I read it once before, and didn’t find it great. Now that I’ve read it again, I can update my opinion of this book and offer it as sacrifice for rereading it.
In all seriousness though, I find it cliché, sickeningly sweet, and far too narrative. I mean, I get that it’s in the first person, and that means you need a little more along the lines of an actual thought process, but I felt as though I was interviewing her. Green includes place-fillers such as ‘like’, but he doesn’t use it as a simile as the rest of us would do (see what I did there). He uses it how teenagers speak—this is not blatant stereotyping, most people I know including me have done it at one point—and God it bugs me. I don’t want to read a book that is written as though someone made the thought processes of a dying teenage girl more linear. I just don’t. There are, I’m sure, many classics which I have not yet read, which perfectly encapsulate the thought processes of an actual flipping human being. Because Hazel is not human. Well, obviously she is, but she isn’t. She is two-dimensional and self-obsessed. Self-obsessed I could maybe deal with, but there is nothing worse than a two-dimensional character in a quote unquote “damn near genius” book. I don’t get that review. I don’t see the genius. Particularly regarding Green’s flagrant re-wording of the definition of ‘hamartia’. It is not a ‘fatal flaw’. Not like that. And even if it was, it’s being used in entirely the wrong context. The Fault in our Stars is not a flipping ‘tragedy’. Well it’s a modern tragedy, but if you’re bringing in hamartia, then you’d damn well better make sure you’re writing an actual tragedy. Yeah. As you may have guessed this is a bit of a sore point. In traditional Greek tragedy, hamartia is the ‘tragic flaw in a character’s character which makes their fate unavoidable’. While I concede that cancer can make death unavoidable, it is not a character trait. I can think of plenty of character traits in both Hazel and Augustus which would act as an acceptable hamartia, but having cancer is not one of them. Hubris? Yes. Being unbelievably pretentious? Yes. Having a terminal illness? No. Just no. And they are. They are so unfathomably pretentious, that I would probably slap them if I met them. I mean, what kind of seventeen year old boy thinks that extensively about metaphors? None of the ones I know (not actually seventeen but close enough) even think about metaphors outside of dreaded English lessons.
The other thing that really bugged me was the way Hazel defines herself by her illness. Not having any experience, I cannot speak for whether or not this actually happens, and I feel it would be a trifle insensitive to ask, but she didn’t need to link back to cancer every two sentences. She is weak. She wallows in self-pity and misery, only pulling herself out for a hot boy. Is this a good role model? No. We don’t want children to think that an attractive person is the only motivation you need to pull yourself up and actually live life. Wow. I feel old. Anyway, that must not happen. It’s bad enough, with Twilight convincing God knows how many people that love and a soppy personality are all you need, but no-one wants to hear about a girl who was entirely self-obsessed until a guy paid attention to her. I’m not making this up: ‘[he] droned on, reading from the list [of dead people he had known] from a sheet of paper because it was too long to memorise’. Tell me that that is not the most callous way to talk about a man reading out a list of people who he had known, and who had then died. A guy who has the guilt of surviving them. A guy who still devotes time to meeting and losing a new group of people. Knowing that the once who don’t die, will have to deal with having outlived people as young as a twelve year old boy. How is that not human nature at its finest? I loathe Hazel. I loathe very few characters, but one who says something like this within fifteen pages of a book? They’re going straight onto the list. Fortunately this doesn’t happen too often—I don’t think Umbridge counts because everyone hates her!