Posted by : Deborah Takahashi Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Plot Summary:
Hazel Grace is a survivor. Diagnosed with Stage IV Thyroid Cancer, her life should have been over last year. However, she proved the doctors wrong by making a miraculous recovery. However, the treatments and the cancer have left her lungs filled with tiny tumors that need to be eradicated with medicine, but leaves Hazel permanently dependent to on oxygen tank named Philip. What should have been the typical life of a teenager, Hazel is light years ahead of peers except that she doesn't have a lot of friends and prefers to spend her time alone. In order to get her out of the house, her mother forces her to attend a support group at the local church, which she finds utterly depressing and boring until Gus came around. In fact, Hazel never thought a gorgeous boy would show up to this group, nor did she count on the fact that he actually thought she was beautiful. Confused, and unsure why this perfectly normal guy would want to be with her, she learns that he too is a cancer survivor and he has a prosthetic leg. Although this fact does not change anything, Hazel is forced to tear down the walls she has put between herself and live the life that she has been given even if for a little while longer.

Critical Evaluation:
I rarely listen to audiobooks because I am so fearful that the narrator is going to be utterly terrible, and sadly, some teen audiobooks have been. Since I absolutely loved the print version, I decided to give the audiobook a shot. Boy, was I proven wrong! I could not, whatsoever, get over the fact how well Kate Rudd did with the characterizations. When the serious parts rolled around, I could not stop crying because Rudd had put so much raw emotion into the dialogue that one cannot stop listening to it! Along with the brilliant reading, listeners have the opportunity to hear from John Green himself as he talks about writing The Fault in Our Stars. Believe it or not, this story was inspired by a real NerdFighter who gave so much of herself despite fighting cancer. This book not only transcends age barriers (both teens and adults will love this story), but it brings an awareness to the power of the human spirit, love, and having the courage to go on with life. I am pretty sure this books has sealed itself into the annals of awesome books that teens forty to sixty years from now will read and relish. Needless to say, the audiobook will have the same lasting power thanks to the wonderful narrator and I am actually looking forward to listening to her future works.

Information about the Author and Reader:
Get ready for an amazing FAQ section from John Green:

Q. When were you born?
A. August 24, 1977

Q. Where did you grow up?
A. Primarily in Orlando, Florida but also a little bit in Birmingham, Alabama

Q. Where do you live?
A. I currently live in Indianapolis, Indiana. I wrote most of The Fault in Our Stars and much of Paper Towns here. We used to live in New York City, where I wrote part of Paper Towns and most of An Abundance of Katherines. Before that, I lived in Chicago, where I wrote Looking for Alaska.

Q. Did you receive any formal education?
A. Yes, I graduated from Indian Springs School (in Alabama) and then received a B.A. from Kenyon College (in Gambier, Ohio), where I double-majored in English (mostly Mark Twain) and Religious Studies (mostly Islam).

Q. Did you want to be a writer when you were younger?
A. Yes, but I always thought being a writer was, like, being an astronaut or playing in the NFL or something. It always seemed to me a very unrealistic dream. (I still don’t think of writing as my fulltime job: I make videos and help run record companies and other stuff.) Shortly after I graduated from college, I began working at Booklist Magazine. Booklist is an amazing magazine. Every two weeks, they review HUNDREDS of books. It slowly dawned on me that each of those books was written by someone, and I started to feel like maybe I could be one of those someones. During these years, I was also very blessed to have one of my editors at Booklist, Ilene Cooper, mentor me and encourage my writing. Ilene is an author, and through our friendship, I realized that people who write books are not, like, fundamentally different from other people. (Well, Ilene is smarter and funnier and better-informed than almost anyone else, but you know what I mean.)

So, yes, I wanted to be a writer. But it wasn’t until I was much older–in my 20s–that it seriously occurred to me that I could be a writer.

Q. Where do you get your ideas?
A. I don’t really know. If I had a better understanding of where my ideas came from, I would go there and acquire more ideas. I don’t tend to have big ideas, like, “A SCHOOL FOR WIZARDS!” or “VAMPIRES IN SUBURBIA!” My stories tend to start out with people: a child prodigy who hits the wall of his intellectual talents. A religious but not fundamentalist Muslim in the South. A young woman kept alive but uncured by a novel cancer treatment. These characters mix with questions that interest and/or haunt me: Why are we so interested in leaving a legacy? Can we construct meaning in a world that is so profoundly apathetic toward us? Is it possible to have a full life without having a long life? That’s where my books start, really. They begin at the intersection between people I’m imagining and questions that bug me.

