“The Fault in Our Stars”

Green, John, narrated by Kate Rudd.  The Fault in Our Stars.  Grand Haven: Brilliance Audio, 2006.  Audio.

Borrowed from the Cedar Falls Public Library.

Listened to between February 13 and February 20, 2013.

3.75 out of five stars.

The Fault in our Stars

I find it pleasantly ironic that Jodi Picoult’s blurb is featured on the front cover of “A Fault in Our Stars”.  After finishing this book I found myself comparing her and John Green, in particular how each author seems to follow distinct (albeit different) writing formulas in terms of character types and plot progressions.  In other words, if you’ve read one Picoult or Green, you’ve read them all.  Now, before all the Nerdfighters rush in to throw rocks at me, that’s not to say I didn’t enjoy “The Fault in Our Stars”.  However, having just finished “An Abundance of Katherines” I’m a bit John Green-ed out at the moment.  I tend to be a rut reader, and after reading “AAoK” I thought, “Well that was fun and refreshing, let’s try another one of Green’s novels” (“AAoK” being my first).  I should have paid more attention to the novel’s synopsis, because fun and refreshing “A Fault in Our Stars” is most decidedly not.  I don’t tend to cry often, but I did tear up on more than one occasion during my listening of this book (which is not the safest thing to do whilst driving…).  As novels about terminally ill teens are inclined to be, “The Fault in Our Stars” is melancholy and raw, more bittersweet than sad.

I won’t go into any plot details, because there are other reviews that explain this novel far more eloquently than I can.  In terms of writing style there were a few notable elements:
1) Green deviated from his usual teenaged male narrator in favor of a female one, a decision he explains in the Q & A session (from NPR or PBS, I believe) at the end of the audiobook presentation.  Fans of Green’s other works will see Colin/Miles/Quentin reflected in Hazel (either to their enjoyment or chagrin).
2) There will be readers who criticize the dialogue, claiming “normal teenagers” would never be as sarcastic/ironic/witty/clever/insightful/whatever as Hazel and Augustus*.  It was for this reason I didn’t give the book a higher rating.  There were several times I rolled my eyes at Hazel and Augustus’s  banter. I feel fairly confident that Hazel would have owned a highlighted and well loved copy of “Infinite Jest” and would have spent her free time perusing a thesaurus.  I don’t mean to sound harsh, because overall I did enjoy this book, and of course Hazel and Augustus weren’t “normal teenagers”, but they just didn’t sound authentic enough for me.

Overall, I did enjoy this book (as much as one can truly enjoy a book about kids with cancer).  It was at times overly melodramatic and metaphorical, even borderline pretentious, but the story was engaging and for the most part well told.  The narrator of the audiobook, Kate Rudd, was excellent, and the Q & A session at the end of the performance was enlightening.  I would definitely recommend this book to readers.

*Seriously, “Augustus”? Even his name calls forth notions of a self-aggrandizing** egomaniac.  Apologies to all Augustuses out there.
**”Self-aggrandizing” is one such pompous term used by multiple teenaged characters in “The Fault in Our Stars”.

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“One Thousand White Women”

Fergus, Jim.  One Thousand White Women: The Journals of May Dodd.  New York: St. Martin’s Griffin., 1999.  Print.

Borrowed from The Cedar Falls Public Library.  

Read between September 19-September 25, 2012.

Four out of five stars.

Jim Fergus’ One Thousand White Women follows May Dodd and a motley crew of women from her incarceration in a Chicago insane asylum where she had been committed for falling in love with a man beneath her station, to the prairies of the Nebraska Territory as part of President Ulysses S. Grant’s “Brides for Indians” program.  The program, intended to assimilate Native Americans into “white culture” was (unsurprisingly) met with hostility and horror when it was proposed by a Cheyenne chief in 1875.  Grant, however, saw an opportunity and secretly recruited prisoners, patients, and other unsavory women to participate and marry Cheyenne men with the intent to becoming pregnant, thereby joining the two cultures together through matrimony and children.  What ensues is carefully recorded in the fictitious diary of May Dodd in an amusing, offbeat, and bittersweet chronicle.  Writing in a candid, descriptive and witty style,  Fergus is able to capture the triumphs and hardships of this unique group of women who are thrust into the unknown and married to men with whom they can barely communicate.  Like most Western novels, One Thousand White Women relies on strong story telling and descriptive narrative with themes of justice, redemption and survival being present throughout.  It is a tale of strength and character, not only of May Dodd but also the other women and their Cheyenne families, which ranges from sassy and sarcastic to reflective and nostalgic.  May Dodd is at the center of a strong cast of characters who must learn to adapt and evolve to drastically new lifestyles whilst being caught in the middle of a tumultuous time in history as the Cheyenne people try desperately to cling to their traditional way of life, and white Americans press westward in search of land and gold.  At times romantic, occasionally violent, One Thousand White Women will appeal to readers who connect to strong female protagonists, are fans of historical fiction, and those seeking a thought-provoking Novel of the West.

 

I absolutely loved this book, though I tend to really enjoy historical fiction.  I thought the narrator was charming and affable, and I empathized with her struggles, cheered with her victories. The ending was not what I expected, though I found it fitting (I won’t spoil it).  I recommended the book to my mom, who then bought it for my grandmother.  I would definitely re-read this book.