Tuesday, December 25, 2012

The Fault in Our Stars

I've read nothing but great things about The Fault in Our Stars all year long, so I finally read it!  Hazel is a teenager that has had thyroid cancer for most of her life.  Her lungs don't work well and she always has an oxygen tank with her. She meets Augustus Waters at a young person's cancer support group and they fall in love.  Well, they fall in love carefully, because Hazel doesn't want to break the heart of Gus if she dies.  Mortality is a constant companion in this book - Hazel will not likely live very long.  Gus is also a cancer survivor - he had cancer in his leg, which was amputated.

One of the most influential books I read this year was The Colony, so I've been extra-attentive to narratives that feature people with disabilities, and when authors choose to include these narratives in their books.  I think it must be a difficult decision to make, because, obviously they would want to avoid any mere tokenism - I think books like The Fault in Our Stars and Beauty Queens did a great job of including differently abled characters who are much much more than their disabilities.  

Hazel loves a novel called An Imperial Affliction, which ends in the middle of a sentence.  She loves the novel, but really wonders what happened to the characters - Gus helps her in an adventure to meet the author.  Probably shouldn't say much else with out dropping some major spoilers.  Although... I did spend a lot of time dreading the idea that the novel would end in the middle of a sentence and I would tear out my hair and catch something on fire.  I'll spare you the agony and tell you (spoiler): it doesn't.  

Like the other Green novel I read, these characters are idealized - they're smarter, wittier, more thoughtful teenagers than you or I were (even though you and I like to think we were that smart and witty).  Hazel says, without irony, that her parents are her best friends, and spends a fair amount of time worrying what will happen to them if she dies.  She says something like, "The only thing worse than being a kid with cancer is having a kid with cancer."  Lines like that kind of take me out of the story a little bit, maybe because I'm a cynical a-hole, but I just can't see many 16 years olds with that type of actualization.  I mean... I just don't think kids can or should be best friends with their parents.

If you read any reviews of The Fault in Our Stars, what you'll find is a breakdown of how many tears were shed throughout the book.  I did, I'll admit, shed one or two tears.  Here, for your reading enjoyment, are some quotes:
This book made my eyes insanely puffy for days because THE CRYING. SO. MUCH. CRYING. via 
The Fault in Our Stars had me laughing and crying, then laughing more and crying more. via 
The ending. Oh, wow, that got me going. DANG IT, I WILL NOT CRY AGAIN. via 
This has, hands-down been my favorite book of the year and was three and half hours of crying, laughing and coming to grips with the ubiquitous fact of life: we all face oblivion all the time and one of these days, we will have to embrace it.  (via That one's from a dude.)
Of course, I need the obligatory cried-my-eyes-out line.  Because I totally did.  It got really messy, and I snotted a little on my sweater sleeves because I couldn’t bring myself to get up and get a tissue.  I couldn’t pull myself away. via

Aside from making you cry like a little girl, you'll probably laugh a little too.  Green is legitimately funny, and it's hard to write funny.  Gus and Hazel poke fun at stereotypes of kids with cancer, like this:
"Like, are you familiar with the trope of the stoic and determined cancer victim who heroically fights
cancer her with inhuman strength and never complains or stops smiling even at the very end, et cetera?" 
"Indeed," I said "They are kindhearted and generous souls whose every breath is an Inspiration to Us All.  They're so strong! We admire them so!"
That's funny. And, he writes from a GIRL'S point of view and didn't make me want to GAG????  Unprecedented.  


Well, I guess I've done my part to perpetuate the idea that this book ends in tears, tear, tears!  But, seriously, you probably will cry.

No comments: