Thursday, June 14, 2012

Book Review: The Fault in Our Stars

Books like this are my crack. Or maybe, being a bit less extreme, my literary equivalent to chocolate; I can never read too many of them and am liable to gorge myself whenever I get my hands on one. A few months back, my family and I took a road trip to visit my brother and his family. California to South Dakota translates to about a 19 hour drive. One way. Being the book whore that I am, I had a bag in the car with us containing only books. Typically reading in the car gives me an insane case of motion sickness but I knew I was bound to get bored at some point. And by some point, I mean Wyoming.

On the way there I started the book Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. It was actually pretty fantastic and kept me entertained for a good amount of the trip. But I would put it down often to nap or take pictures and I didn’t actually finish until two weeks later right before we were about to make the trip home. The day before we left, my brother (being the splendid guy he is) bought me a new book for the drive. I chose The Fault In Our Stars by John Green and long story short: Best book I have ever read. Motion sickness be damned, I finished it by the time we reached Arizona. And by that time I was mess. John Green broke my heart into tiny little pieces. If I were Superman this little book would be my Kryptonite.

 The Fault In Our Stars introduces Green's first female protagonist, Hazel Grace Lancaster, who was diagnosed with a Stage IV thyroid cancer at the age of 12. By a medical miracle, she is now 16, but remains terminal knowing that one day, the cancer will come back to claim her. During a cancer support group meeting, she meets the enigmatic Augustus Waters, a cancer survivor who is instantly drawn to her. Cautious but also curious, she starts spending time with Augustus, inadvertently changing her life as she knows it.

Conventional stories of cancer victims focus on their inspiring hope, faith, and strength. Forget that. At the end of the day, most of us would not be radiating sunshine if we were afflicted by the big “C”. Anyone who has seen a loved one go through the pains of cancer or any other terminal illness can attest to the horrible impact that it has on patients. John Green recognizes this and allows his characters to express the truth about mortality. His honesty in how patients feel on the day-to-day basis and the roller-coaster of emotions they go through is authentic and leaves the reader with the very essence of what it is like to deal with the horrors of cancer.

This was the first time that I have had the pleasure of reading John Greens work and I am in love with his writing. He creates the most amazing, multi-dimensional characters that shatter the boundaries of a simple paper page. He is this incredibly intelligent man who writes incredibly intelligent things that makes you really think and wonder. And he has the ability to break hearts and mend them back together, in the most crooked way possible. As an aspiring writer, there were countless times that I read a line and just thought, "Damn. I wish I had written that." There were lines that made me laugh out loud. There were lines that I had to highlight and reread. There were lines that I read out loud to my husband just so that he could be affected in the way that I was. There were lines that captured the feelings that I have but that I could never put into words. "My thoughts are like stars that I cannot fathom into constellations." Dear God, how did this man get in my head?

You should know that this book will make you cry. A lot. This book made my heart ache and my eyes burn with tears. There was just so much emotion in the pages of this book that it was so hard not to feel them. But it is so very worth it. It's a beautifully honest story about death but more importantly about life and it will stay with you long after you read it.

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