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Thursday, June 12, 2014

From Book to Movie: The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

Despite the tumor-shrinking medical miracle that has bought her a few years, Hazel has never been anything but terminal, her final chapter inscribed upon diagnosis. But when a gorgeous plot twist named Augustus Waters suddenly appears at Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazel's story is about to be completely rewritten.

Oh my heart.

Here's the story. I first read The Fault in Our Stars (TFiOS) in March of 2012 and was kind of blown away by it. It was seriously the best book I had read that year. So, with the film adaptation of the novel hitting theatres soon, my book club decided to make it our monthly read for April. We did this because the film was about to come out, and the girls wanted to read the book prior to seeing the film. So there I was two years after the initial read, back in the world of Hazel Grace and Augustus Waters.

The Book

As many of you probably already know, TFiOS is about a girl named Hazel Grace- who has a terminal form of cancer- and a boy named Augustus Waters- who is in remission. The boy and the girl meet, and they fall in love. To me, this is what TFiOS is all about, at it's deepest roots, it's a love story. Not a cancer story.

One of the biggest questions surrounding TFiOS is whether it's a cancer book. It is a question that is featured on almost every discussion/book club guide.

At one point, Hazel says, "Cancer books suck." Is this a book about cancer? What were you expecting? Were those expectations met...or did the book alter your ideas?

It is something Green himself has addressed: His claim is that The Fault in Our Stars is a book about cancer, but it's not a cancer book (which can be difficult to wrap you head around). After my first read of TFiOS, I was amazed and grateful that the focal point in this story wasn't cancer. I really liked that the story wasn't written in a way that made you want to feel sorry for the characters in a way that made them feel like they weren't really living.

 I read a review a few weeks ago (which partially led me to write what I am writing now), where the author (of the review) thought that this book romanticises cancer and that they story didn't put enough focus on the fact that these kids were living/had lived with the disease. Honestly, I was irritated with these comments, I felt like the reader missed the whole point of the story.

Don't let cancer kill you, before it kills you. 

This is something Hazel ponders at some point in the book. She doesn't want her cancer to rule her life. I felt like this was a large theme of the novel. These kids are LIVING with their illness, the are living.

John Green is a phenomenal writer. He is truly a genius. And anyone who has read anything by him knows this. As I will mention later, his books make you  contemplate everything. He gets you thinking and keeps you thinking. The Fault in Our Stars has stayed with me, and will stay with me for a long time I think.

The Movie

I am going to admit, when I first heard they were going to make TFiOS a movie, I had my reservations. I am not quite sure what they were, but I wasn't sure. But I love movies, and I love going to the movies, I also knew there was no way in ever that I would miss this one on the big screen. I have now seen the TFiOS film twice- I went the first time on my own, and had a kind of crap experience, and then again, last night, with the book club girls. 

Overall, it was a good movie. But, there was something missing for me and I believe I know what it is. 

For the most part, the cast of the movie was great. Shailene Woodley is kind of amazing. I really liked her as Hazel. I was REALLY impressed with what she did in the Anne Frank House, I actually believed that she was struggling to breathe after all those stairs. I am a fan. I also really liked Nat Wolff as Isaac. While he may not have looked the way Isaac was described in the novel, I think his portrayal of the blind teen was spot on. I actually would have liked to have seen more of him in the movie. Another character that really stood out to me was Willem Dafoe was Peter Van Houten. He was hysterical and hateful all at once. It was great. 

What I wasn't completely sold on (and yes I am going to say it), was Ansel Elgort as Augustus. Let me preface this by saying, I really like Ansel Elgort as a person, and I think he's a fine actor, I just wasn't sure about the way the movie makers chose to develop Gus. He was to silly, and I had a hard time taking him seriously. It was almost as if everything Gus said was a joke. This was not the sense I got from Gus as I was reading the book. However, Ansel sure knows how to cry. The grand revelation in Amsterdam- when he starts crying, that was pretty epic, and I give the guy major points for crying and making me believe it. 

Here's the thing. I liked the movie, but I didn't love the movie. And I have thought about this long and hard, and wondered what wasn't sitting right with me. And I think I know what it is. The movie is lacking the beauty of John Green's prose. Yes, it's his story, and yes he created the characters, and the dialogue. But, John Green writes in a way that makes you think, and keeps you thinking long after you've finished the book. The film is very much lacking the depth of the book. 

I have no idea if I am making sense. But the book was so much more then the movie was. The movie was good, and for the most part it stayed true to the story. Like I mentioned earlier, I would have liked to have seen more of Isaac, because Nat Wolff was so great, and I to off set all of the Hazel and Augustus moments- break them up a little. 

Overall, the movie was fine, it was cute, and I grinned the whole way through when I first saw it. But it wasn't amazing. 

And there you have, my thoughts on The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. I can now move on with my life. 
If you've seen the movie, tell me what you thought of it. I am actually really curious. 

~Happy Reading Everyone!

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  1. Great review Sara, I agree... there was some poetry in the book that the movie can't quite capture. With movies I'm always noticing that you don't get nearly as much of the character's internal dialogue as you do with the book.... which is why I usually like the book better!

  2. I haven't seen the movie but totally get what you are saying. I thought the book would become a classic, our children, grandchildren will be reading it. I am not a fan of YA but was blown away with the story and do think it had to do with John Green - can that be captured in a movie, hmmm.

    Great review.

  3. I haven't seen the movie or read the book yet, Sara, but I'm pretty sure I'll end up watching the movie before reading the book as I find that when I can compare the movie to the book, the movie always falls short. Hopefully, I'll find the movie amazing and that will force me to read the book ... or any John Green book.

    P.S. Thanks for letting me know your thoughts on The Iron Fey series. I think I'm not going to bother continuing on with the series. Sorry for not replying earlier but summer school is finally done which means I now have some free time.

  4. Yes, I completely agree that it is NOT a cancer book. And I really cannot believe that reviewer said that... I really appreciated the approach John took to the story in that he did it without exploitation, which I think is often the way in cancer books. He did such a good job of making sure the cancer WASN'T the focus.

    And as for the movie... I really need to have a home viewing of it so that I can really take it in on my own. All I got out of it was a vague sense of liking it and liking the casting decisions. It's very possible upon a second viewing that I may find that the movie is lacking in depth compared to the book, like you felt. But I will hold off on opinions until then.


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"So, please, oh please, we beg, we pray, go throw your TV set away, and in its place you can install, a lovely bookcase on the wall."
— Roald Dahl