(And Why You Should Be Too)
I’m sure you’ve all heard about the book-turned-movie phenomenon The Fault in Our Stars. I read the book a few weeks ago and saw the movie on opening night with my sister-in-law, Amanda. I’m not normally a “fangirl”, but I gotta tell you guys, I’m obsessed. And here’s why:
1. John Green
The only reason I even picked up this book is because I saw a YouTube video of John Green when he was on his way to TIME Magazine’s dinner to honor the “Top 100 Most Influential People” (of which he was named one of them). In the video, Green is downright hilarious (almost without meaning to be) while also portraying a humility that I don’t think is contrived. He is witty, fast-talking and the kind of person you want to be friends with. As soon as I saw this video, I knew I needed to read TFIOS.
2. It’s a book about teenagers who are dying and yet, somehow, it’s hilarious
I’m not really sure how Green pulled that off, but I was very literally laughing the entire first half of the book (and then, alternately, crying the second half…but we’ll get to that). The witty yet raw inner-workings of Hazel Grace Lancaster connected me to the character almost immediately.
Perhaps the funniest (and yet somehow poignant) scene is when Hazel is discussing her support group that her parents force her to go to. Here’s an excerpt:
To be fair to Patrick (the moderator of the group), he let us talk about dying, too. But most of them weren’t dying. Most would live into adulthood, as Patrick had.
(Which meant there was quite a lot of competitiveness about it, with everybody wanting to beat not only cancer itself, but also the other people in the room. Like, I realize this is irrational, but when they tell you that you have, say, a 20 percent chance of living five years, the math kicks in and you figure that’s one in five…so you look around and think, as any healthy person would: I gotta outlast four of these bastards.)
The fact that Hazel/Green is voicing this almost-absurd idea (emphasis on almost) that it’s a “competition” to outlast the other cancer kids is simultaneously heartbreaking and also, at the chance of sounding callous, pretty funny. And that’s how Green approaches the whole thing: he tells the truth, doesn’t sugar coat it and adds in a healthy dose of wit and humor so that you don’t just curl up into a ball and cry your eyes out the whole time.
3. It’s real
Like I said before, Green doesn’t sugar coat anything. He’s straight-forward and raw, which is refreshing. This isn’t a feel-good book about overcoming obstacles or miraculous hearings. This is a book about two teenagers with life-ending diseases who fall in love — it’s not sentimental, it’s not overly romantic, and (spoiler alert) it doesn’t have this spectacular happily-ever-after ending. But the authenticity of it all draws you in and wins you over.
This book also connected me to a world that I have not been in before and gave me a small vision of what it would be like to live with cancer. After Green’s honest examination of Hazel’s life and love, I feel like I’m able to empathize a little more with people who have life-ending diseases. And any book that can open up your world and broaden your horizons is a good one.
The fact that it’s all so real also connects you to the characters, which makes it so incredibly heart-rending as the story proceeds. You feel their struggle, their small triumphs, their grief and their hope. This isn’t an “extraordinary” story, nothing supernatural happens, there are no epic gunfights and no one changes the world. And yet, somehow it is still extraordinary, supernatural and even epic.
4. John Green
In one of his videos, Green remarks about the first screening of TFIOS and how during the last 15 minutes, he got to sit in the back of the theatre. He said:
So, dear friends, if you are going to watch the movie or read the book, bring tissues.
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