Last weekend I got a chance to catch up on all the Vlogbrothers videos I’d missed. The most recent one was a once-live recording of John reading Chapter Two of his new book The Fault in Our Stars.
As I started watching it, I realized that I’d skipped over the first chapter, so I went back and watched both. Each video was half an hour long, which turned me off at first. (“Who wants to sit and listen to John–as much as we all love him– read his book for an hour? Especially when you can just buy it in January?”)
I’ve read a few of his other books, like Looking for Alaska and An Abundance of Katherines. The former I hated, the latter I enjoyed. His writing style’s absolutely brilliant, but I could never relate to his characters. LfA was just very… dark and sad. AoK was so weird.
The Fault in Our Stars is both dark and weird, but I’m finding Hazel and Augustus so much more relatable. Maybe it’s because they’re both sarcastic bookworms, or because Hazel’s a vegetarian–but that’s about where the similarities end.
See, TFioS is about two teenagers (Hazel and Augustus) that have cancer. Hazel has to carry around an oxygen cart because her lungs are too weak to support her, and Augustus has a prosthetic leg due to osteosarcoma*. The two of them meet at a support group and try to figure out their place in life, in the world.
It sounds really serious, but it’s actually rather light, funny, and adorable. Again, all in John’s writing style. (The book is written in the first person view of a sixteen-year old girl. The author is a middle-aged man, yet he manages to convey real teenage girl emotions like he’s actually gotten inside her head.) And Augustus Waters…. the most HFG-worthy literary character I’ve read in a long time.
“Why are you looking at me like that?” [Hazel asked.]
Augustus half smiled. “Because you’re beautiful. I enjoy looking at beautiful people, and I decided a while ago not to deny myself the simpler pleasures of existance.”
Or, later in the chapter:
“You’re killing my vibe here, Hazel Grace. I’m trying to observe young love in its many-splendored awkwardness.”
Or the way Augustus puts a cigarette between his lips–but never lights it– because it’s a metaphor for the way he’s chosen to live his life with cancer. “You put the killing thing right between your teeth, but you don’t give it the power to do its killing.” (Not that I’m endorsing the purchase of cigarettes or anything. You get what I mean. It’s the fact that a teenager would–could–actually think that way.)
Anyway, as soon as I’d finished the two videos I added the preorder to my Amazon cart. Then I went through and watched them again. There’s also a text edition of the first two chapters, if you don’t feel like listening to John read it.
Give the books a try and tell me what you think.
The online text edition
The Amazon preorder – all first editions signed by John himself. (Or at least scribbled in by him. You’ve gotta cut him some slack; signing 150,000 books in a very limited amount of time can NOT be easy.)
A song that seems to have been written specifically for Hazel
What I’ve been doing for the past two days
*No, I don’t just think he’s hot ’cause he has “automail” like Edward Elric.