Before I begin, I want to thank Esther Earl and John Green for being friends. What beauties genuine friendship can bring…
Also, you should know they’ve gone and made a movie based on this book. Do yourself a favor and read the book first. The movie won’t be as good. It just won’t.
It’s probably not wise to read this book while one’s life is imploding, as mine currently is. Then again, it might be the wisest thing: it is important to be reminded that others are hurting, and many far worse than I. This story, first and foremost, is about focusing on other people with compassionate and honest eyes.
Which means, if you’ve any heart at all, this book will leave a mark. I wept like a hungry and exhausted child at the end of this book, not because it is sad, though it is, or because it was poignant, though it is. I wept because it was human, and reading it made me feel quite humbled and honored to be the same species as this fine author and the characters he created.
John Green pulled a quote from Julius Caesar for the title of his best-selling novel:
“The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves, that we are underlings.”
Green’s point, as the story unfolds is this: that’s ridiculous. There’s plenty of fault in our stars. Horrible things happen to people that have no rhyme or reason, no justice or grand purpose, and often are due to imperfections in themselves which they neither are aware of or can control, and there is nothing that can be done but endure the pain of those weaknesses with some sort of humanity.
Often, the deciding factor for me in a novel is the believability of the characters: are these people real enough to me that I genuinely care about them? Hazel and Gus are very real, real enough that I don’t want to call Hazel “Hazel Grace” because only Gus does, and real enough that I chose to refer to Gus as Gus instead of Augustus, because it is Gus who loved the swings so much. (Plus, I have a real weakness for literary characters named Gus.)
What puts a novel in The Top Ten List is the purposeful choice of words used to create a plot replete with depth and significance. Sometimes, a rare story comes along that can make us better if we read it. This is such a book, and that is why I am telling you about it.
I have been needing to blog. (My lack of entries lately is due to personal struggles. Everything is hard and sharp, and writing is especially…difficult. Words spill out, but none of them…help, or seem right, so I let them fall into a metaphorical hole I’ve dug and beg the wind to bury them.) When one finds themselves in the midst of a personal horror, regardless of what sort, (and, dear God, there are so many kinds of horrors) there is a real and nearly primal need to hide, which I have been doing, especially online. But this stupid book came along at the same time, and, well:
“Sometimes, you read a book and it fills you with this weird evangelical zeal, and you become convinced that the shattered world will never be put back together unless and until all living humans read the book.” -John Green, The Fault in Our Stars
The Fault in Our Stars is about going through pain that will beat you, and doing so with grace. It’s about courage. It’s a hymn full of hard truths. One of them is this:
“You don’t get to choose if you get hurt in this world…but you do have some say in who hurts you. I like my choices.” -John Green, The Fault in Our Stars
I’ve been thinking about that quote a lot. It’s not entirely true in every case: kids, for instance, don’t have a lot of say in which adults that stomp through their lives making huge messes and leaving scars. Being young isn’t for sissies: so much is out of their control, like faulty stars falling out of the sky right into their laps. Sometimes we forget this when we reach adulthood and find ourselves reeling from our own adult pains.
There’s a kid in your world who could use an unexpected kindness, a gentle smile, a pat on the back, a note in his lunch, a trustworthy ear, or all of these things, because
“The world is not a wish-granting factory.”
-John Green, The Fault in Our Stars
Our lives are filled with joys and with sorrows. These opposites help define one another, and this story helps us see the value of each extreme. I hope you read this book and I hope you look at your friends and families and strangers who cross your path with an awakened compassion, because if this book vividly illustrates anything, it’s this: some of us are given long lives with many joys and many sorrows, others are given shorter lives, full of joys and sorrows as well, that just stop in mid-