More ‘Faults’ than ‘Stars’

Lana Heltzel, Staff Reporter

John Green’s 2012 novel, The Fault in our Stars, has been described by critics as edgy, genius, and luminous. Teenagers who were touched to tears by Green’s storytelling – and he does use lovely storytelling – hold the book on a pedestal. But that’s really all this book is: a shallow collection of pretty words.
The Fault in our Stars spins the tale of Hazel Grace Lancaster, a 16-year-old cancer patient who, after attending a support group meeting, meets Augustus Waters. Shenanigans ensue. The characters are really where the first problem falls – they’re just so terribly dislikable. Within the first few pages, Hazel proves to be an insufferable narrator. They just don’t sound like teenagers – they sound like John Green. Expect copious amounts of witty remarks, rants of malcontent, and non-sequitur metaphors in every chapter. For example, Augustus buys cigarettes but refuses to light them to show that the companies don’t control him.
Another point of annoyance is that this book is so emotionally manipulative. The reader feels like Green is hovering over one’s shoulder, whispering, “Hey, that part? Yeah, it’s sad, right?” Green says that you should cry. He says that Hazel and Augustus are in love. It’s hard to see this as anything but a thinly-veiled attempt at a tearjerker novel.
Previous readers of John Green have surely noticed a formula in his stories: awkward teenager meets manic pixie dream girl (or in this case, boy) who impresses with disaffected, smarter-than-thou speeches and who promises adventure. Compare The Fault in our Stars with his other novels, Looking for Alaska and Paper Towns. Green could have switched around the names of all his characters and it wouldn’t make a difference.
If one thing could be said in John Green’s favor, it’s that he’s consistent – consistently pretentious, consistently resurrecting the same boring characters, consistently trying to convince his young adult readers that he’s an intellectual. His books are geared towards teenagers because he realizes that anybody who can discern quality literature would call him out for being a pompous imbecile. The Fault in our Stars only proves to be overhyped.