(An Excuse to Rave about The Fault in Our Stars)
A few weeks ago, Buzzfeed posted this list of books to read before the movies come out. For easy reference, here’s the list (the purple ones are the books I’ve read):
- Divergent by Veronica Roth
- Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
- The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones by Cassandra Clare
- The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
- The Maze Runner by James Dashner
- The Wolf of Wall Street by Jordan Belfort
- Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
- The Monuments Men by Robert M. Edsel
- The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
- Serena by Ron Rash
- Horns by Joe Hill
- If I Stay by Gayle Forman
- The Spectacular Now by Tim Tharp
- Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight
Buzzfeed apparently wants you to waste a lot of time reading unexceptional books:
- #7, Gone Girl, did not live up to the hype. It was a little suspenseful but totally ridiculous. If you haven’t read it yet, you’d be better off just waiting for the movie. You’ll get to be surprised by the plot twists, and you can spend your time reading a better book.
- #9, The Book Thief, is hovering around 49% completion on my Kindle. It’s not terrible; I just can’t get into it for whatever reason . . . and I’ve been trying to for about three years. If you haven’t read it, wait for the movie on this one, too. I think a two-hour movie would be much more palatable than the 600-page book.
- #12, If I Stay, is just not good. It’s cheesy and trite and predictable and yuck. I would rate it a 1/5 (or maybe even a 0/5). It’s that bad. I’m sure it will make an equally cheesy and trite and predictable and yuck movie. Don’t read it. Don’t see the movie.
Even though those three books are on it, Buzzfeed’s list is redeemed by the inclusion of #4, The Fault in Our Stars. All I can say is this: if you haven’t read it, read it now. Not because it’s going to be made into a movie, but because it’s just a great book.
My brother, John, called me about this book one day last year. Here’s how our conversation went:
John: Hey. I’m going to send you a book. Do you want me to send it to your office?
Christi: Sure. What book?
John: It’s this young-adult book that I just read. It’s excellent. You will love it. It’s called . . .
Christi: The Fault in Our Stars! I just finished it last night! It was incredible.
It was one of those odd sibling moments. We had both picked the book up randomly (this was well before it was named Time Magazine’s best fiction book of 2012). Neither of us had read a John Green book before. Both of us finished the book in less than 24 hours. And we both loved it.
The book is about the relationship between Hazel and Augustus, two teenagers who meet and fall in love at a cancer support group. Hazel has thyroid cancer with mets in her lungs. She struggles to breathe (and does so through a cannula) and is a little pissed off that she’s dying. Augustus had osteosarcoma (which stole one of his legs), but he is in remission. Hazel is acerbic, creative, passionate, and wise. Augustus is gorgeous, determined, charming, and kind.
The Fault in Our Stars is a love story. Not a cheesy, patronizing, look-at-the-cute-teenagers-who-think-they’re-in-love story, but a beautiful, hopeful, honest-to-goodness love story. It explores love in the face of death and living short lives fully–topics that could easily become trite or overly sentimental or just plain obnoxious if not handled skillfully. But John Green handles them with great insight, grace, and honesty.
What’s interesting is that this book is not one about which I would have expected to scream from the mountaintops. First of all, it’s YA fiction. Now, don’t get me wrong, young-adult books can be very entertaining (Eleanor and Park is a recent good one and, as I’ve said before, The Hunger Games trilogy is fun). But I don’t often go around raving about and demanding people read YA fiction. Lots of people look down their noses at young-adult fiction and can’t relate to books about teenagers. And, admittedly, many YA books feel dumbed down or shallow or silly. This book does not. It is mature and honest and does not pussy-foot around intense issues.
Another reason I wouldn’t think I would rave about this book is that it’s about cancer kids. There’s no getting around it: a book about kids with cancer is going to be sad. But one of the beautiful things about this book is that the kids in the book aren’t sad. In his note at the end of the book, Green says, “I wanted to write about young people living with cancer as I have known them: just as alive and funny and angry and beautiful as anyone else.” And he succeeded.
So, yes, read this book before the movie comes out. If the movie captures the essence of the book, it will make you laugh and cry and do all of the other things really good movies (and really good books) do.
Rating: 5/5 🌠
It’s sad, yes, but mostly it’s joyful and fun and funny and sweet and hopeful.
Who should read it: Everyone should read it. Immediately.
I recommended it to Susan, a woman who sat at the table next to me at lunch. She came up to me a week later. “That was amazing. My sister is reading it now. I’m telling everyone I know to read it.”
I recommended it to my friend Courtney. The day she started it, she stayed up until 3:00 in the morning to finish it. She texted me: “I can barely see my phone through all of my tears. That was amazing. I am reading the last chapter again. Right now. I don’t care that it’s 3:00 in the morning and I’m going to be a wreck at work tomorrow.”
I recommended it to my stepsister. She called me when she had finished. “That book changed my life. It was amazing.”
Just go read it.
One final note: There is one glaring omission from Buzzfeed’s list: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. The Night Circus is a fabulous, beautifully written book. Morgenstern does a phenomenal job of vividly describing a magical, eerie circus and unique, intriguing characters. The movie has the potential to be gorgeous and wonderful. When you’re done with The Fault in Our Stars, read The Night Circus (you’ve got time—looks like the movie won’t be out until 2015).