Monday, July 22, 2013

The Fault in Our Stars

I did it.  I started on Friday night while Doug golfed and I finished on Saturday.  Not once did Doug find me catatonic in the chair because of it, I would like to add.  I didn't weep uncontrollably or throw the book across the room when things didn't work out.  I was a good little reader.

By now you know the story.  Hazel Grace meets Augustus Waters at a teens with cancer support group.  Hazel is a miracle of sorts, living on a drug that doesn't work for many, while Augustus has suffered through a type of bone cancer that boasts an 80% survival rate.  They fall in love while discussing books and oblivion and cancer and life and death.  Hazel thinks that she is the grenade that will destroy Augustus, but she has it backwards.

I have been thinking about The Fault in Our Stars all weekend trying to decide what to say about it.  First of all, it lived up to my expectations as a story.  It was funny and warm while being thoughtful and sad.  I did over-hype the depressing factor, which was good for me.  It wasn't as gut wrenching as I expected, so it didn't leave me gasping for breath between tears like The Perks of Being a Wallflower.

I do think it was honest in it's portrayal of cancer patients.  The world has this view of patients suffering valiantly and proudly against this unfair disease.  It makes it all seem so much more heroic and brave than what is really is.  In reality, when you see cancer up close, the person is broken and scared, but that's never the face that is shown to people.  You only see that face when it is truly someone you love suffering.  Cancer does turn patients into completely different people and John Green showed that very well.  Augustus' school friends no longer knew him as they only knew him pre-cancer, not toward the end.

Speaking of the end, this book is going to be a movie and I wonder how far and how honest the movie will be.  Augustus is completely broken by the end and I would be extremely surprised to see him covered in vomit pulled over at a gas station while Hazel, in her pajamas and oxygen tubes, tries to soothe him while she calls 911.  I don't see Hollywood going that far.  It's not just that it's unglamorous, it's that a scene that is downright obscene to most viewers.  People would rather believe that cancer patients are hopelessly optimistic and brave, like the hero in a Dicken's novel, than broken and sad.

But for all of the cancer insight in this book, to me at least, it's really a love story.  It's about Hazel and Augustus finding each other and finding a companion.  It really is about Hazel getting a life and being a teenager.  The scenes where her parents are surprised that she is acting like the angst driven girl she is meant to be are hilarious.  She should get in fights with her parents about a boy and staying out too late, despite the fact that she is sick!  That's what growing up is all about, even if you don't know how long you have in this life.

Oh, and Peter Van Houten!  What a trip.  An Imperial Affliction brought together Augustus and Hazel and somehow they even managed to make a crazy louse of a writer into a lovable character.

In the spirit of endings and wanting to know what happens next, here are my theories:

Issac, Augustus' best friend who loses both eyes to cancer, lives a normal life once he learns to be blind.  He gets a job, has a family, but doesn't spend every minute of his life trying to live for those friends he lost, because that's not how real life works.  Issac does on occasion remember Augustus and Hazel and feel unworthy that he got off so easy, but that's the randomness of this disease.

Hazel's mother does get her Master's in Social Work and she does start counseling families suffering from childhood cancer.  Hazel, reluctantly at first, does come to support groups lead by her mother, but then she goes more easily and happily.  And she makes sure that at least these kids have some better food.

Hazel does die.  In my mind, she lives another five, maybe six years.  She does try to get out more and hang out with Issac and her former high school friends, but she never meets anyone like Augustus again.  The end is not pretty for Hazel, but she knew this day would come, she knows her parents will stick together and she's ready.  Augustus' eulogy is read at her funeral.

So, those are my thoughts on the scariest book of the year.  In my opinion at least.  I could go on and maybe I will when I find some one else that has read this book.  I'm not so sure that I would recommend that other adults read The Fault in Our Stars because it is pretty accurately written in a teen voice, and that annoys so many adults.  It's like some people have completely forgotten what it was like to be a teen.

But for everyone else that remembers the sweet highs and crushing lows and would like to combine all of that with a serious illness wrapped up in pretty snappy dialogue, then please read The Fault in Our Stars and then call me.  We have a lot to talk about.

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