Once the lizards were safely back home in the great outdoors I finished the book. After seeing trailers for The Fault in Our Stars I decided to read the book the movie is based on. I knew I had seen that book advertised in the past on my Kindle. Obviously there wouldn’t be any great deals. It’s a full motion picture in theaters now. I checked out a sample for free. It was most of the first chapter and I decided, language aside, it would be worth the $8 purchase price.
It was an interesting book. My star ratings held steady at 4 stars because of the unnecessary language. If it weren’t for that I would have easily given it 5 out of 5 stars. At least until the last few chapters. My star ratings declined more as my interest plummeted. It was hard to finish the story. I think it should have ended long before it did. After all is said and done, I would give this book a 3.5 star rating.
There were so many aspects of the story that I really liked. I couldn’t help but use diabetes as a comparison. Diabetes is nothing like cancer, I realize, but that was how I identified with Hazel. She was diagnosed with stage IV thyroid cancer at age 13. She knew the rest of her life would never be the same. Three months before I turned 10 years old I was diagnosed with a disease that would be my constant companion for the rest of my life as well. Type 1 diabetes.
I identified with Hazel because of our incurable diseases. Something inside me rejoiced with her outlook on life because it’s how I feel. She would get so annoyed with anyone who became their disease. She hated being pitied and especially despised being lauded a hero for having cancer. Amen amen amen! I love that she believed nobody dies of cancer, they live with cancer. Diabetes is nothing like cancer but even then I love the sentiment that I am a normal person living with diabetes. It puts things in perspective I think. My favorite ideal was charities that had nothing to do with the ailments of the founder. Like a foundation name with something to the effect of “People With Cancer Who Want to Find a Cure for Cholera.”
The book was so real. The characters were believable. Their reactions were so unfiltered and real. I loved the positive attitudes in the middle of absolutely rotten experiences. “I’m on a roller coaster that only goes up.” The most believable part was how the characters reacted when things got unbearable.
Hazel pointed out how nobody could ever say that she never complained. Because when things got bad she wanted to die, she didn’t feel emotionally strong, and she was anything but positive. No one can ever say I handle my diabetes like a champ. That I never complain. That I never wish it away. The truth is some days are horrible. I get depressed and frustrated and angry. I think that is a fairly normal reaction to bad days with a permanent disease. It doesn’t make me feel like less of a person for being human either.
So much of the book seemed spot on. Where it all fell apart for me was near the end. Augustus had his wish granted (think Make a Wish Foundation) but the purpose of the trip was disappointing. Fine, I get that. But then this new character they met on the trip was not believable to me. He was such a jerk it was too fantastic and unrealistic. I don’t understand why he kept popping up in unexpected and really stupid ways.
It wasn’t just that character. Cancer reared its ugly head and put the rest of the characters through the most emotionally wrenching time of their lives. That was where I stopped relating to the characters. Their outlook on religion and the purpose of life was so completely different from my own that I just couldn’t stay engaged in the story. The funeral didn’t make me cry at all. It felt pathetic, for lack of a better term.
I know that is completely unfair to give up on a national bestseller so close to the end of the story. I have my own religious point of view that gives me peace in adversity. Not everyone shares this way of looking at the world. I can respect that. What seemed sadder to me than the sad circumstances was that the characters seemingly lost all hope. The hope they once preached never seemed to return either.
For a book to be so positive then suddenly become so hopelessly negative turned me off. For a book I wanted to love, I finished it feeling like I could have lived my own life and saved myself the time of reading about someone else’s disappointments. I guess I just expected more.
I’m sure the author feels like he ended on a happy note but I disagree. Nobody seemed happy. They were more lost than ever. It was like they were in a holding period waiting for everyone to die into oblivion. Hazel always criticized the support group leader for the way he told his cancer story. She felt his life so wrapped up in the story he forgot to live and do anything else. I feel like the characters were so shattered by the death that they were on their way to becoming Support Group Patricks themselves.
My high school Creative Writing teacher used to always say that there is a reason why authors put things in their books. If it bothered me or bored me I was supposed to find out what the purpose was and how it related to the story. So what am I supposed to get out of this book? That life really is useless and if you get cancer then your life holds even less meaning? That whether it’s better to have loved and lost than not at all, in the end everyone dies anyway? That everyone has their breaking point with no return? I just cannot accept that.
I believe that everyone agreed to this life, including the ups and downs and broken bodies. I believe that through the Atonement of Jesus Christ our burdens may be eased. Not taken away but when yoked, or teamed up, with the Savior our burdens will be lighter and easier to bear. I believe God gives us challenges on purpose. He allows bad things to happen! First of all, everyone has the right to choose and many bad things (war) are a result of someone else’s choices. Any illness or other personal trial are an opportunity to become humble where we can turn to Him for support. I believe that my life is His gift to me and how I live my life is my gift to Him.
I believe people can change. For better or worse. A breaking point is only one if we let it be. And even then we can choose to change later. So maybe the characters will find peace in some form. That’s not how the book seemed to end though. For that I give it 3.5 stars. It’s only a work of fiction but in my opinion it could have had a greater impact with a few minor tweaks. I’m still willing to watch the movie. On Netflix.