The Fault in Our Stars, John Green, Dutton Books, 2012, 194 pp
Here I go with the second book I read from the Tournament of Books list, another book I was not ever going to read because of the subject matter. I know I am going against the grain here because it won four awards and is that rare book that has 5 stars everywhere you look. But I was right. I did not need to read this book.
In another way, I'm not sorry I did. It was an informative example of a certain type of emotional enslavement accomplished by writing fiction. Call me what you want but I am not an emotionally cold person. I have strong feelings across the entire spectrum every day. When it comes to writing of any kind though, I subscribe to Wordsworth's dictum that "poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings; it takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquility."
Some subjects are still too raw and unprocessed, at least to me, and though I would never endeavor to suppress the creativity or right to communicate of any artist, such subjects must be handled with extreme care in order to produce what I consider art. I understand that this view is utterly personal and that is as it should be.
Having said all that, I also am aware that a large proportion of our society just loves to be emotionally manipulated in ways that I find abusive. This is equally true of the lesser proportion of people who read books. Hence the wild popularity of certain books with reading groups, hence Oprah Winfrey, Dr Phil, etc. Hence most of what is on TV and our news coverage these days and the astonishing pervasiveness of marketing in shaping our society. I won't even begin on our political process.
It was not lost on me that the book Hazel reads over and over turns out to have been written by an alcoholic psychopath. Because adolescence is the most highly charged emotional period of life, it is not surprising that many teens loved The Fault in Our Stars. I don't begrudge them that. But the fault in John Green is that he should have been more careful and less emotionally abusive, because he is a good YA writer and could have pulled it off.
One more thing: (from Chapter 4) "Cancer kids are essentially side effects of the relentless mutation that made the diversity of life on earth possible." Really? Hazel says it but where did that idea come from? I searched the web but only found references to John Green's book. If this idea is part of current cancer research I would like to know how it came about. Does anyone know?
(The Fault in Our Stars is available in hardcover on the Young Adult shelves at Once Upon A Time Bookstore.)