The Fault in Our Stars: An Unpopular Opinion

I finally read The Fault in Our Stars. I was surprised. But probably not in the way you’d expect.

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One reason I love Christmas holiday is the whole reading-by-the-fire aspect. A crazy music school life doesn’t lend itself well to much reading outside of required materials during the school year, so I quite enjoy some time to catch up on current (and not-so-current, such as a bit of Charlotte Bronte or┬áSir Arthur Conan Doyle) literary favorites. This past Christmas included the New York Times Best Selling, soon-to-be-released-in-movie-form, tumblr favorite, The Fault in Our Stars, by John Green.

Well. It sort of did. I got a chapter in before I realized, after having enjoyed some blissfully intellectually challenging reads, I wouldn’t be able to stomach the “modern, young” approach to writing. At the time I thought I’d never pick it back up again (I even complained about how juvenile the whole thing was to my best friend.. and then quickly recanted as I admitted I’d only read the first chapter or two), but about a month later in a moment of Saturday morning weakness, I caved. Not wanting to crawl out of my warm nest of blankets and cats just yet, I pulled it out one more time.

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I should probably say at this point that I in no way consider myself a book snob (although admittedly it sounds as so up until this point). I enjoy fluff books just as much as classics– probably more so sometimes if I’m completely honest. In fact, sometimes I find myself reading classics because I feel like I should, not because I want to. But then a lot of times I end up enjoying them quite a lot, so perhaps it pays off in the end. Anyway, it’s not that I’m saying The Fault in Our Stars (TFIOS) is fluff, but that’s just the point.

With it being critically acclaimed, so popular I’ve been assaulted with it practically since it was released, and highly anticipated in it’s newest form– movie adaption, well, I was sort of expecting something that would blow my socks off and then magically regenerate them as mittens. But I can’t say that’s exactly what happened. BEFORE YOU HATE ME, let me explain. And also let us take a second to imagine socks being reincarnated as mittens, because that would be pretty cool.

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To be completely fair, I get that John Green’s writing is quirky and amusing. I get that this book is listed under the young adult section– the inference there being that it’s intended audience is somewhere between the ages of 14-17. I get that it’s a refreshingly frank look at cancer, something that has affected a huge amount of people, either personally or relationally (myself included). I get that his intent was to capture the characters and thought processes of teenagers, which he does quite well.

But somehow in the midst of that, I didn’t find the story all that endearing or well-portrayed. Endearing and well-portrayed enough for a “good” book sappy teenagers are bound to enjoy (which there is nothing wrong with), but good enough to capture the hearts of every twenty-something I’ve talked to in the past year and jolt it to a New York Time’s Best Sellers list for seven consecutive weeks? I’m not so sure.

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Perhaps the golden egg of this book is its artistic treatment of terminal illness in the hands of a sarcastic, down-to-earth teenager doomed to die. Green certainly captures that character. If people were going on about that aspect of it and how clever Green is in his intentional adolescence, then I think I’d better understand the hype.

But that’s not what I’m bombarded with all the time at school and on tumblr and every time I go to a coffee shop (no really– pay attention next time you walk in a coffee shop. Guaranteed you’ll see someone with a copy of TFIOS tucked underneath their Mac like it’s their third lung. … OH MAN. No pun intended. My bad.).

Instead, people of legal drinking age everywhere are going on about how deep and insightful and romantic the story is. The few (admittedly) cute, quirky, or clever quotes included amidst the less-than-whimsical writing (which, granted, is probably a draw for some people) have been mercilessly superimposed over inspirational photos, some of which are seen sprinkled in this post. Even TFIOS tattoos are becoming common place among my peers. I guess it just makes me sad that my generation is so easily impressed, so easily caught up in a rather cheesy romance story, so quick to adopt what feels like an intentionally (and perhaps artistically?) shallow work. They truly are passionate about this story, and they make that abundantly clear through raving posts, hysterical youtube videos, and an impressive amount of tears.

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So, while I do understand part of the novelty of it, I didn’t feel the writing was compelling enough for me to want to read another book by Green, nor do I think it deserves the massive (and I mean massive) amounts of hype.

Also, his frequent use of the word “nubbins” makes me uncomfortable. There’s nothing inherently wrong about that, I just don’t like the word because I’m dumb and have words that weird me out for no reason. It’s beside the point, but I felt I needed to get that out.

All that being said, no real judgement for those of you who have read and loved TFIOS, only a kind roll of the eyes and dramatic sigh. I’m not looking to start a war here, just simply state a personal opinion and perplexing confusion. I’m sure you have your reasons for loving, and by all means– share them in the comments! I may seem like a completely cold-hearted old soul, but I promise I’m not. Okay?

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Anna Beth

All images found at images.google.com

My Toes are Froze

In honor of the Southeast getting another huge dumping of ice and snow, I thought I’d (finally) post my snow day vlog from the last snowstorm. It’s awkward and involves lots of me making my cats angry at me, romping with my puppy in the snow, and nearly falling over every three seconds, but hopefully it’ll be entertaining regardless. Do you wanna build a snowman?

 

If you made it all the way through those grueling (nearly nine) minutes, CONGRATULATIONS. Now pray for my family as they have to deal with that e’ry day.

Anyway, it sure has been crazy weather these days, but I can’t say I hate it. Homework by the fire has a certain charm to it. Bring on the hot chocolate!

Anna Beth

 

 

In some ways, Flappy Bird is a great metaphor for my life.

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If you’re in any way connected to the internet, you’ve probably heard of Flappy Bird– an addictive, ridiculously difficult (and pointless) game that’s frustrating innocents everywhere. I was curious and downloaded the app. It is as difficult and annoying as everyone says.

In my confusion as to why the game is so popular, however, it occurred to me: Flappy Bird brought out in me freakishly similar emotions and ideals as does practicing piano.

After I’d dealt with a brief existential crisis of realizing my profession is essentially the same thing as playing a superficial and annoyingly “fad-y” game, I was able to step back and look at it for what it really is– a dumb metaphor for my life.

Basically, practicing piano is like playing Flappy Bird. Tedious, difficult, and extremely frustrating, but somehow weirdly satisfying. Flappy Bird is piano playing on a smaller scope– you work really hard and it feels like you’re getting nowhere, but in the end you get six points instead of one and that’s something to be excited about. You rejoice small victories (e.g. memorizing that one pesky measure). You get frustrated at the small failures (e.g. ramming your bird into the ground before the first pipe even shows on the screen). Your own personal ambitions and need to be better than your past self help you go further.

I suppose that these things apply to any hard thing worth doing. And, to be fair, there are probably more dissimilarities than similarities between playing keys and running a bird into a pipe. But there, in my practice room, as I cried over a 4 point average on Flappy Bird and a particularly difficult passage in a Chopin etude I’m working on, they seemed awfully similar. Perhaps even one and the same.

I guess piano does have an end reward or two going for it, but take it from one who knows: there are few things in life as satisfying as making that stupid little bird go through those ridiculous pipes. And playing the piano. I guess.

Anna Beth

P.s. Boasting a proud high score of 12, I think it’s time for me to make room for others to soar (read: smash their bird into pipes and throw their phone across the room). Goodbye, Flappy Bird, and good riddance.