the fault in our stars
Let us go then, you and I,
When the evening is spread out against the sky
Like a patient etherized upon a table;
Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets,
The muttering retreats
Of restless nights in one-night cheap hotels
And sawdust restaurants with oyster-shells:
Streets that follow like a tedious argument
Of insidious intent
To lead you to an overwhelming question….
Oh, do not ask, “What is it?”
Let us go and make our visit.
-- T.S. Elliot, excerpt from
'The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufock'
When the main character from John Green's novel The Fault in Our Stars recited this poem to a certain boy, he told her quietly: I am in love with you. It was also in that precise moment when I realized that this book is very special and it will surely break my heart.
The Fault in Our Stars is about Hazel, a 16-year old with a terminal cancer, and Augustus, a cancer survivor whom she met in a support group for adolescents. Both witty and smart, their initial conversation led to an exchange of their favorite novels, which inevitably led to friendship and falling in love.
I must admit, I was wary of this book and its hype so I put off reading it for months. But last weekend, I looked at its blue spine from the towering stack on my nightstand and decided to pick it up. A couple of hours later, I was simultaneously sobbing, laughing out loud, and trying to control myself lest my neighbors will think I've already gone crazy. It's that good.
What resonated in me about The Fault in Our Stars were the characters' emotional trajectories. Dying and cancer, especially at such a young age, is very difficult to deal with but John Green penned his story with the right balance of humor and sensitivity that it never feels overwrought. In fact, I was laughing more than I was crying while reading it. Their days may have been numbered and yet these characters always found something to laugh about.
One of the main criticism I read with this book is that Hazel and Augustus were too clever for their age and their dialogue seemed pretentious. I see where this critique is coming from but having worked with children and teens for years now, I know of 16 and 17 year-olds who can discuss philosophy, metaphysics, and Forever 21 (or their favorite comic book) in a single conversation. Which brings me back to why I love these characters in the first place - their thoughts, hopes, and fears all felt very real and true to me.
But why should you read this book? I'd like to quote Augustus when he said, "You don't get to choose if you get hurt in this world...but you do have some say in who hurts you."
Yes, this book did hurt me. Deeply. And I'm so grateful for it.