I must admit to deciding to read this book based on a blog posting that I can no longer locate. The blog was written by a young (teens? 20s?) woman who was making a comment about trying to discuss this book with a 30+ year old woman only to discover the older person had never heard of it.
While the post was mostly about generational gap communication (or so to speak), it made me curious enough to track down a copy and read it.
The first thing I realized was the existence of a movie I vaguely remembered seeing in random advertisements…somewhere. (I don’t have regular television, only Netflix and Amazon Prime, so visual advertisements are encountered online and in newspapers.)
The second thing I realized was how impossible it is to put this book down. Simply impossible! The first sentence drew me in. I stopped reading because it was time to get back to work or make dinner or…whatever…but the moment my eyes scanned random words from a sentence on a page it was like some irresistible force was sucking me back into the story.
At one point, I turned on my Kindle to check the time and the state of my email (read: how many unread messages have piled up?), glanced at the page long enough for my mind to register that this book was still open, read half a sentence and ten minutes later I was forcing myself to close the book, within the reader (before shutting it off), so that I could get back to my regularly scheduled life.
I really wish I knew what kind of mojo this author has to turn a simple and (frankly) uneventful story into such an aggressive attention grabber. Don’t get me wrong, the story was very good, but the magic is in the style, not the plot.
The Fault in Our Stars is a love story between two teenage cancer survivors (Hazel Grace Lancaster and Augustus Waters). Teenagers facing both love and death. It’s a mix that could easily devolve into ultra-dramatic and highly annoying youth angst. Yet, somehow, it never loses the solidity of reality. It’s a book that gently pulls on the heartstrings instead of dragging them out of your chest. It presents the characters in moments of strength and weakness. It portrays cancer in a way that is almost to real.
I am of the opinion that the reality of life lived by the dying is the strongest aspect to the plot. There are many points where the popular perception of the dying is discussed by the dying in blunt, honest and occasionally sarcastic tones. It frankly examines the realities the not-yet-dying either do not consider or purposely chose to refrain from acknowledging. It also frames these observations and events within an almost to-perfect-to-be-true relationship.
Obviously, I enjoyed the book.
If you are the blogger who inadvertently recommended it to this no-longer-20-something reader, I thank you. If you are a reader (of any age) who is still considering cracking the spine of this text, here are a few quotes to whet your appetite:
““Augustus Waters,” I said, looking up at him, thinking that you cannot kiss anyone in the Anne Frank House, and then thinking that Anne Frank, after all, kissed someone in the Anne Frank House, and that she would probably like nothing more than for her home to have become a place where the young and irreparably broken sink into love”
““The world,” he said, “is not a wish-granting factory,” and then he broke down, just for one moment, his sob roaring impotent like a clap of thunder unaccompanied by lightning, the terrible ferocity that amateurs in the field of suffering might mistake for weakness.”
“If you go to the Rijksmuseum, which I really wanted to do—but who are we kidding, neither of us can walk through a museum. But anyway, I looked at the collection online before we left. If you were to go, and hopefully someday you will, you would see a lot of paintings of dead people. You’d see Jesus on the cross, and you’d see a dude getting stabbed in the neck, and you’d see people dying at sea and in battle and a parade of martyrs. But Not. One. Single. Cancer. Kid. Nobody biting it from the plague or smallpox or yellow fever or whatever, because there is no glory in illness. There is no meaning to it. There is no honor in dying of.”
-The Fault in Our Stars by John Green