John Green’s latest novel The Fault In Our Stars does everything right on paper: its plot has universal appeal among the masses and has garnered much critical acclaim to boot. This is a book that was destined to become a bestseller. The story is of a 16-year-old girl Hazel Grace Lancaster who suffers from cancer and meets a guy called Augutus “Gus” Waters through her cancer support group and falls in love with him, and the machinations of this romance through the months they spend together. A major subplot revolves around an alcoholic author called Peter van Houten who lives in Amsterdam – Hazel’s favourite author – whom the two end up meeting in a quest to find the ending to his (only) novel.
To say that I was massively disappointed with this book would be an understatement. I expected it to be similar to Jodi Picoult’s My Sister’s Keeper – a book that moved me to tears with its story – but in the end I found The Fault In Our Stars to be lacking in pizazz. The plot is only slightly more original than a story that you might read on the back of a box of breakfast cereal. Every cliché that you can think of – and then some more – is thrown into the mix, to the point that every single page is utterly predictable. If it was backed up by proper character development, the novel would still be salvageable but alas this is something it fails at too.
It’s easy to forget how much of the buzz around John Green’s books stems from legions of adoring fans who flood the Web with positive reviews. For those who are not aware of his background, John Green is a major Internet celebrity – converts to four-sevenths of a real-life celebrity at current exchange rates – for pioneering the concept of ‘vlogging’ (video blogging). With just about a million subscribers on YouTube with 300 million views on his videos, Green’s fans are a highly-effective PR juggernaut that publishing executives wish for in their wet dreams.
Lest someone accuse me of being biased against John Green, I immensely enjoyed one of his previous novels Paper Towns. I used to avoid the whole young adult novel genre like the scourge until Paper Towns showed me that a genuinely witty novel aimed at younger readers that did not have flying wizards or law-and-order leprechauns could be written. The genre as a whole has progressed so far in terms of being insightful yet relevant to the younger generation. Unfortunately, The Fault In Our Stars signifies everything that I see wrong in “dumbing down” books to appeal to young readers.
Rating: 1 / 5