Title: The Fault in Our Stars
Author: John Green
Category: fiction: young adult
When I finished John Green’s first novel, Looking For Alaska, I vividly remember getting out of bed and writing at my desk for pages and pages. There was so much to think about, to reflect on, and I had to get it al on paper before falling asleep at 3am muddied my thoughts. My reaction to finished The Fault in Our Stars was similar, although I am not blogging at 3 in the morning. I’ve been thinking about the book since I finished it last night after dinner. Sitting by the fire in my apartment alone just thinking. Falling asleep thinking. Waking up thinking.
Like Looking for Alaska, I won’t say much here about the plot. The book was released on Tuesday and I want everyone I recommend TFiOS to to experience in their own way and their own time. But I needed to write this.
The novel is about teenagers with Cancer. As Hazel, the protagonist often remarks, stories about kids with Cancer usually follow the same tropes. John Green avoids this, he’s written a novel about teenagers with Cancer that is funny at the same time it is heartbreaking, he’s written characters that are so real. Teenagers that remind me of my friends who had Cancer in High School. Parents that remind me of their parents.
I won’t tell their stories here, except to remark that what this book gave to me was some sort of marginal insight into what they must have been going through. Answering some of the questions I didn’t know how to ask when I was in Grade 10. Grade 11. Or Grade 12.
Cancer is such a ubiquitous disease. We all know people who have fought it, who have been taken by it. Who have dealt with a loss. My mother lost her husband. Her friend lost a wife and their children lost their mother. Another friend lost her mom. There were surgeries and chemo for three of my friends from school. A family friend who we spent Christmases with for years and years fought it in University. And this year a work friend spent most of her time at Children’s Hospital in Vancouver with her one year old son.
John has spent much time talking about how this book is a work of fiction, not to see any one person in the pages. He notes in a page before the book begins that made up stories matter, and that this is one. In great books we can see so many people. But in this case many of John’s readers need this reminder.
It’s funny, this thing we have that is the Internet. I have met John Green twice, once in Chicago in August 2008, and once in Seattle in November 2008. But when I read John’s book, especially TFiOS, I am reading books written by a friend. You see, I’ve been watching John’s videos on Youtube since 2007.
Through this intangible thing of the Internet, a large part of John’s readership are also his friends. And when you talk to someone several times a week over a period of years, your experience of their books is necessarily different than your experience of any other book written by any other author. So yes, our community (The Nerdfighters) might need a little reminder, not to see, or assume they see people they know were/are important to John, and to us, in the characters of his books.
I would often hesitate to call myself an writer, but in what I have written, I have taken inspiration from the people around me, so of course they would see bits and pieces of my life in what I write. This understanding helps me to understand John’s position in all this.
The Fault in Our Stars is a work of fiction, but the beauty and realness John Green has imbued in his characters necessarily comes from his experiences. And since he has allowed us to become a part of his life through his Youtube videos as well as his novels, we see in his writing what friends would see in the writing of any author. Reflections of their lives, their conversations, their experiences.
At the same time I want to recommend this book to everyone I know, I am nervous about recommending it to certain people. I don’t want to intrude, but I think this book is special in its realness, and I think they should read it. So if you are reading this, you should pick up a copy of The Fault in Our Stars. It is a beautiful book.