If you are going to generate buzz for your novel, then promising to sign the entire first printing is certainly one way of doing it. When John Green discovered that the first printing would be 150,000 copies, well let’s just say he had a lot of books to sign.
An award-winning author of An Abundance of Katherines, Looking for Alaska and Paper Towns and the bestselling co-author (with David Levithan) of Will Grayson, Will Grayson, Green has mostly enjoyed a cult following of teen readers, librarians, booksellers and Nerdfighters – the online community he runs with his brother, Hank, where they make videos a couple times a week on issues that they care about and support various charities, such as the projectforawesome.com. Until now.
I’m one of those booksellers mentioned above, who enjoy Green’s videos and stalk/follow him on Twitter.
When I read Paper Towns a few years ago, I instantly fell for Green’s irreverent humour and intelligent prose. Although I love a good vampire read, it was refreshing to read some good solid fiction. His fiction, like E. Lockhart and Libba Bray, is the kind of novel that I would have loved as a teen, because Green doesn’t hide from the questions teens ask themselves – about God, the universe and one’s place in it.
So, how thrilled was I to receive the manuscript to prepare for this review! I’m very grateful to my friends at Penguin Canada for making that happen. As it was embargoed, I’ve been jittery – sitting on my hands waiting to tell people about how awesome this book was. I’m so excited that I can finally share this review with you, the day The Fault in Our Stars releases.
I believe The Fault in Our Stars was inspired by loss. One of the people in John Green’s online community, a sixteen-year-old girl named Esther Earl, died of cancer. Inspired by her story, Green wrote a novel about a young woman who has been living with terminal cancer since the age of thirteen, Hazel Grace Lancaster. When Hazel’s mother forces her to attend a support group for kids who have cancer, she meets the charming and handsome Augustus Waters.
With deep sensitivity and compassion Green takes the “Teen dying from a terminal illness” story and subverts it. He does not hide from the brutal realities, or the fictions we tell ourselves to make things seem better. His characters are almost too smart, reminding me of a few of my friends in high school, which were quite invested in current events and enjoyed reading the nihilistic prose of Dostoyevsky – okay that was me.
Hazel shies from human entanglements because she doesn’t want people to get to close to her. A voracious reader, her obsession with the work of a Dutch author becomes an important part of her and Augustus’s story and a cool literary joke for those so inclined.
Augustus chooses humour and philosophy to subvert his story – right down to the cigarette he always has in his mouth but doesn’t smoke. “It’s a metaphor, see. You put the killing thing right between your teeth, but you don’t give it the power to do its killing” (Manuscript, page 12).
It has been a long time since I read the novel in one sitting, where:
I simultaneously laughed and cried.
I was impressed by the literary joke, but it also didn’t distract me from the overall narrative.
I’ve been thinking about the characters in my sleep.
The minute I finished the novel I wanted to read it again.
It has been five days since I read it and I’m STILL thinking about it!
Green has written something that I know will resonate with both teen and adult readers who are looking for a solid piece of fiction and continue to ponder the deep questions. Green doesn’t necessarily give us any answers, but he certainly gives us a lot to think about.