The fact that people dislike John Green is not something that particularly bothers me - after all, no one will be universally liked or appreciated. Like everyone, he has flaws - but most of the criticisms I saw of him were blatantly untrue slices of Internet hearsay. Reasons given were illegitimate and that made me kind of sad.
But I really had to withhold judgement, I thought, until I had the chance to read one of Green's novels, books which seem to elicit sharply divided opinions. When I had the opportunity to read The Fault in Our Stars, I would have been remiss if I hadn't taken it.
So I did. I read the whole thing in about six non-consecutive hours. (I'm a pretty fast reader.)
The end result was just sort of ... meh.
Regardless of my positive opinions of him as a video blogger and person, I have to say that he's actually a really bland writer. I'm not going to comment on the story itself because one cannot blame the "problematic" aspects of a story on the writer (which is the origin of most legitimate-looking John Green hate)*, but I can comment on the characters.
Green's characters don't have individual voices. Sickly, bookish, introverted Hazel speaks with the same advanced eloquence as the public-high-school-educated Gus. But it's not just there - alcoholic Van Houten is as well-spoken as his continually frustrated assistant Lidewij, and the parents of the main characters - aside from the tear-prone father of Hazel are practically indistinguishable from one another.
I could legitimize Hazel and Van Houten - perhaps Lidewij as well - but the fact that the dialogue of any one character could be given to any other character with only a little bit of recontextualization is not a good sign. Throughout the whole book, not one person spoke in the way that normal people speak.
It was, by extension, impossible for me to feel any kind of sympathy for these characters. Granted, I haven't cried over a fictional character since I was about four years old, but I was kind of thinking that it would change because everyone always goes bananas over John Green's ability to wrench waterworks from the eyes of his readers.
It's not like I was expecting some kind of modern classic from whence quotes would be hewn for books whose publications are four hundred years distant. But for all the hullabaloo of John Green's writing abilities, I would be lying if I said that I wasn't a tad bit disappointed.
* TFiOS, for its shortcomings, does not romanticize cancer, or illness, or disease in general. I've lost two of my grandparents to cancer, and it's not pretty at any age. Given Green's background, which he has talked about extensively, anyone who claims that TFiOS romanticizes disease is hearing it from someone else and/or completely skipped the passages where the characters discuss just how disturbing/dangerous doing so is.