Almost everyone is obsessed with leaving a mark upon the world. Bequeathing a legacy. Outlasting death. We all want to be remembered.
-The Fault in Our Stars by John Green, Chapter 25
There’s a reason that The Fault in Our Stars has skyrocketed to the top of best seller charts. This young-adult fiction is a gripping, haunting, and beautiful read filled with characters who are ironically very much alive on the page. The Fault in Our Stars is a teenaged love-story, but also, a story of the love that grips two characters at the end of their lives. The juxtaposition between new love and the frailty of time makes this story both invigorating and heartbreaking. Sixteen-year-old Hazel and seventeen-year-old Augustus met at a support group for young people with cancer. The subsequent story is theirs: of falling in love, fulfilling dreams, fighting cancer, and navigating potentially short lives. They are just like any 16- and 17-year-old kids, except, they also aren’t.
As readers, we’re oddly drawn to stories about death and dying, nearly as much as we’re drawn to love stories. It is an interesting pull, one that can feel slightly voyeuristic. But, perhaps it isn’t that odd after all. Dying is a very human thing. It is something we all share. Our reaction to it might be different. Our timing might be off. Our reasons for going might be unique. But undeniably, we will all die. And that process, and what happens next, is still uncertain. That’s why it works so well to tell stories about dying. That’s why it is healthy to feel those stories.
“What a slut time is. She screws everybody.” Chapter 7
I actually just finished reading The Fault in Our Stars for the second time, which should give you some indication of how I feel about this novel. (It should also have made me smarter about not reading the ending on the middle of a packed bus during my evening commute.) I first read the book a year ago, and this was my review then:
What an incredible book. I have been meaning to read it for a while and I am glad I finally got around to it.
I really liked this book. I read it relatively quickly, and yes – I laughed out loud during parts and shed real tears during other parts. It is really easy to just fall into this book and connect to the characters and that made this book absolutely wonderful.
I think I have a hard time reading young adult fiction because the characters are always so much. They are so black & white about everything. They are so idealistic. They feel so deeply and are so dramatic. I know. I know this is how young adults are, and this is why they are wonderful.
So, my only complaint about The Fault In Our Stars is that it is too YAey, which is silly because it is SUPPOSED to be a YA novel. It’s not you. It’s me. Apparently.
I’m glad I got my sister this book for Christmas. Out of all the Young Adult novels I have read in the last 7 years, this would be the one I would recommend more than any other. It really is an excellent, heartfelt, full of feeling book.
Let me just acknowledge that I am glad that I read The Fault in Our Stars a second time. I barely paid attention to how teenaged everyone seemed to be during my most recent read-through. The writing goes so far beyond that. The story is just so much more moving.
In the novel, Hazel wants so badly to find out what happens after the final page of her favourite novel. The book she loves is about a girl with cancer and it ends mid-sentence. Hazel understands why the story doesn’t end: the character either dies or gets too sick to finish it, but still, Hazel wishes to find out what happens next to this character’s family. Similarly, Hazel constantly worries about being a “grenade” and hurting those she loves when her precarious life eventually comes to an early end. She worries about how her parents will cope and tries to avoid deep relationships to protect those she cares about. She isn’t just concerned about the life happening now. She needs to know what happens next.
“I’m like a grenade, Mom. I’m a grenade and at some point I’m going to blow up an I would like to minimize the casualties” Chapter 6
Gus also thinks about life-after-death. He wants to find ways to be remembered; a ways in which his life, and death, will be nobel. In Hazel’s search for and ending to the story, Gus steps in with something a little different. Instead of telling her how life will be after, he shares with her how life is experienced with her. He understands that we can’t ever know the end of the story. We can’t know what happens after we are no longer around to see it happen. It is the now that matters. It is the now that we can grasp on to.
“The novel was composed of scratches on a page, dear. The characters inhabiting it have no life outside of those scratches. What happened to them? They all ceased to exist the moment the novel ended.” Chapter 12
I love the way John Green crafted The Fault in Our Stars. And I love how, quite serendipitously, I just saw a Tumblr post from him claiming that he does not own the rest of Hazel and Gus’ story. Once he finished the novel, the story moved out of his hands and he cannot say what happens next.
Just like I won’t be able to say what happens to my kids after I die. Just like I won’t be able to say what memory I’ll leave behind.
I am upgrading my original rating of The Fault in Our Stars from a 4 to a 5. Read this book if you want to be moved deeply by love and life and loss. Just don’t read it on a bus.
**Giveaway Alert**: Have you read The Fault in Our Stars? What did you think? If you have a review, link it up HERE and you’ll be entered to win #MomsReading’s April book choice, Where’d You Go, Bernadette.
Moms Reading (or, #MomsReading) is a book club designed for busy Moms in mind. It is an online book club that meets once a month on Facebook to discuss that month’s book. Join us TONIGHT (Wednesday) at 9pm Eastern when we will be discussing The Fault in Our Stars. Check out the MomsReading page, Like us on Facebook, or join the Goodreads group to keep up to date with our book choices and the book chats.
If you haven’t read The Fault in Our Stars in time for tonight’s chat, you can still join us in March when we will be reading The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. The discussion will take place on Wednesday, March 26th at 9pm Eastern.
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