Two years post-miracle, sixteen-year-old Hazel is post-everything else, too; post-high school, post-friends and post-normalcy. And even though she could live for a long time (whatever that means), Hazel lives tethered to an oxygen tank, the tumours tenuously kept at bay with a constant chemical assault.
Enter Augustus Waters. A match made at cancer kid support group, Augustus is gorgeous, in remission, and shockingly to her, interested in Hazel. Being with Augustus is both an unexpected destination and a long-needed journey, pushing Hazel to re-examine how sickness and health, life and death, will define her and the legacy that everyone leaves behind.
Okay, so to say a book changed my life is pretty serious business. This book, though, is serious. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green has changed my life. I couldn’t decide if it ruined me. Or fixed me. I’ve decided to go with fixed me. In all honesty, a series changed my life last year - Fifty Shades of Grey - seems strange, maybe, but it’s the truth. It opened me up to this whole other world of books, those independently published, prompted me to write reviews, and therefore start this blog, and since then meet so many amazing people and cultivate amazing friendships.
Last spring, I came across The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. I read the synopsis, saw it was getting high praise, and then I chickened out. I couldn’t have run faster. Young people. Cancer. No. Way. Generally, I’m a sucker when it comes to subjects like this anyway – I always watch Beaches or Steel Magnolias, but damnit, even though I know what happens, I still can’t manage to not lie in the fetal position and snot all over myself.
A couple months went by, and I crossed paths with some other avid readers, like myself, all who were SCREAMING for people to read this book. I always felt there was no way I could broach this. My husband’s brother passed away in January 2011 (two years ago today, to be exact). My son was 5 weeks old, and it was a horribly dark time. So bittersweet. We had this awesome baby, and then Tim’s twin brother was dying. I knew reading this story would open up a lot of feelings I remember having in regards to Jeff’s cancer, but more importantly to the way it affected my husband and my in-laws. I said at one point, not long after I had Cohen, that I could not ever imagine burying my child. John Green pointed this out for me not far into TFiOS.
I fell in love with the characters (all of them), the writing and the story from page one. While I knew it was going to be a sad story, the way that John presented the subject was beautiful. It’s amazing how connected to fictional characters you can become, and this was never truer than when reading this story. John was able to lace amazing humor, sarcasm, romance, and HONESTY, so much honesty into this, that it was impossible to put down, even while crying so hard, I couldn’t see the screen of my iPad.
Yes, as I predicted, this story ripped me open, but it did much more than that. It truly put me back together in way that I didn’t realize I was broken. It amazes me how much you can love and learn from people that aren’t real. John is a genius. He created these characters that grab you IMMEDIATELY and don’t let go. Ever. I finished this over a week ago, and have since found myself re-reading certain parts on numerous occasions. I wasn’t even going to review it, to be completely honest, because I knew ^^^ this would occur. Just a whole lot of nonsensical rambling, with some memorable quotes interspersed. I know I’m not doing it justice. And no one can. It just must has to be experienced and felt.
The day after reading this, I crawled into bed with my son (he’s 2) and had a long talk with him. He just stared at me, babbled on about the humidifier, his train table and the stars and moon. I knew, though, this story made me think. It gouged out some stuff in me, and hopefully I can be a better version of myself because of it. I was then watching Private Practice and Sheldon (one of the doctors on the show) said something that reminded me so much of this story, and just life in general. And its importance.
Not everyone is so lucky to have that. But many are. I know for my husband, his family found comfort in the fact that Jeff had that. And I know someday I’d have that. It is easy to take for granted, but this book reminded me how important it is to make extra sure NOT to take advantage of this. And of life.
I hope that if you’re scared to read this, you’ll give it a chance. Yes, it’s a sad story. But it’s more than that. And it deserves to be read for the reasons other than it’s sad. Life is sad, sometimes; in fact, a lot of times, life is sad. And unfair. But reading a story like this, reminded me that even in the saddest of moments, for people in the worst circumstances, there’s still happiness, and things can be okay. I’m not sure how I’ll change my life, but I know it’s already changed. And will keep changing.
SIDE NOTE TANGENT (again): In John’s speaking engagement at Carnegie Hall on Tuesday night he said, the true character of a hero is not being able to go from weakness to strength, but rather strength to weakness. I got goosebumps when he said that and I couldn’t possibly agree more – especially when it comes to writing an obituary and the wording of so and so “lost his/her battle with cancer” — there is no losing the battle. Fighting it at all is winning, suffering is winning, and being the kind of hero that lives through this is NEVER losing the battle.
Unfortunately Cohen never got to meet Jeff because of all sorts of crappy circumstances at the end. But we know that he’s left his mark and Cohen will know just great his Uncle Jeff was. It’s nice that today, of all days, I’ve finally gotten this review up and written and it can serve to be a great remembrance of him.
You don’t get to know how long you’ll be here for, but never underestimate your mark on the world.
Oh – and in case I didn’t make myself clear – read this book.
Many thanks to Sarah, too, for letting me text her in the late hours of the night when I finished this book and needed counseling. And just for encouraging me to pick the book up in the first place. :)
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