Saturday, January 14, 2012

Writing A Book Review (and reviewing The Fault in Our Stars)

Last week, I signed up to write a review of John Green's most recent novel, The Fault in Our Stars for my school newspaper.

It was an interesting experience, to say the least.

I have written many book reviews for this blog, so, in a way, it should have been a piece of cake. But when I sat down to write, I suddenly felt like I had to take on a certain professional, journalist voice. This is the review I produced:

To put it simply, The Fault in Our Stars is John Green’s masterpiece.

            With his 2005 debut novel, Looking For Alaska, Green instantly found an audience for his brilliant prose and insights into teenage angst and human struggle. The only thing he struggled to find was genuine emotion. In The Fault in Our Stars, he has finally found his heart. In doing so, he has also created his masterwork.

            The Fault in Our Stars is about a girl named Hazel Grace. Many would consider her unlucky or unfortunate, for her life is doomed to be always less-than or almost. But Hazel refuses to see her cancer that way; she refuses to let herself be a victim. Hazel Grace Lancaster is an avid reader, a loving daughter, and a dedicated fan of America’s Next Top Model. She is not a cancer sufferer. Neither is Augustus Waters, though his amputated leg would suggest otherwise. That is just one of the many things that attracts Hazel to Gus, though she can’t help noticing his love for metaphors, his earnest pursuit of his desires, and, of course, his beautiful blue eyes. The Fault in Our Stars is their story, as they find each other, all the while knowing they could lose each other at any moment. 

            It is also, undeniably, a book about dying. However, it is not, not even for one second, a book about despair or melodramatic angst. Instead, it is a celebration of intelligence, of reading, of young love, of the beauty in life, and of existence. It doesn’t edit out the icky parts of illness, nor the gross parts of death, nor the hard parts of life. It is honest, and hilarious, and heartbreaking. In short, it is a complete work, a masterpiece, the novel that John Green fans have been dying for, and new readers need to get their hands on. 
It isn't very good. It's overly polished and generally uninteresting. It has no voice. So I rewrote it, more in the blog style (though not as informal). I'm really glad I revised. I was trying to be a "real writer" whatever that is. From now on, I think I stick with being the real me. At least I know how to do that.

Below, I'll share my final review. I'd be interested to hear what you guys think of it, of either of them really. But even if you don't want to give me feedback, I hope you enjoy my thoughts on this amazing novel.

I’ve always liked John Green’s books in the past; I’ve always appreciated his insightful prose and laughed at his clever characters. But I never felt emotionally connected to his books. This week, though, I fell in love with The Fault in Our Stars.  

            The novel stars Hazel Grace Lancaster, a teenage girl with terminal cancer. Hazel is a great narrator. I was worried that John Green would have an issue adopting a female voice. Fortunately, this did not seem to be a struggle, as Hazel is as well rounded and authentic as any of his previous male protagonists.

            Hazel is clever and too smart for her own good. She is passionate. Some of the best passages in the book describe her love of reading and her true appreciation of literature. She is also strong. Hazel accepts her cancer, and she does not let it define her. She is not self-pitying, but, rather, self-aware, and you can’t help but love her for that.

            Hazel undergoes an important personal journey in the book, as she learns to love in the face of death, and that is where we meet Augustus Waters. Augustus is a fellow cancer patient, who lost his leg to the disease, but is momentarily in remission.

            I love Augustus. I love even the way his name sounds when you say it. I love his silly metaphors and his loyal friendship. Most of all, I love how earnest he is and how vulnerable he allows himself to be. Augustus Waters is one of the sweetest boys I have ever known through print.

            The relationship between Hazel and Augustus is adorable. Sometimes they say the wrong thing. Augustus tries too hard; Hazel doesn’t know how to respond. They love each other, but they aren’t perfect for each other. Their relationship is realistic, and, to me, that is what makes it so romantic.

            I have always thought John Green was an amazing writer. But this book showed me that he is an amazing storyteller. For he managed to take what is a rather sad story about teenage cancer and make it a celebration rather than a eulogy. He managed to mix his typically breathtaking prose with real, tearjerking emotion in a way that is not maudlin, but rather moving and memorable. I cannot recommend this book more. 

So, what do you think? At any rate, I hope you read the book. I hope everyone reads it. That the kind of attention it deserves. It is just that good.



  1. Hi Katherine,
    I haven't commented for awhile so I thought i'd say hi!
    How is university going?? You mentioned a boy a few times in your posts, how did that end up going? Have you made many friends? How are your classes going? I can't wait to read more about your university life, it's so different over here. I hope everything is good.


    1. Hey!

      University is really good. I really like my courses this semester, and I love all my teacher training.

      The boy is long gone, but that's okay. I have tons of good friends, more than I ever had in high school. I have most everything I want right now.

      Thanks for checking in.


  2. Hi again. I like your first review, I must say! While the second review is definitely more accessible and has more of your personal thoughts, I still think your voice comes through in the 1st one. Don't be afraid of being overly polished- to me it just shows you care about how and what you write.

    I haven't read this book yet, but clearly I must get to it like yesterday. Looking forward to reading it.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...