On The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

The fault in Our stars

*Spoiler Free (Visit Spoiler Ratings and Guidelines for ThinkyRead’s spoiler policy).

 

When I asked myself the question “Why do I love The Fault in Our Stars” one answer popped into my head:

Because it makes me cry.

I’m not a masochist. I don’t thrive on pain, but I can’t deny that I love a story that can make me cry. Four times. PER READ THROUGH!

Why, you may ask (if you haven’t read the book) did this particular work of fiction cause the lacrimal glands in the upper, outer region of my eyes to release a warm salty liquid comprised of protein, water, and mucus to trickle freely down my face? Easy:

Life isn’t Happy

Cancer is not a happy thing. When you pick up a book about two cancer kids falling in love, you can bet your bottom dollar it’s going to be sad. But what’s so great about life: is it isn’t about being happy. It’s about living.

There will be happy times, like when Augustus takes Hazel on a Dutch Date in the park. And there will be sad times, heartbreaking times, like when Augustus calls Hazel in the middle of the night to meet him at a nearby gas station. Those specific moments are not what define us. It’s our reactions to those moments that count for anything.

Hazel begins The Fault in Our Stars depressed. Clinically. The very first thing she tells us is that depression is a side effect of dying and her mom is making her attend a cancer support group. All she wants to do is sit at home and watch America’s Next Top Model. But it takes her a while to admit to herself the reason why all she wants to do is sit at home and watch America’s Top Model, counting down to Judgment Day.

Time Bomb Syndrome

Halfway through the book after Hazel has read through Caroline’s Wall she diagnoses herself with what I’m going to call Time Bomb Syndrome.

How many hundreds of people do you think will post condolences on your Facebook wall when you die? Anyone who’s heard the news, I’m sure. In Hazel’s mind, every single one of those people who posted a condolence was scarred by a piece of stone-cold shrapnel that dove into their soft, fleshy hearts when Caroline exploded.

In a sense Hazel was right. Just by living we affect the lives of those around us.

Death isn’t extremely prevalent in middle-class America. When we hear that an acquaintance we hardly knew died yesterday we’re a bit shaken. We have this crazy mental response like “Um, well… Someone has just died. That is terrible. I should be responding a certain way, should I not? I should probably feel sad. Heartbroken. I will express my condolences.” That’s a pretty normal response for acquaintances. (I’ve never had a close family member or close friend die, but I’m sure that response would be quite different. In fact, I’m sure that response would be more akin to what I felt reading page 245 of The Fault in Our Stars. And 259. And 313.)

But that’s the difference between someone who gets hit with a piece of shrapnel and someone who held the grenade after life pulled the pin. Some scars we can live with, though they might feel uncomfortable for a while. And sometimes we get our right arm blown clean off.

Why the hell would anyone want to blow their best friend’s arm’s off (unless they’re a psychopath)? is a question that Hazel struggles to answer. The kindest thing would be to minimize the casualties… right?

Roller Coaster that Only Goes Up

Enter Augustus Waters. The thing I loved most about Augustus was his similarity yet stark contrast to Hazel. While Hazel is hiding out in her room, Augustus is living his life. He creates metaphor. He accompanies his friend to support group. He doesn’t deny himself simple pleasures. He’s on a roller coaster that only goes up.

I loved seeing Hazel Grace’s character change after her meeting with Augustus Waters (in Chapter ONE. That’s an example of good characterization right there). Her perspective changes, her goals change. Heck, even her name changed. Though she still obsesses over her Time Bomb Syndrome, going to amazing lengths to find out whether Anna’s mother marries the Dutch Tulip Guy (*Cough* METAPHOR! *Cough*). Augustus is there to support her through it all. With his help, his new eye on the world, Hazel Grace gets to taste the stars.

Infinities

In the Literal Heart of Jesus Hazel Grace says that she had an infinity with Augustus. That some infinities are larger than other infinities. Of course we all know that Hazel’s logic is completely wrong, still the sentiment sticks with us.

Every moment we get to spend with another person is an infinity within itself. Some infinities are larger than other infinities, but that doesn’t make the small infinities less valuable or less worthwhile.

Scars and Definitions

So what, you have to be constrained to an oxygen tank or walk with a prosthetic limp? You’re still living, right? If your quality of life is confined to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs than you might as well drop dead. No matter how hard you try, you can’t keep yourself from experiencing hardship or pain or insecurity. But sometimes there are great things that can be discovered because we were willing risk hurting other people and allowing other people to hurt us. If we lived our entire lives in a box, what was the point of being born at all?

Once we understand that our mark will be made whether we like it or not we can decide how we want to make it, how deep it is, how noticeable. And we can decide how other people’s marks effect us.

Sometimes those moments of pain or hardship we endure do become a lasting part of us. But we get to choose how. We can decide whether we want to drink our sorrows away, pining over a future of a child that was ruthlessly stolen. Or we can show off our scar, the child we were blessed to have for whatever length of time, and use it to help metaphorical bleeding victims deal with their PTSD.

This book handed me a choice: What mark do I want to make and how I want to spend my very numbered days on this planet?

Yeah, that’s right. It’s not just cancer kids whose days are numbered. It’s ours. Yours and mine. So, how should we spend them?

 

In Conclusion – A Mini Review

The last 1024 words of this post were fueled by my fourth read-through of an easy to read, best-selling young adult novel. And those are just the highlights! Every time I read this book I walk in a stupor for the next two days, pondering the little things that John’s fantastically smart characters like to mention.

“Why are eggs only a breakfast item?”

“Inviting children to climb on bones, making death their playground. What a powerful image. What does it mean? How does that make me feel?”

This book is rich with metaphor and thought-provoking questions that are 100% relevant to everyone no matter how old you are. Though Hazel Grace comes to terms with a few of them before the turn of that final page, every question sparked by these characters is presented to you, the reader, to chew on like tobacco.

I for one haven’t been able to answer them all. Eventually I have to spit them out and started chewing on a new piece. After a while I’ll dig in the grass a little trying to find that question that was so interesting before, but I won’t find it, not the exact same one. So I’ll go buy another package to taste it again, and I will. But it’ll feel just a little different this time.

Now before I completely murder this analogy and dance on its metaphorical ashes, I’d like to leave you with one final comment about The Fault in Our Stars:

This book makes you think. This book makes you care. That is why it’s SO GOOD.

If you’re interested in reading this book, I’d HIGHLY recommend it. You can simultaneously make yourself a better person and support this blog by using this link to pick up a copy of The Fault in Our Stars from Amazon.com. Thanks so much!

2 Responses to On The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

  1. Jazz says:

    I love this! I feel the same way about TFIOS!! John is such a thought-provoking human, as if he was designed to change people.

    I would, however, rate this as mild-spoilers…

    Have you read the Uglies trilogy by Scott Westerfield? I’m re-reading it right now. It’s not as philosophical, but it’s exhilarating to read :)

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