I loved the book. (See my small collection of thoughts about it on Goodreads.) I loved the movie. (I carried home nine snotty tissues in my purse after seeing it. And might have used one more in the car.) No, they weren’t “perfect.” And I can’t point you to a “perfect” example for comparison because it does not exist. I don’t think I’ve ever described a book or movie as “perfect,” but I can tell you that, out of 614 books that I’ve rated on Goodreads, The Fault in Our Stars is one of only 29 that earned 5 stars and, in my opinion, the movie is one of the best adaptations of a YA novel I’ve ever seen, right up there with Holes.
I know that some people didn’t like it, and that’s fine. It’s hard for me to understand, of course, because I found both the book and the movie to be funny, beautiful, and emotional, with staying power. For me, the story will not be forgotten. But again, to each her own opinion.
The purpose of my rant is not to try to convince anyone to love The Fault in Our Stars. It is simply to refute one specific critique that I keep hearing/reading over and over. The most common complaint I hear about the book and the movie is, “Teenagers don’t talk like that!”
I may disagree with your opinion that Shailene Woodley was not a good Hazel. I may have to grit my teeth when you say that their love was cheesy. But I cannot stay quiet when you fault The Fault in Our Stars for the way the characters spoke to each other. And here’s why:
- A) Some teenagers do talk like that. It’s true. Just because your kid or your sister or your boyfriend communicates only in grunts doesn’t mean that the rest of the species is the same.
- B) This is fiction. And in fiction (even realistic fiction) we like interesting characters. These characters are interesting and the way they speak is one of the things that makes them so. John Green made good choices in giving their conversations life.
- C) The big critique here seems to be that the book and movie show teenagers talking this way. It’s that word that gets the emphasis: TEENAGERS. So… what? If Gus had been 23, instead of 17 (in the book) or 18 (in the movie—that was weird), then everything would be okay? Because, I have to be honest here… I don’t know a whole lot of PEOPLE (age inconsequential) who use phrases like “metaphorical resonance” and “existentially fraught.” (Well, I know a few. I hang out with writers after all.) But what I’m saying is that if these characters had been falling love in such a beautiful, literary way in their twenties, I think a bunch of these naysayers would be too busy swooning and laughing and crying to stop and wonder if this is really how people talk. For instance, why is this same conversation not happening about Before Sunrise? People who speak cleverly and eloquently and reference Shakespeare do not just suddenly begin talking that way when they turn 21 or graduate from college. It is who they are and it develops along with them. There are plenty of teenagers out there who are worth listening to, teenagers (people!) with interesting and important things to say. If you haven’t met any of them yet, I’m sorry.
[Note: If I had a blog category for “Grumpy Rants” this would definitely go in it, but I’m not going to make one because I don’t plan on making these a habit. Today is the second day in a row when I was awakened unexpectedly (and unhappily) at four o’clock in the morning. It is not advisable to read the internet at 5 a.m. when you would rather be sleeping. It leads to Grumpy Posts. I wish everyone a happy day that includes time to read and a good sleep tonight.]