The Fault in Our Stars, John Green

This is the conversation that took place about ten minutes after I finished The Fault in Our Stars, when one of my closest friends came over for our weekly dinner:

Me: So I just finished this book, and I’m still having a lot of feelings. If I just randomly start crying…

Her: I love that book! I’ve read it twice. I’ve never cried harder for a book than I did for that one.

Me: So if I just freak out about it for the next hour…?

Her: That’s totally fine.

Thank God for friends who understand what it’s like to get uncomfortably over-invested in books.

Although, to be honest, if you read this book and didn’t cry, I’m not sure I could be friends with you. I mean, it’s a book about kids with cancer. And it’s a good book about kids with cancer, which means that John Green knows exactly how to take your heart and pulverize it, all the while making you laugh. And by “you,” I mean “me.” Obviously. I don’t know what your heart is like. Maybe you went into this book without knowing it would be about kids with cancer, and the whole situation caught you totally off-guard. Maybe you don’t get Green’s sense of humor, in which case, again, I don’t know what to tell you. (Because he’s wonderful, and I’m so glad he has more books out for me to fall in love with.)

I, on the other hand, went into it knowing exactly what I was getting into. I’ve seen a thousand gifs and heard all the most popular quotes. I was fully prepared for a story about star-crossed teenage love. I told myself I was only doing this so I would know what other people were talking about when it came up in conversation. Even as I was reading it, I was completely under control. I had decided that the only people who got emotional about this story were the ones who knew nothing about it before they started. I was a rock. I could handle it.

When will I ever learn?

Fast forward to about forty pages from the end. Those of you who have read this book probably know exactly what part I’m thinking of, and for those of you who haven’t, well, I don’t want to spoil it, but the kids have cancer – feel free to use your imaginations to fill in the myriad plot points that could  arise out of such a story. It’s okay. I’ll wait.  Got them? Good, now that you’re with us, maybe you’ll understand why I was laying on the floor of my living room crying my eyes out.

My favorite line of the novel was repeated often (and therefore does not count as a spoiler) – “The world is not a wish-granting factory.” This line, it turns out, comes in handy when reading a book like this one. I kept saying, “But I don’t want that to happen!” And as if on cue, I would be reminded that “the world is not a wish-granting factory.” (But I want it to be! But it’s not. But! No.)

I love that about this book. It reminds me that there are the things in this life that we want, and there are the things we can have, and the two circles do not always overlap. It doesn’t mean we give up. To me, it means we try harder, and we appreciate, with every ounce of our being, when those circles do slip over each other. Because sometimes, kids have cancer that can’t be cured. And desperately needed jobs only take a day to lose. Our bodies may betray us. Our friends and family won’t understand what we need them to understand. Loss is a constant because the world is not a wish-granting factory. That fact will never not hurt, and there will never be a solution to every problem for every person. The world is not a wish-granting factory. John Green sure got that right.

But he also wrote a book that made me desperately happy for the small precious moments in life. His characters didn’t save the world. They were just ordinary teenagers who also happened to have cancer destroying their bodies from the inside out. And yet. They found a way to have good days. They found a way to appreciate the moments that weren’t made of pain. They rose above futile wishes and continued to live their lives. To me, that’s the most heroic way a person can live. Some of us may get the chance to do something momentous one day, but most of us will just live quietly. We can choose to regret that, or not. I choose not. I like the details of life so much more than the broad brush strokes anyway.

John Green has written what is, essentially, my Catcher in the Rye. Now, before you rise up against me for saying that, let me explain: I didn’t get Holden Caulfield when I was fifteen, and it made me angry that I was supposed to and couldn’t. Of course, I get him now, and all I can think is what a blessing it was that I didn’t understand back then. Life had been exceedingly kind to me, and I hadn’t earned that book yet. The book I needed then was this one. I had experienced unexplained physical pain since I was five. I had a family I cherished that I never wanted to hurt or disappoint. I had known too much death. I needed Hazel and Augustus and Isaac. I needed to know that other kids had lost and lost and lost and yet still managed to maintain their sense of humor and passion. I hadn’t dived into the darkness of the world, but I had paddled along its edges. I needed books that would guide me a little deeper, but carefully, and with love. This would have been that book for me.

 

For more about John Green, head over here.

31 thoughts on “The Fault in Our Stars, John Green

  1. Wow, you make an awfully sad sounding book seem wonderful! I’m sure I’d like to have a read, and considering the subject matter, I’m sure ill cry too!

