The basics: The Fault in Our Stars is the story of the romance of Hazel and Augustus, teenagers who meet at a cancer support group.
My thoughts: I don't read a lot of young adult fiction, but it's been impossible to ignore the acclaim of this novel, particularly it's impressive performance in the 2013 Tournament of Books. I opted to listen to it on audio, and Kate Rudd's narration captured a delightful tone for the novel. There are moments of levity, seriousness and relative normalcy, and Rudd moves between them deftly. The subject matter of this novel is dark: teenagers with cancer, but the novel is rarely dark. While this tone makes it more entertaining read, it also functioned to keep me from becoming as emotionally invested in the characters as I would have liked to be.
The Fault in Our Stars is the first young adult novel I've read since I became pregnant, and it was a somewhat jarring experience for me to feel more connection to Hazel's parents that to Hazel herself. I can't say if this parental connection was due to my circumstances, the novel, or a combination of both, but it certainly impacted my view of the novel. Hazel is a fascinating character, but I found her to be somewhat inconsistent, a problem I often have with teenagers in fiction, as teenagers themselves are, of course, inconsistent.
The verdict: There were moments I loved in this novel and moments that will stick with me, but overall I found it to be good, but not great. I'm not sorry I read it, but after all of its acclaim, I found myself expecting more. I found too many of the plot movements easy to predict, which reduced their emotional impact on me. I didn't love this one, but I rarely love young adult fiction, so don't let my lukewarm thoughts steer you away if it's a genre you typically enjoy (although in that case, you've probably already read it!)
Audio thoughts: Kate Rudd captured the raw emotion of all characters, not just the teenage Hazel who narrates, without veering into melodrama or being overwrought. It was a dynamic performance, and I will certainly seek out her narrations in the future.
Rating: 4 out of 5 (audio: 4.5 out of 5)
Length: 7 hours 14 minutes (337 pages)
Publication date: January 10, 2012
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