TxtingMrDarcy Reads: “Pass The Tissues” Edition

Plot Summary (From Amazon): Despite the tumor-shrinking medical miracle that has bought her a few years, Hazel has never been anything but terminal, her final chapter inscribed upon diagnosis. But when a gorgeous plot twist named Augustus Waters suddenly appears at Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazel’s story is about to be completely rewritten.

Insightful, bold, irreverent, and raw, The Fault in Our Stars is award-winning author John Green’s most ambitious and heartbreaking work yet, brilliantly exploring the funny, thrilling, and tragic business of being alive and in love.

Soundtrack: “Keep Breathing”- Ingrid Michaelson

Some of the very best books that I’ve ever read are the ones which have moved me to tears. I count them among my favorites, and take them out ever so often to lovingly revisit the characters that have become like dear friends. With a subject matter like this, there was no question that “The Fault in Our Stars” was going to be moving story. Even as I saw the positive reviews pouring out across the web, I had very little concept of just how moving.

Last night, as I was reading, the tears started approximately halfway through the book. And they just. didn’t. stop.

I finished this novel with a lump in my throat, and ache in my heart and a smile on my face. Really, what else can you ask of a great story? Even today, attempting to write a review, I feel internally scraped raw somehow. As if, after bearing witness to the lives of these fictional young people, I grieve with and for them.

I was initially tentative as I started to read, this being my first book by John Green, and was worried by the fact that Hazel and Augustus are dry, witty, and oh-so-adult. “I don’t know if this is for me,” the little voice in the back of my head. “I was hoping for so much more from this story than ‘Juno’ + cancer.” Then suddenly? It didn’t bother me. Of course these young people had a wisdom beyond their years. How else could they possibly be? They were grappling with the thought of immortality while other teenagers were concerned with sports, shopping, and dating.

John Green looks unflinchingly at Cancer with a capital C- from the physical pain and mental state of an ill person to the impact that it has on those who know and love them. Hazel compares herself at one point to a grenade- everyone is just waiting for her to explode, leaving shards of herself behind imbedded in the hearts of those who knew her. She wants to be known as MORE than “that girl with cancer,” or “a fighter,” but someone who had a real impact. It is in this aspect that she and Augustus find common ground, and begin a tentative relationship. Tentative, that is, on Hazel’s part, because she doesn’t want him to be another of the people affected when she passes.

It seems fitting to me somehow that I should have finished this book right after Joel Stein’s New York Times piece “Adults Should Read Adult Books”.  While I understand the point that he’s trying to make (As adults, we have few opportunities to continue enriching ourselves and books are one of our few chances to do so…which now that I think about it, I don’t entirely agree with either. I’m constantly trying new things, whether it’s a new hobby, a new recipe, pushing myself to learn a particularly tricky rhythm in a choral piece- all of those things offer growth opportunities as well.), I feel that there are certain pieces of literature that transcend age barriers. THIS is one of those books. It’s by no means a dumbed-down book- from the author’s language to the characters’ understanding of literary concepts, to the inevitable reaction that it evokes in the reader.

It takes a great deal for me to add a book to my “treasured” shelf, and “The Fault in our Stars” now occupies a place there. If you read nothing else this spring, make sure that you pick up this gorgeous novel.

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