  2. It really is a good book to read. However, due to the crying glitch in my body where I couldn’t cry immediately unless it’s those totally heart-wrenching, tear-shedding pieces and for me, this is not one of them. Story-wise, it really is good. Tear-inducing books for me are ‘My Sister’s Keeper’ and ‘The Time Traveler’s Wife’. If you love tear-jerking books, I recommend those. :)

    1. I completely understand. I definitely don’t cry at every book I think should be crying over, although when I read The Time Traveler’s Wife, I definitely sat alone for about an hour after I finished it and just let myself cry it out. It’s one of my all-time favorites.

  3. I saw reviews for this book and thought ‘why would I read a book that’s clearly not going to end well?’ And then I read more and more reviews gushing about how amazingly fantastic it was, until I finally gave in and read it.

    And cried and cursed the reviewers for being tempting and right.

    1. I know! I hate when other people are right about books, and unlike movie reviews, people seem to have an uncanny knack for handing me novels I love while predicting exactly how I’m going to respond. So unfair.

  4. Deep, I’ve had that exact conversation with my family hundreds of times. This book is on my summer reading list and I just bumped it up now! Bring on the tissue boxes!

    1. It’s a perfect book for the beginning of the summer because it’s a quick read, and although it’s sad, it will motivate you to make the best possible use of all the long, warm days ahead!

  5. I read The Fault in Our Stars just early this year mainly because everybody’s talking about it, and naturally, I grew curious. I really like John Green’s writing style. He can make his readers laugh and weep at the same time. TFiOS ought to be a book about dying, but on the contrary it actually talks about living and – you’re right – about life not being generous enough for all of us.

    1. I love that phrasing of “life not being generous enough for all of us.” That completely sums up the book for me! I’m in awe of how Green managed to write a book about dying that makes me so incredibly happy to be alive.

  6. I haven’t read this yet, but a few of my friends have. I’m scared to dive into another book having just read Eldest from the Inheritence series. The ending was so upsetting that I haven’t read anything for almost a week. :'( It’s nice to no I’m not alone in my extreame reactions to books. :)

    1. I know that feeling so well! I recommend either a lighter, palate-cleansing book before you try this one, or another week or two of mindless tv watching – whatever it takes to create the necessary brain space for some new characters :) Don’t rush it, because if you’re anything like me, you’ll end up really frustrated at the new books for taking energy away from what you’re still trying to process!

      1. Good idea. I haven’t read very much lately because Eragon was soooo amazing. After reading it, everything else seems so poorly written. :( Anyways, I’ll probably start a new one soon. :)

  7. Your brilliant review just brought tears to my eyes, in anticipation of the sadness to come. I will try and read this very soon, although I’m not looking forward to the type of tears I will surely shed. I’m going to trust your recommendation, reassured that I will ‘feel happy to be alive’.
    A book that made my heart shake with sobs was ‘The Kite Runner’.

    1. I would really love to read The Kite Runner because I’ve heard such great things about it, but I’ve also heard that the violence is disturbing and possibly too intense for me. I hope you enjoy The Fault in Our Stars, and that the tears are cathartic as well as sad.

  8. Personally even though its a great book, i do still feel as though its sad how cancer bought the two teens together, because i mean it both brought them together and seperated them and i dont think that was a concept that john green planned

    1. I see what you mean. It is sad that cancer had to be the impetus for the relationship, since they might never have met if they hadn’t both shown up at the same support group, but at the same time, people do get sick all the time, and it’s powerful to read a story about the joy that can still exist in such difficult circumstances.

      1. yeah i guess so, though i dont know i mean this book must appeal as a teenage romance regarding teenagers but i feel as though its manipulating cancer to create the scene of love

        1. You might be right. I didn’t know anyone with cancer when I was a teenager, so I really can’t say for sure. It’s an interesting point, and I’m glad you brought it up. It’s always smart to examine our impressions of books and consider the author’s intent and the effect, whether intentional or not, that it had on the audience.

          1. well thank you, its just my opinion really. Maybe ive looked into it too much however i do feel as though it can define cancer through a negitive light and yes i guess aha

  9. I cried so much during this book. I saw the movie today, and (of course) cried there, as well. It was interesting, though, to compare what parts were most emotional for me while watching the movie as opposed to reading the book.

    Erin @ Raised Reading

    1. I know! I loved the movie and thought it was well done (and I did cry, because I’m not a monster!), but I cried much more at the book, and in many different places. Some of the spots I wept at in the book were left out of the movie, so I’m sure that’s part of it, but also, even the best movie version of a book can rarely move me as much as the novel. The only exception I can think of is Catching Fire. I wasn’t crazy about the book, but the movie version made me cry both times I saw it!

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