Just to be clear: no, this is not my first time reading this book. It is, however, my first time reading this book for what it is, without thinking that it’s God’s gift to humanity or the best book to ever exist.
The fault in our stars is admittedly one of the most discussed and most controversial books of the decade. Literally everyone has read it. And about 50% of its readers adore it, while the other 50% hates it. But, if we want to be fair, this book is neither the best nor the worst work of contemporary YA fiction. It’s overall a very mediocre book. A decent introduction to YA literature and its themes, but not a great one.
Other than it apparent diversity problem – all of its characters being white and cishet – this book’s most serious problem is its pretentiousness. The characters had every chance to become somewhat loveable or relatable, but all that went to ruins when they started having “deep” conversations and decided to crown themselves kings and queens of humanity. Now I understand that this pretentiousness may have been their exact point: to show teenage angst and all that. But, trust me John Green, if I wanted to know teenagers that act like they are above everyone else because they read poetry and know the names of 3 philosophers, I’d just take a look around. They resonate with 14-year-old me, but not with 18-year-old me (a version of myself that’s closer to their age) so yeah, I kind of see a problem there.
Another issue with this book – and one that goes unnoticed if it’s your first time reading a John Green book – is its pattern and repetitiveness. If, however, you’ve read more of John Green’s books (and I have) you’ll notice how similar his works are. Other than their once again apparent lack of diversity and tokenism, his books face another problem: they’re all pretty much the same. Change the names, the location and some events, and you have the same pretentious pricks, acting like special snowflakes, having the same philosophical conversations, and desperately trying to seem “edgy” and “cool” and “special”. Have you seen that Cole Sprouse on Riverdale video circulating twitter? The one that goes something like “I’m weird, I’m a weirdo, I don’t fit in and I don’t wanna fit in” and all that jazz? Yes, that’s exactly what they sound like.
I have to admit: When I first read this book I absolutely loved it. L-O-V-E-D IT! It took me years and dozens of better YA books to realize that it really wasn’t that special. That it had many, many problems and flaws. That John Green was not the best author to ever exist. That, to be honest, The Fault in our stars isn’t even his best work. It was, however, a turning point for me. Before reading that I was not familiar with YA books and, with the exceptions of Harry Potter, The Hunger Games and Fallen, I was mostly into classics and mysteries/thrillers. It introduced me to a great world, some great authors and some of my favourite characters and for that I will always be thankful.