This past week, I finally got around to reading John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars. I had high expectations, because of the buzz, of course. And the book met those expectations, except, not exactly in the way I expected.
Here’s the thing. It’s hard for me to love a sad book. But this novel begins without making an apology for the track it will take. It is about cancer, about teenagers struggling with the realities of the disease, especially those deemed terminal. But it is funny. Maybe a little too witty for its intended audience, because even I had to take a pause on some of the vocabulary, and in touring the reviews on Amazon, more than one teen complained of the book being written above their heads. But if you’re an adult (or teen) who likes books with exceptional wording and that tests the mind (and something that is, truly, hysterical), it’s definitely worth the read.
The problem for me is putting the thing down. As when any good book ends, I’m left mourning the characters–a mini funeral in the mind for what Ally Condie once called “paper people.” I want to know what happens, you know, after the last word. But the thing with Hazel and Augustus is that you know how it ends, even if it’s not inscribed on the page. But the mourning, at least for me, still happened. Even if Hazel and Augustus (and even Isaac) didn’t feel like real teenagers, they felt like people to me by the end of the book.
What John Green has done the best, beside telling an entertaining story, is given many of us a look into the world of a terminally ill young person. And in doing so, he brings our own mortality and the desire to “leave a mark” into sharp relief. With the character of Peter, he proves that a long life led is not necessarily a good life led.
So I guess the only other issue I had was with the dismality (word, right?) of the afterlife. Hazel appears to believe in oblivion, Augustus in Something. As for me, wherever Heaven is, whatever it looks like (and I’m really not into cloud mansions, so I’m not looking for one of those), I’m headed there.