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John Green: The Fault in Our Stars
A number of books have tackled the subject of illness; characters fighting disease, suffering its aftermath, or consequently losing a dear one because of it. The Fault in Our Stars however, doesn't ask for sympathy for its cancer stricken characters; author John Green manages to create a world of interesting personalities in an exceptionally well-written plot.
Hazel Grace, the main character and narrator, is a 16-year-old girl who suffers from terminal lung cancer. She was pulled out of school and is rarely able to live a normal teenage life, until she meets Augustus - a cancer survivor. Together, they embark on a journey to meet Hazel’s favourite author to uncover answers about his incomplete novel, and along the way Hazel discovers a lust for life that her illness had seemingly eradicated.
Augustus brings humour, courage, and friendship to both Hazel’s life and the book. The questions they share and the thoughts they express in their seemingly adolescent tones is extremely relatable. What makes the book so enjoyable to read, is that the author has a unique way of presenting life-turning arguments that don’t read like a lecture.
One thing that may jolt readers out of the characters' engaging world is how sophisticated the dialogue is for their ages. It might implicate that they have been forced into early adulthood because of their struggle, but still, it takes the gloss of realism off slightly. Besides the awkwardly advanced dialogue, however, the story flows smoothly with surprising emotional twists that manage to keep the simple plot line interesting throughout.
The Fault in Our Stars is a much deeper story than it seems on the surface; reading it with an open mind will reveal that it doesn’t only revolve around Hazel and Augustus as cancer patients and how their lives are affected by illness, but the book also talks about other aspects of their lives. Their adolescence and struggle are just as relevant.
Through the many strands it takes, The Fault in Our Stars is a novel about suffering in different forms; the kind that makes us weak and the kind that strengthen us. It is a perfectly expressed emotional story that doesn’t carry as much drama as it does contemplation and wonder.
The structure of the book is difficult to map out. While the story is chronological in the bigger sense, events tend to jump back and forth, where each child slave’s full story is only revealed the further you read. We do not know exactly how either of them came to be until to the end.
Other distractions from the story line are religious references. Using Biblical references, verses from the Quran and the history of Moses and Adam, Thompson uses mythical tales to reflect on the characters at hand and the trials they face. He even has a character and element that bears an uncanny representation of Noah and his arc.
Apart from his use of history and religious fables, Thompson also tells a very aggressive, and often times, dark story. Dodola is married off as a child and upon turning to prostitution is subjected to rape and mistreatment. Zam is a slave who sacrifices his manhood out of a loss of a better life. They are both abused time and time again and having their misfortunes sketched out for the eye to witness adds a shocking element to the novel.
This brings us to what makes the novel so wonderful at the same time; the illustrations. The detailing of the sketches and the exemplary hand-work at play is extremely commendable. Action scenes have your eyes rushing through the pages as frantically as one seen on a TV screen. The beauty in the details is endless; the graphics are looming and grand but also sensual and precise. There is a lot of calligraphy incorporated, which makes for an interesting experience for those who can read Arabic.
Another interesting aspect is his combination of the new and the old. Though the story takes place in today’s world, a lot of the prevalent ideologies are from nomadic times; primitive and beastly.
There is indeed something quite poetic about the story he tells – and the manner in which it is told – regardless of the gruesome, harsh aspects; on the contrary, it is these parts that make the novel that much more meaningful.
The first impression of main character Abby, a freshman at university, is that she’s a goody-two-shoes and seems to have a reserved, shy personality. She is just starting a new independent life as a student far away from home, but her peace of mind is soon disturbed when she meets Travis; an underground fighter who goes to the same school. He's the kind of guy that every girl should avoid but still dreams of taming. With tattooed arms, the rebellious enigma captures Abby's attention instantly and though he has trouble written all over him, she can't help but get sucked into his world.
But on the other hand, Travis is also somewhat spellbound by Abby's innocence. What he doesn't know, and neither do we at the time, is that he’s in for a surprise; with a sharp tongue and a strong personality, Abby manages to charm the bad boy into submission. As the story progresses, we see Abby building a shield to protect herself from being another challenge that Travis conquers. Frustrated with Abby, Travis is forced to comply with her strict rules and settles for being ‘her friend’.
The novel takes an unusual turn when Abby loses a bet with Travis and is forced to live with him for a whole month. The lines between innocent friendship and love become blurred and as the story goes on, McGuire gradually delves deeper into Abby's fears and the dark past that is still hunting her.
Jumping up the New York Times bestselling charts soon after being published, Beautiful Disaster is much more than a just another romance novel.