I Can (Not) Cry if I Want To

Or, why I’m not that into The Fault in Our Stars.


I know John Green is basically the new patron saint of adolescent literature, and I know his YA books are appreciated by audiences of all ages, and I know everyone is super jazzed about the upcoming movie.

I have to say though, I’m just not that into it, for two reasons.

1. I’m just not a crier. I mean, maybe, once or twice a year when I’m frustrated and there are no words with which I can adequately express my frustration – then, okay, perhaps I’ll shed a few tears. But books? Movies*? Sure, I get caught up in the stories (I am, after all, writing a blog dedicated to books and stories), feel for the characters, and experience the same (assumed) cathartic release of emotions as the criers do.

I don’t think not being a crier is a good thing or a bad thing, but it’s a thing – my thing. And being a crier is just a thing too, but there is something that irks me about how every single review/post/mention of TFIOS has some variation of “ermygod I ugly cried,” or “#criedsohard,” or “I am literally swimming in the tears produced by this book.”  Because when I read that everywhere, then I wonder if there really is something wrong with me (besides the fact that I clearly just have a cold black stone in place of a heart). So, can everyone please just stop trying to one-up each other on your tear volume?

*True story: I do vividly remember tearing up at ONE movie in middle school…Untamed Heart starring Christian Slater. My friends totally mocked me and I have not cried a drop at a movie ever since.

2. My second beef is more about the book than about everyone’s response to it. I liked the book just fine – I mean, it’s a nice YA story, as much as one can call a book about two kids with cancer a “nice” story. But it definitely is a book that makes heavy use of what I shall call The Dawson’s Creek Affect.** Dawson’s Creek, and, to give a more recent example, the movie Juno, presented adolescence the way that we all wish we’d experienced it, or the way we’d like to remember things happening. Everyone uses big words, and teens are incredibly self-aware and always standing by their well-developed inner convictions, and being quirky and uncool is really what’s cool.

Wait, is that how it happened for you?

Anyway, while everyone is going on and on about Hazel and Gus, and how amazing and strong and selfless and real they are (and not to mention, all of the tears), I just kept getting stuck on how well-developed and self-actualized these teenagers were. And, I am sure a teenager facing a terminal diagnosis is more likely to turn into a mindful and sensible person than one who is not battling cancer – but Hazel was just too smart for me to relate to. 16 year-old Holly would not have been friends with 16 year-old Hazel.

However, when I was relating my opinions to Amanda after reading this book, I realized that maybe the best YA works do deal with adolescents through adult glasses – because, while I may have been self-conscious, shallow, selfish, and naive as a teenager, I certainly don’t want to reminisce about those pain points from my clearly much more well-adjusted adult place. I’d much rather get caught up in Katniss Everdeen’s head than in that vapid girl from Twilight.

So maybe I’ll give another John Green book a shot – but don’t expect me to cry about it.

**References to Christian Slater AND Dawson’s Creek in one post? Hello 90s.



  1. I’ve read a lot of John Green books (YA is my favorite genre, along with the classics!), and I suggest you read Looking for Alaska if you’re going to try another of his. I don’t typically cry at movies or books either, but I do judge stories based on whether they stay with me—if I think back a year later and still feel, I approve. And that one did, more than The Fault in Our Stars. I think you’re going to find your Dawson’s Creek Effect in all of Green’s books, though ;).

  2. I feel similarly about Eleanor & Park ( or is it Park & Eleanor?, Gah!). Anyway, I felt that the characters were just way more mature and self-aware. I think that teenagers in real life then see their relationships of having that much magnitude, because duh, they are just as in love and their stories are just as sweet as what they are reading.

  3. I am so with you on this! I was one of those people who was the odd man out on this book. I liked it all right but it didn’t knock me over like it did with so many people. I DID cry but not ugly tears. Just a little crying in my car as I listened to the audio book.
    I thought Hazel was too smart as well. I mean, I guess teens can be smart, of course! I’m not saying that’s not possible but I remember the amount and frequency of using large words to be a bit much for me. I was an honors student in high school and I had a 5.1 GPA (out of 5 haha. Honors credits were worth more.) but I never talked like that in everyday conversation and neither did my friends so it just seemed a bit unrealistic to me.
    Anyway! I’m with you on this. It wasn’t a bad book but it just wasn’t nearly a favorite for me and I actually think I may like the movie more than I liked the book. *hides from people throwing books at me*

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