Mandy's Top Read 2014
The Fault in Our Stars
By John Green
(or, reading outside your comfort zone)
Here at Escape Club, each year we write up a wrap of our top five reads. It’s normally something I really enjoy; going back through my bookshelves and lists of reviews, sorting which of the dozens of books read will make my own list. Unfortunately, 2014 was a bit of a dud reading year for me. You know when you just can’t seem to find that book that grabs you? Or you read the first hundred or so pages of one novel, only to be distracted by something else (ooh, shiny!) and not end up completing either of them? Well yeah, that was me this year, with only a couple of exceptions.
And one BIG exception.
I spent a lot of hours on aeroplanes this year when we travelled to the United States from Melbourne. I watched a LOT of movies on those planes – all from my usual genre of choice, which captures my book taste too. Malificent. Godzilla. The latest X Men and Planet of the Apes movies. Movies about time-travelling detectives and a heap of superheroes. Get the picture? I’m a speculative fiction gal, through and through. I don’t like watching or reading about real life, I already live that. I want fantasy and horror, science fiction and action on my entertainment menu.
And then, on the final leg of our trip home from Hawaii, I clicked the button to watch the film adaptation of John Green’s uber-selling novel, ‘The Fault in Our Stars’. I saved it ’til last because a/ not my thing, b/ it would bore me into sleep and quicken the ten hour flight, and c/ not my thing again. I was wrong. I sobbed and laughed out loud and sobbed again. It was mortifyingly embarrassing. I had to cover my face, wiping away the black-mascara tears with Qantas napkins, not able to speak to my family or the aircraft crew. And still, I couldn’t turn it off. As we disembarked at Sydney for our connecting flight to Melbourne, my sister-in-law, Kerrie (who was seated a couple of rows back from me) said: “Omg, can you tell I’ve been crying? I just watched that movie, that Fault in Our Stars”. Yep, her too.
So of course, I had to read the book. Just to you know, see which was better. I needed to know how the author, John Green, had created such beautiful characters in Hazel Grace Lancaster and Augustus Waters – two teenage cancer patients – to be so witty, so clever and yet never whiny or precocious. I wanted to know if the movie was a fluke or if the book could evoke that sort of emotion from me as well. Of course, like everyone in the Western World, I’d seen The Fault in Our Stars on display in every bookshop and department store for months beforehand. I refused to buy it. Too commercial for my tastes. Too mainstream. Too soppy. Too real-life.
I’ve never, ever been so wrong. And I’m very happy to admit it.
I loved the novel version, knocking it over in two sittings and keeping me up until 2am to finish. The only reason I put it down at any time was to reach for another tissue. I forced my Mum and BFF to read it NOW with the threat of not speaking to them until they had (they did. And loved it too) Of course, I knew what happens, there were no surprises or twists for me – the movie keeps pretty close to the book – but still, Hazel and Gus’s story of love and commitment through all that is thrown at them kept me entranced. And the writing – oh, the writing! John Green the most incredible way of playing with words and tugging at your heartstrings. While the story is told from terminally-ill Hazel’s point of view, we’re not left wondering what might be going on inside the delicious mind of her beloved Gus either. These two characters could easily become boring Mary-Janes (too perfect) but they are so full of faults and imperfections, and in Hazel’s own words: Cancer Perks to be anything of the sort. Against all my preconceived ideas, they completely won me over.
If you’re one of the few people out there yet to read The Fault in Our Stars, or see the movie, sorry, but I won’t be handing out spoilers here. You MUST read it. Or at the very least, SEE it. The film adaption, while of course not quite being as amazing as the book, captures Hazel and Gus so well. Starring Divergent’s Shailene Woodley as Hazel Grace and the kinda quirky Ansel Elgort as Augustus Waters, amongst a slew of well-known actors, John Green’s characters really are brought to life.
So the moral of my story? Well, besides the fact that you must run out right now and jump straight into this very real, very funny and painful world, don’t be scared to read outside your preferred genre. You might surprise yourself, like I did. Go on, be adventurous. If you normally read science fiction, give a bit of crime fiction a go. Fantasy lover? Try some hard core space opera. Horror more your style? Who says you won’t enjoy a little high fantasy. You just never know.