October 13, 2014 by rachelcmann
The Fault In Our Stars (or TFioS if you’re cool) is a lot of things. It’s a young adult book written by an author (John Green) who’s sideline gig is as half of a well known and profitable YouTuber channel vlogbrothers. I think it’s important to point out that he was/is an author first.
On to this novel, which has certainly skyrocketed Green to literary fame and helped prove to the bigwigs that social media and built in audiences on platforms like YouTube, Tumblr and Twitter can be powerful marketing machines, but you have to do it right. TFioS is about teenagers in love who also happen to have cancer. And I say it like that because I want you to know that while it is an excellent book and a very good movie, it isn’t likely to change your worldview or make you a better person. Some cynics have called it A Walk to Remember v2.0 which I think is a little harsh. The movie at least is far better then that.
Hazel (Shailene Woodley) and Augustus (Ansel Elgort) are teens who meet in a cancer support group. There’s just no way around that meet cute. He is charming and funny and she is skeptical but they start hanging out anyway. She is remarkably unselfconscious as all young teen heroines should be and he is handsome and easy going and wonderful just like teen heartthrobs should be. While these are damaged young people coping with their disease, they are also tropes.
Hazel is obsessed with a novel which also happens to be about dying from cancer and after Gus reads it they are both obsessed. Long story short and several obstacles ignored, they travel to meet the author who turns out to be an a**hole. [Side note – One of these days Willem Dafoe is going to play a nice guy and we’re all going to hold our breath during the whole movie waiting for him to turn into the bad guy and it’s going to be the biggest ‘Gotcha’ when he stays a nice guy.] But they still fall in love and then cancer rears it’s ugly murderous head and one of them dies (I won’t spoil who in case you haven’t read the book OR seen the movie).
Yes, you’re going to cry unless you’re totally dead inside. And I’m not really sure why I’m being so hard on it. It’s a good story, it’s well told in print and screen. The acting is actually really well done and I bawled at the end since I had kind of forgotten what happened in the book. But listen, being a teenager is hard enough without a) not getting to pity yourself because you don’t have cancer and therefore your life isn’t so bad and b) thinking that all girls should be quietly and unassumingly beautiful and all guys should be chivalrous charming and chiseled (alliteration unintentional there). I wish we saw more of Hazel’s doubt and more of Gus’ fallibility. Maybe I’m asking too much but young adults are already learning all kinds of terrible things through media, I’d like them to have some imperfect heroes too.