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Following the Leader (Amber J.)

Just along for the ride

The Fault in Our Stars - John Green "If you don’t live a life in service of a greater good, you’ve got to at least die a death in service of a greater good, and I fear I won’t get a life or a death that means anything.”I had changed my mind about posting my review because I figured it would just get lost in the 1,300+ reviews this amazing book already has. But it’s four days later and this novel is still with me—I can’t stop thinking about it. It seems The Fault in Our Stars had such a profound effect on me that I can’t not write something about it.As hard as this will be to believe, this is the first John Green novel I have ever read, and up until last week, this was also the only John Green novel I had ever heard of (Audible.com recommended his other books when I made this purchase). I wish I could describe the exact size, weight, and location of the rock I'd obviously been living under to not have known this author existed, but unfortunately, TFIOS turned me into an emotional, incoherent wreck for a while, and at this point I'm just glad I still remember how to use a computer.The one thing I know for sure after reading TFIOS is that John Green is a genius. I sincerely hope that he has made arrangements to be cryogenically preserved, so that when the scientists of the future who invent 'robot eyes' also discover a way to transfer human consciousness into artificial intelligence, his genius will “live” in perpetuity and be experienced by all the generations to come. Green’s writing is superb and thought-provoking, and he has a gift for incorporating metaphors that are both intellectually stimulating and capable of evoking emotion. And even though it seemed each character in TFIOS was written to deliver their one specific message, they never felt one-dimensional. I purchased the audiobook, so I must also give props to Kate Rudd because I think her spot-on narration of the story and accurate depiction of all the characters are two of the reasons I felt so connected to this book.This novel had the unfortunate responsibility of being right on time in my life. The characters, themes, and events in TFIOS mirrored all the ways things are falling apart right now; having a loved one that’s living with cancer is a new experience for me. Reading this book was like having a heart-to-heart talk with a friend that knows exactly what I’m going through. I felt like high-fiving Isaac when he recounts his visit to the clinic where the doctor tried to make him feel better about going blind by telling him at least his eye cancer wouldn’t make him deaf. It reminded me of the other day when my mother told me that her doctor said she has “the best cancer a woman can have”. I felt like tracking that woman down at her office and bopping her on the head and saying, “No dummy, the best cancer a woman can have is none!” I don’t want to paint a broad brush and say medical professionals have become desensitized, but I’ll just say that the character Dr. Maria was a refreshing part of the cast.I noticed that some people feel that Hazel and Augustus were too quick, too clever, and their long, seamless, cerebral conversations were just unrealistic, but I beg to differ. Like Hazel, I started college at the age of 16 (I didn’t go to community college; crazy me, dove headfirst into a 4-year university) so I know what it’s like to be forced to grow up fast and hold your own in discussions with full-fledged adults. I thought Augustus was written perfectly with his ADHD-ish pattern of speech, and his obsession with finding the metaphoric resonances in everything the world has to offer, and his unending desire to perform heroic exploits. I think we all know what it’s like to have a desire to leave a legacy and reach for lofty goals, and maybe even get close to achieving them, only to have things not work out in your favor. I know I do. And Hazel and Augustus were as much alike as they were different so it would make sense that their quirks were magnified when they were together. And the irony is not lost on me that in a YA world run by vampires, werewolves, ghosts/ghosthunters, faeries, fallen angels, and dystopian goddesses, the coolest kids on the block are normal (well, exceptional) human beings. Hazel, Augustus, and Isaac are strong, smart, likeable characters that are dealing with a disease that affects real people in the real world. I like my fantasy and PNR, but I also really like when contemporary fiction provides a healthy balance and offers me role models I can relate to.I did feel Hazel’s internal monologue was a bit heavy-handed at times, and that some of her long stretches of random thoughts could have been edited out. I also thought the scene between Van Houten and Hazel in the car outside of Isaac's house was a little weird, and maybe unnecessary. I know the conversation they have is significant because she finally learns why he wrote An Imperial Affliction and then devolved into alcoholism, but I think it should have occurred earlier, perhaps, on the day of the funeral, because Van Houten’s unexpected appearance was moving, but him showing up again a week later was just strange. I also think I actually have a problem with the way that whole event was written. I agreed with Hazel, I was so disappointed that Augustus’s funeral was confined to this small anteroom. I was hoping that it would take place in this huge sanctuary, and the pews would be filled with hundreds of friends, family members, doctors, nurses, etc. he didn’t even realize he had affected, and by giving him a grand exit, in death, he would finally get what he always wanted—proof that he had left his mark on the world. I felt he deserved at least that.This may sound morbid but I was pleased that Green dropped hints toward the end that Hazel’s health was declining. I know that is a mean thing to say, but I needed to know what happens after TFIOS, the same way Hazel was driven to know what happened after AIA, and I felt better knowing that soon after the story ended she and Augustus would be reunited “Somewhere”.TFIOS definitely deserves so much more than my five skimpy stars (even if it does include all the infinities in between). I loved it so much I ordered the print version as well. I’m glad this was my first John Green novel, and even though I probably won’t check out his previous works (for fear that they won’t live up to this one), I do look forward to buying his future projects.There are so many more reasons I love this book. I’ve already written too much considering I hadn’t planned on writing anything at first. Ultimately, it’s hard to say which part of the book was my favorite, because this subject matter isn’t the type of thing you enjoy reading about. So, I will say, the part that touched me the most (and sent me into my final, and fiercest, crying fit) was the letter at the very end. I think it summed up everything I had learned on my journey through this novel, particularly, when Augustus tells Van Houten: “You don’t get to choose if you get hurt in this world, old man, but you do have some say in who hurts you. I like my choices. I hope she likes hers.” It made realize that even though I’m carrying more than a few dreams deferred, and yes, the immediate future looks a little bleak, I am loved by some really great people, and I love them so much. I like my choices. I hope you all like yours, too.