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Friday, February 24, 2012

Book Review: The Fault in Our Stars

Welcome to the Young Adult Book Club. This week we’re chatting about The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. If you haven’t read it, it goes something like this:

And this:

Which is to say, it’s amazing. And crazy sad.

I was debating how to write this review. There are so many wonderful things I could say about this book, but I’m betting most of the other book club members will explain why you NEED TO READ THIS RIGHT NOW.*

So let me talk about something else. If you don’t already know, The Fault in Our Stars tells the story of Hazel, a girl with terminal cancer. And this kind of affected me in a way I didn’t anticipate.

As someone who deals with chronic pain on a daily basis, I totally related to Hazel’s honest take on living with cancer.** There’s a point in the novel when she’s talking about her favorite book and says:
“But it’s not a cancer book, because cancer books suck. Like, in cancer books, the cancer person starts a charity that raises money to fight cancer, right? And this commitment to charity reminds the cancer person of the essential goodness of humanity and makes him/her feel loved and encouraged because s/he will leave a cancer-curing legacy. But in [An Imperial Affliction], Anna decides that being a person with cancer who starts a charity called The Anna Foundation for People with Cancer Who Want to Cure Cholera.”
And her point is that people are more than their disease. Whether it’s cancer or something else, it’s easy to become your disease. I’m reminded of mine every day, and part of why I read and write is to separate my life from the chronic illness. She goes on to say:
“Also, Anna is honest about all of it in a way no one else really is. Throughout the book, she refers to herself as the side effect, which is just totally correct.”
Not that I agree with all of this (namely, that cancer kids are just side effects of life), but the thoughts Hazel is expressing in her review of An Imperial Affliction are the same thoughts most people with a serious disease have. Because it’s hard. Living in pain each day sucks.

When you’re sick, people like to mention friends of friends of friends who were once sick but rose above it all. And, you know, you could be just like that. But I think what Hazel’s trying to say here is that when you’re sick, you don’t want to stand up and be a shining example of courage under terrible circumstances. You don’t want to become a cause.

You want to get better.

The reason Hazel and Augustus so loved An Imperial Affliction is the same reason I loved The Fault in Our Stars. It’s a cancer book, but it’s not a cancer book. There’s humor and sarcasm and some really brilliant and witty lines from two brilliant and all-around awesome teens.

And, well, I don’t want to give anything away, but I think John Green makes a strong case for the impact one person can have on so many lives—even if the person doesn’t do any Big Important Things in the name of a Terrible Disease to leave a mark on the world.

What did you think of the book? Write your thoughts in the comments below, and link to your blog review below.

*Well, go buy a box of tissues first. Then read this.
**Of course, I don’t have cancer. I’ve never had cancer. And I don’t pretend to know what it’s like being a teen with cancer. I’m not trying to minimize the struggles of teens with cancer but instead explaining how the book relates to my life.

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