This book may not have been the best choice as a first read following a time of grief and loss of love. Throughout the entirety of my reading, I was reminded of Army in some shape or fashion. And upon completion I was depleted to my bed, crying big crocodile tears until I finally fell asleep. No, I probably should have chosen another novel to begin my ease back into fun, leisure reading…
The Fault in Our Stars, as whole, is a marvelous book. For those who have not read its pages or seen the cinematic option, the novel follows the life of a girl named Hazel who is dying of cancer. She meets Augustus Waters in a support group and the two are virtually inseparable the rest of the story. They bond over a fictional An Imperial Affliction and even head off to Sweden to meet the author. As I am not here to summarize the story for you, but rather to give my reaction, that is all I will say. I highly recommend it though!
(SPOILERS TO FOLLOW SO STOP READING NOW IF YOU WANT TO FIND OUT HOW THE STORY ENDS ON YOUR OWN TERMS.)
There is a lot of discussion on the topics of death, loss, and grieving in this book. And though my own life is not as perilous as the protagonists, the feelings did strike a cord.
Hazel and Augustus are two very opposite people. However, their love is genuine and strong. In lives that others pity, they are happy with one another. Even in their brief time together, they feel something that some people never find: true, unprecedented love.
At least Hazel was allowed to love Augustus after they were parted. Me, not so much. With a break up, you’re asked to stop loving the other person. Society requests you to stop, friends and family beg, and happiness requires. Right then. Right there. When the relationship ends, so does the love. But with Hazel, she could continue loving Gus because in all the book’s discussions on infinity, no one actually knows if Gus is “still around” or has ceased to exist altogether. And there’s the real possibility that Hazel will be rejoining Gus soon in the afterlife and their love will continue. For break ups, this isn’t how love works.
I’m not sure if I have ever loved someone to that level; of wanting to love someone even past life. I mean, I have loved a person completely in the past, and I love many people now. But to have found true love, at only 16 years old as in Hazel’s case, seems unimaginable. I believe I could feel that way about someone in the past, given years of knowing them and being with them, but at such a young age? No.
Hazel and Gus were wise beyond their years though. The circumstance of their illnesses demanded this. They were mini-adults stuck in unhealthy, too-young bodies. So perhaps this isn’t unimaginable. I am a firm believer that true love is real; I just haven’t felt it first-hand.
Yet there were so many other interesting concepts these two teens discussed that were well beyond their years.
One which intrigued me was the talk of what comes after death. To me, I’ve never questioned my faith in God and heaven. And in all my schooling, I always figured people who were on their deathbeds, i.e. Hazel and Gus, would want to cling to that hope as well. However, neither did! And I’m left wondering if this is a question on many fighter’s minds.
To not know what comes after death must be a lonely and scary thing. Though she had many things to sympathize, this is what I pitied the most for Hazel; she thought that once she died, that was it, there wasn’t anymore. On the other hand, Gus didn’t know. He figured there had to be something after death, but that could have been heaven, a ghost-like existence, or even a new life.
Neither of the two main characters, who were facing unquestionable death, knew where they would be come death. To me, this was the most saddening aspect of the entire novel.
Another interesting concept explored in the book is why you love the people you do. In my case, it is why I loved certain people in the past. Specifically, when Hazel’s friend Kaitlyn asks her what it is like to be in love. And Hazel replies:
“Oh. It was… it was nice to spend time with someone so interesting. We were very different, and we disagreed about a lot of things, but he was always so interesting, you know?… He wasn’t perfect or anything. He wasn’t your fairy-tale Prince Charming or whatever. He tried to be like that sometimes, but I liked him best when that stuff fell away.”
I have been thinking of this a lot lately. Trying to come up with why I loved Army and X. X is more tricky as his and my life seem like forever ago — our own little infinity gone to the stars. But with Army… it’s hard to come up with an answer. I’m not sure why I felt the way I did about Army. Him and I are vastly different people.
But I think Hazel says it best: he was interesting. He intrigued me to no end. Every day I spent with Army, I learned something new. An idea I had never thought, a concept I’d never realized, a fact never taught. He is such an interesting person and comes from such an opposing background to my own — I could have listened to him talk for years and never been bored.
That is what I miss. That is what I loved about him.
So, as I get all emotional writing this post, I’m going to bid adieu by saying this: overall, The Fault in Our Stars is compelling and wonderful. There is so much more that could be discussed among its pages and I welcome anyone to share with me their own discoveries.
I am a fan, Mr. Green, and you have won yourself a new reader of your literature — next up, Paper Towns.
My favorite passages and quotes within the book’s pages:
“A nonhot boy stares at you relentlessly and it is, at best, awkward and, at worst, a form of assault. But a hot boy… well.”
“It portrays death truthfully. You die in the middle of your life, in the middle of a sentence.”
“I almost felt like he was there in my room with me, but in a way it was better, like I was not in my room and he was not in his, but instead we were together in some invisible and tenuous third space that could only be visited on the phone.”
“You do not immortalize the lost by writing about them. Language buries, but does not resurrect.”
“I fell in love the way you fall asleep: slowly, and then all at once.”
“The weird thing about houses is that they almost always look like nothing is happening inside them, even though they contain most of our lives. I wondered if that was sort of the point of architecture.”
“There are seven billion living people, and about ninety-eight billion dead people.”
“I’m in love with you, and I’m not in the business of denying myself the simple pleasure of saying true things. I’m in love with you, and I know that love is just a shout into the void, and that oblivion is inevitable, and that we’re all doomed and that there will come a day when all our labor has been returned to dust, and I know the sun will swallow the only earth we’ll ever have, and I am in love with you.”
“It seemed like forever ago, like we’d had this brief but still infinite forever. Some infinities are bigger than other infinities.”
“You are going to live a good and long life filled with great and terrible moments that you cannot even imagine yet!”
“I want to leave a mark.”
“You don’t get to choose if you get hurt in this world, but you do have some say in who hurts you. I like my choices.”