01 April 2012

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

There are certain books that are so good, so engrossing, that you just can’t put them down until you’ve reached the end.  Harry Potter was like that.  The Hunger Games, too.  And, most recently, The Fault in Our Stars, by John Green.  While at first it might seem strange that all of the books I listed are classified as “Young Adult,” I don’t necessarily think that means I’m simply a sap for “Young Adult” books.  Rather, I think it more likely that “Young Adult” books are able to get across truths which can reach both our hearts and our minds with equal urgency, without burdening themselves with the prose and, for lack of a better word, intellectualism that “Adult” books tend to contain.

So, anyway, The Fault in Our Stars.  Wow.  I went into the book with high expectations, having read review after review full of glowing praise, and I have to say it did not disappoint.  That praise was well-deserved.

The Fault in Our Stars tells the story of Hazel Lancaster, a 16-year-old girl suffering from terminal (though currently stable) cancer, and the boy she falls in love with, Augustus Waters, a cancer survivor.

As far as protagonists go, Hazel has the most unique voice I have heard since the film Juno.  Her wit and humor shine throughout the novel, in spite of and perhaps because of the harsh reality she is facing.  One of my favorite passages:

“I guess I had been looking toward the Encouragement above the TV, a drawing of an angel with the caption Without Pain, How Could We Know Joy?  (This is an old argument in the field of Thinking About Suffering, and its stupidity and lack of sophistication could be plumbed for centuries, but suffice it to say that the existence of broccoli does not in any way affect the taste of chocolate.)”

Like Hazel herself, the story is full of equal parts humor and heartbreak, of triumph and tragedy.  But most amazing of all is how real it all is.  I have been thoroughly absorbed before, I have read characters and felt I knew them as a dear, close friend before, but even so, it remains one of the great miracles of literature each and every time it happens.  And it happened for me with this book.

The issues it explored were also especially resonant to me given my own current endeavors in writing.  Dealing with death and loss, from the point of view both of those going and those left behind - this is at the core of Into the Shining Sun, though it takes a different angle in approaching it.  Even so, I found it invaluable.

One of the passages led to a particularly insightful observation for me.  In Chapter Twelve, one of the characters goes on a rant about the permissiveness afforded to sick people, especially the terminally ill, and says that people do it out of pity.   That line really got me thinking; and as I thought about it I realized that I consider it more a sign that seeing someone struggle to live reminds us of the preciousness of life and the imperative to be kind to each other.

Thinking so much about death - both with Fault and with my own book - has reminded me of the wonder of each day, the miracle of life, cheesy though it may sound.  The grass has seemed a little greener, the sun a little brighter, since I read the book and have been reminded to take joy in every day.  For that, if for nothing else, I am grateful.

I got The Fault in Our Stars from the library; immediately after finishing it I purchased the eBook in iBooks.  I plan to get a hard copy next time I am at the book store.  It’s a book I truly don’t mind owning two of.


Books: Working on Gravity's Rainbow, which is super dense and taking a long time, so took a break from it to read Hope: A Tragedy.  Thankfully not dense but taking longer than I want it to; I keep getting distracted.

Bottles: Some good Cotes-du-Rhone table wine recently.

Writing: Slowly working on the rewrite.  Got to be more proactive in doing at least one chapter every two days.

Guitar: Got a new Carcassi study, and a new exotic scale to practice.  Still working on "Shine On".