Category: Reviews

Book Review: The Fault In Our Stars, by John Green

Book Cover: The Fault In Our Stars by John Green

originally published on Goodreads in April 2012

The Fault In Our Stars by John Green is a difficult book to classify. On one hand, it’s a cancer book. This fact is as inescapable to a reader as the disease is for the characters. But to call it “a cancer book” somehow diminishes the work as a whole. At its core, The Fault In Our Stars is a novel about inevitability, about things that don’t last, and more than anything, about the things that do.

Hazel Grace Lancaster is the protagonist-cum-narrator, an astonishingly intelligent and terminally ill teenage college student whose view of life is necessarily colored by the fact of its brevity. For Hazel, the course of her illness and treatment means that she is effectively living on borrowed time. To a large degree this applies to most other characters as well, whom she meets regularly at a psychologist-mandated teen cancer support group. Her friend Isaac, for example, previously lost an eye to cancer and eventually loses the other. Augustus Waters, a newcomer to the group and the eventual object of Hazel’s unwilling affection, is three years in remission from osteosarcoma. Hazel herself, though in limbo due to the “miraculous” affects of an experimental fictional drug, is permanently fixed to a portable oxygen tank.

This real and accepted fact of death frees Green to break the tension and infect the book with much needed humor. Granted, it’s grim and morbid humor, but it is appropriate to the characters and nevertheless effective in maintaining a balance between heavy introspection and actual readability. Having accepted death for themselves, Hazel and her friends instead grapple with more existential crises: the durability of the marks they leave on the world and other people, the inevitability of oblivion, and the scars their inevitable and untimely passage might leave behind on the people they love. Not to mention the fact of living with obvious and pitiable disability, interacting with the well-intentioned though tactless masses. (The most surprising element of the book for me was its side theme of tolerance, specifically through the delicate balance of attention, inattention understanding, and the difficulties in relating on both sides.)

Book Review: Dark but for the Stars by Nathan Crowder

dark but for stars book coverSeveral months ago, I happened to be on twitter while Nate Crowder was discussing the release of his then-new short fiction collection. I can’t find the original tweets anymore, but I believe he said something to the effect of, how lucky am I to have a job where I can write stories about deer people?

Well. I immediately put the brakes on. “Deer people!?” I said, bursting with envy. “Why didn’t I think of that!?”

So we got to talking. He described his project, a horror/sci-fi short fiction collection with hints of Lovecraft. I bemoaned that Amazon’s publishing program demanded exclusivity to its devices and that I’d never get to read it, and, well, the long and short of it is that he was kind enough to grant me a review copy.

Then student teaching crept up on me, in addition to a whole host of other classes I hadn’t realized I needed to take. Before I knew it, this blog and all its pending reviews effectively got shelved. Now, in the aftermath of that dubious adventure, I find myself chasing monstrous dust bunnies out of the corners of my life, trying to situate myself to pursue writing more seriously. Which means making good on a few promises.

Sorry, Nate. I promised you a review about a thousand years ago, and somehow never posted it.