for the underlying message to be delivered effectively. Pffft, of course I was wrong. This just to show how much I haven’t read enough contemporary/realistic fiction. Or enough John Green.

I took me two sittings to get through it. The first half was not quite impressive. Well, I did read with extra-critical eye. Nothing satisfies me enough than finding faults in highly-rated, popular books. LOL! Hazel and Gus first meeting was quite insta-love-ish and their subsequent encounters and interactions were oddly unnatural? Not odd as in staged or pretentious, just odd as in ‘normal people don’t behave like this. This just happens in parallel universe’. At this point, I disregard the realistic aspect of story because I was thinking that maybe the ‘beyond the story’ part is more important. I did doze off a couple of times, so by then, I decided to do other stuff.

Then, I remembered the airport scene and the emotions came rushing back in. Disclosure: I do have a disability that is pretty obvious. Safe to say that when people first meet me, that’s the first thing that they’ll notice. Of course, I pretty much live a normal life except few small things such as I have trouble seeing in the dark, focusing on distant things, and estimating distance and speed. I understand the feeling of being the centre of attraction when you don’t want to, or being treated differently (I have my own perks :P). I didn’t cry because I was sad of who am I, I was sad because I wish people know that it’s rude to stare.

The second half as I put it was ‘shit just got serious’. Peter Van Houten was such a scene stealer! And Augustus Waters! *weeps* With the second sitting, again, the same thing happened. While I didn’t feel sleepy until the very end, I cried two, three drop of tears, max. But six hours later, I was lying in a pool of tears. Urghh!

First, I sort of know, how it feels to have lungs that suck at being lungs. I have an asthma for as long as I can remember. While it wasn’t particularly life-threatening so far, that feeling of underoxygenated is always daunting. Secondly; cancers. Cancers aren’t common enough in my home country (partly because we don’t live long enough), so I don’t know anyone with cancer personally. I’ve been learning about molecular basis of cancer for almost three years and the only thing I felt about cancers before I read this was, cancer development is so complicated, it seems to have a mind of its own, I don’t think in many years to come, we would eventually wipe out cancers. Some cancers probably, but not all. So yeah, I used to see cancer as a ball of cells that have grown out of control. I failed to see how, no matter how impossible it seems like to cure cancers, we need to try because there are many Hazels, Augustuses and Isaacs out there.

In short, the book itself wasn’t exceptional for me (for now). But I shelved it under my favourites anyway because it has a capacity to be exceptional many, many reads, later. And it’s already exceptional in leaving marks in people’s hearts.

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