Q. What was your childhood like?
A. I was extremely fortunate. My parents loved and encouraged me; my brother was empathetic and supportive; my friends (when I had them) were lots of fun without being too dangerous. That said, due to some malfunctioning brain chemistry and also due just to the nature of being a person, I often felt isolated and alone and scared. I was quite nerdy and dearly wished that I could be popular. I think I was quite difficult to be around–my insecurity and anxiety made it difficult for me to have straightforward, engaging social interactions with anyone, and I was really super self-absorbed.

I don’t particularly recommend any of these personality traits, but I do think spending a lot of time in my youth (particularly middle school) alone was helpful to me as a writer: For one thing, I read a lot. For another, I spent a lot of time listening to other people talk.

Q. Do you have advice for young writers?
A. That is not really a biographical question, but yes, I do. I believe that reading is a writer’s greatest apprenticeship. We learn how to write by paying attention to all the ways that writers who’ve come before us used this meaningless scratches on a page to bring stories to life in the minds of readers.

My other recommendation is to tell stories to your friends and pay attention to when they get bored. I still do this a lot, and it helps me understand how to pace a story, and what kind of phrases and images audiences find engaging.

Finally, trust your critics. When someone identifies a weakness in your story, they are almost always right. They may not have identified quite the right weakness, and they may not have quite the right solution, but if your readers are bothered by something, then things have gone awry. If you’re going to ask for readers’ time, after all, the story you write has to be a gift for you and for them.
          About Kate Rudd:
"It's a rare book that gets you laughing and crying at the same time," Kate Rudd says of John Green's YA novel, THE FAULT IN OUR STARS. "The book was really a visceral experience for me--it was the kind of book that I would have read at home, in private, because of the crying," she confesses. "I'm kind of an emotional person anyway, so the engineers and the directors are used to me. I think there were at least 100 pages where I was physically crying, and not trying to show it in every moment, but you can't always keep it out of your voice. Sometimes it actually serves the script, because of Hazel's breathing issues. So if at times I was a little breathless from the story, it was okay."

When Rudd began recording audiobooks two years ago, she did almost exclusively YA titles. "I don't know if it's just because my voice was still a little bit younger--I'm only 31. I really like young adult literature. I think it's some of the smartest writing that's out there, so it's been really satisfying to be able to tell those stories." Rudd's mom was a librarian, and Rudd says she naturally grew up with a love for books. "She didn't ever tell me that because I was a certain age, here's what I needed to be reading. She just had piles of books, and I went picking and found things that were interesting to me."

Rudd, who lives in West Michigan near the Brilliance Audio studios, happened upon narrating as something to supplement her acting career. "There's a lot going on here in terms of short films and independent films. There's not a lot going on here that would be enough for all of us actors to support our families on. There's enough to stay active and to occasionally catch a windfall, but a lot of times we do it because we love it and because we are hearty people."

But she discovered that audiobook work was a passion. "I'd like to do this until I'm old and gray. In the beginning, this was a temporary stopgap measure--I needed a job; I'm an actress; I'm trying to raise some kids; here, this is close enough; I'll do this for awhile. That was my attitude going in. I quickly fell completely in love with it and found it to be so surprisingly gratifying, and if I can find a way to do this forever, I will."--Jennifer M. Dowell

Genre:
Teen Audiobooks
 
Reading Level/Interest:
Grades 9 & up
 
Audiobooks Similar to the Fault in Our Stars:
I am still looking for audiobooks that are just as awesome as this one. 

Awards & Recognition:
  • Winner of the 2013 Odyssey Award for Excellence in Audiobook Production 

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Deborah Takahashi
Pasadena, CA, United States
My name is Deb and I am a Librarian who absolutely loves to read and recommend books to teen and tween readers. In this blog, you will find reviews on a variety resources ranging from books, movies, video games, and much more. Please feel free to leave any feedback, especially book recommendations!
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