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The Fault in Our Stars

The Fault in Our Stars - John Green I had avoided this book for over a year, hearing from everyone how wonderful - but heartbreaking - but wonderful - it was. It's been a tough, heartbreaking year for me on its own, so I decided that, no matter how great, I would have to postpone reading it until I felt strong enough. Eventually, I realized that this was as good as it was going to get, and - hoping to fully enjoy all of the TFiOS movie hoopla that's currently taking place on John's Tumblr & Twitter and YouTube - I decided I would chance it. Because I am an IDIOT, I read TFiOS on a day when I knew I would already be sad, an anniversary I was dreading. The objective was to combine sadnesses as a means of compressing them. THIS DOES NOT WORK. I SHOULD KNOW THIS BY NOW. No, no; sadness compounds itself, surely, but never compresses itself. So, of course, I spent an entire day crying, and the better part of this week trying to explain to people that I wasn't just personally grieving, but that a book had punched a hole in my heart as well. ---I remember very clearly the first time a book made me weep so badly that I couldn't stop. My mother nearly took me to the emergency room. I was 6/7, and reading the Little House books, and Mary had suddenly gone blind: Somewhere between one book and the other, she had contracted (scarlet fever?) and was suddenly blind. I cried so hard I threw up. And got yelled at for getting so upset that I'd made myself sick. "Over a book!" my mother - who was, in all fairness, completely freaked out and worried because I couldn't explain to her why I was crying so hard and throwing up until hours later, when I'd calmed down enough - yelled at me. My mother is a book person too, but... not like me. It was my grandmother who understood, who nodded at me when my mother retold the story, who told me later (and many times since) "Some books have knives in them, but that's what makes them good."---Well, John Green comes equipped with his own, finely sharpened, probably personally engraved, cutlery, and he wields it like a surgeon. If you follow my reviews you may know that I have a special interest in how disability is portrayed in fiction, and TFiOS is one of those books that (IMO) gets it so right. Kids with Cancer? Are Still Kids. Are Still Human Beings. Who have senses of humor (God, Hazel: you are freaking hilarious), and bad days and good days and friends and enemies, and likes and dislikes. Sure, they've got other stuff too - and Green does a good job of addressing a lot of that other stuff, up to and including fear of death, contemplating the meaning of a life (particularly if the length of that life seems unjustly short); fighting to become independent - just like every other teenager, in the history of teenagers - only at a time when your body does not allow you to act independently, or behave independently, and when your parents are (justifiably) afraid of letting go, even a little bit. All of the illness related stuff in the book seemed on point to me* ~ the ability of teenagers to be both completely self-aware and actively practicing their denial skills, and the proliferation of gallows humor, particularly. There were so much amazing in the book, so many perfect little moments and scenes that were tender and sincere and hilarious and awful that I just wanted to roll up in a ball by the end. Or write to John Green and tell him how much I admire him, and also want to yell mean things at him. Or sob for a few hours, considering Gus and Hazel, and my life, and their lives, and Anne Frank, and alcoholic assholes, and freaking... stars and shit. I did the last one. (Also, complained to twitter about my stupidity and gratefully received hugs from fellow wounded readers.) Of course you should read this. You should just also be prepared for it to hurt. A lot. *Note: I am not a cancer survivor, so I can not speak for that experience completely. I am, however, a person who developed a significant, life changing illness as a teenager and there was a ton of stuff here that echoed my experiences, emotions and those of my (likewise chronically ill) friends.