Thursday, May 22, 2014

The Fault In Our Stars by John Green

"This Support Group featured a rotating cast of characters in various states of tumor-driven unwellness. Why did the cast rotate? A side effect of dying...And then began the circle jerk of support: everyone talking about fighting and battling and winning and shrinking and scanning."

"It was Lida the Strong. Lida in remission...saying my name, saying, "Hazel is such an inspiration to me; she really is. She just keeps fighting the battle, waking up every morning and going to war without complaint. She's so strong. She's so much stronger than I am. I just wish I had her strength." 
"I'll give you my strength if I can have your remission."

One of my all time favorite students handed me a copy of this book which I plowed through so quickly I only barely remember crying and loving it. As the movie comes out in a few weeks and teenage girls and boys around the nation have made the preview the most liked YouTube video of all time, I thought it would be worth rereading (particularly because someone whose opinion I value really disliked it and threatened not finishing it) to see if it was still spectacular and heartbreaking and funny and true the second time around.

It is incredibly beloved by all, so you should probably read it, but it is incredibly beloved by me because I feel so much like I have occupied so many of the spaces that Green creates in this novel. 

The book begins with teenage girl Hazel Grace who has terminal cancer meeting  teenage boy Augustus Waters who is in remission. They are both incredibly charming and smart and  well-read and sarcastic - exactly my kind of people. Hazel at one point quotes one of my favorite poems ("The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock") and at another point quotes one of my least favorite ("The Red Wheelbarrow"). As a teen I'd be friends with both; as a teacher I would adore both. 

The novel takes place in Indiana and Amsterdam. While I haven't spent a significant amount of time in her particular corner of Indiana, I have been to the Indianapolis Museum of Art sculpture garden where she goes on a picnic. I have walked the streets of Amsterdam where they walk and spent a few days in Vondelpark where her mom goes to hang out. 

One of the first guys I ever dated as a youngster had battled cancer and was in remission. He was able to keep his leg (although not his entire femur), and walked with what I imagine is the same limp Augustus has. Hazel has understandably mixed feelings of dating anyone in her terminal state; a concern I sort of understand. I also dated someone who was ill, and he died after we stopped seeing each other. Hazel doesn't want to be the grenade in someone's life that wrecks them - and death is wrecking. I have seen my grama piss herself after one of her surgeries for her cancer and known the helplessness of watching someone I cared about be humiliated in that way. I have had one student die and several close to death and felt all the feelings that happen when someone who is way too fucking young loses all their potential experiences. 

The absolute best part of the book is the unapologetic honesty. It feels so honest the way Hazel thinks about her prognosis and acknowledges Cancer Perks and realizes she is the reason her family is so broke and obsesses over her mom's existence after her death and it is just hard which is how it is which is how it should be shown because it's true.

I plowed through this book again in two days still crying and still loving it. 

1 comment:

Tiper said...

Very interesting post. I have to ask, because I agree: why is The Red Wheelbarrow one of your least favourites?