Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Something Resembling a Review of The Fault in Our Stars

You know that pile of books that you keep telling yourself you are going to read but never actually do. They just sit on your bedside table or bookshelf waiting to be read but you never read them. Because as much as you know that you will enjoy them, there is something that’s stopping you from picking them up. Well John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars had been on top of to-read pile for so long that was almost part of the furniture. But considering the movie is currently in production I figure it was about time I stopped making excuses and actually read it.

I finished The Fault in Our Stars a couple of weeks ago now but honestly it has taken me this long to recover enough to even attempt to write coherent thoughts about it. Don’t get me wrong I loved it but it was emotionally draining, as you would imagine a book about teenagers with terminal cancer would be. It’s not hard to figure out why I was so reluctant to read it.

Full disclosure: I love John Green’s style. His beautiful yet simplistic use of language and his ability to capture the teenage voice so well. After only a few pages I found myself remembering what it was like to be seventeen (it was beautifully traumatic). There was very little chance that I wasn’t going to love this book so writing a review is basically pointless.

I could very easily write 1000 words on how much I enjoyed this book (I laughed, I cried, I had an existential crisis when it was over) but what would that accomplish. You are either going to read it or you are not, I would suggest reading it but I’m not in the position to force you. If you have read it then you will have already made up your mind and will simply judge my opinion against yours.

But maybe you’re like me, maybe this book has been sitting in your to-read pile just waiting for you to find the courage to pick it up. The thing is, we all know that chances are those books are never going to get read. They are too hard, or too deep, or too long, or just not what you are interested in. There are any number of reasons why a book ends up on a to-read pile rather than actually being read but once it’s on that pile it’s incredibly hard to pick it up.  

After I finally got around to reading The Fault in Our Stars I wanted to slap myself for avoiding it for so long. Sure I was blubbering mess (I was not okay) but if a book can achieve that kind of physical reaction (I am NOT a crier) you know it was worth reading. I could have enjoyed this book years ago but instead I had let it sit on the top of that pile of books, unread and unappreciated, just waiting to take me on a compelling journey.

The only reason I ended up reading it is because I was trying to avoid life for a couple of hours, that and I had made a promise to my mother. Since I read it all I can do is stare at all the other books in that pile and wonder. Chances are I will not love all of those books as much as I loved The Fault in Our Stars but that’s the risk you take every time you decide to invest in a fictional universe. And the more I think about it, the more I have to consider the reasons why those books remain unread.

A lot of the books in my to-read pile are there because they were recommended to me. They are the books that everyone tells you to read, or the ones that achieved critical acclaim. Most of the time though, they are books by authors I know and love but they are about subjects that either don’t interest me or scare me, like teenagers with terminal cancer.

But The Fault in Our Stars is not about teenagers with terminal cancer. It’s a love story, it’s a family drama, it’s about loving fiction and meeting your idols, it’s all of these things but I ignored all those aspects because I was stuck on the teenagers with terminal cancer part. For the first time I really understand the concept of not judging a book by it’s cover. I am judging all of the books in my to be read pile based on preconceived expectations that probably have nothing to do with what the story is actually about.

Then again there are some books in that pile that I just don’t want to read. And maybe that’s part of the problem as well. I have lumped the books that I am reluctant to read with the books that I don’t want to read when there are two different things happening there. The books that I don’t want to read are sitting in that pile because I have some ridiculous notion that I should read them. That’s not how I felt about The Fault in Our Stars. I wanted to read it but I was also terrified of reading it.

Strange as it might seem the lesson I learnt from reading The Fault in Our Stars was that I should let go of everyone else’s expectations about what I should read and just focus on what actually interests me.  I looked through my to-read pile and took out all those books that I didn’t want to read leaving only the ones that terrified me. Since then I have read two more books that I had been meaning to read for about 5 years. Books that I might never have experienced if I hadn’t taken control of my to-read pile, which never would have happened if I had not enjoyed The Fault in Our Stars as much as I did.

The moral of this review that is actually nothing like a review is that you should re-evaluate the pile of books you have been meaning to read because you could be missing out on something spectacular. Also you should read The Fault in Our Stars, just stock up on tissues first.