The Fault in Our Stars is John Green's latest YA novel. It's a story about two young people who fall in love and who happen to have cancer. I've read in a million places that this a cancer book that's not about cancer and I'd say that's accurate. It's about how you live when dying is your reality.
John Green is amazing in many ways and I have a nerd crush on him. (A nerd crush ((a word I just made up)) is a non-sexual crush you have on someone who is too awesome to not have a crush on, but who you are incidentally not attracted to in any way.) His books are great and everyone should read them because he is an adult who has somehow never forgotten what being a teenager feels like. I had a good time as a kid in high school. I wasn't overly popular, but had friends. I wasn't a genius, but was liked by my teachers. But I, like many adults, can no longer recall what it felt like to by sixteen.
Back to TFiOS. The story is narrated by Hazel - a sixteen year-old girl who is dying of cancer. She struggles each day to keep on living with lungs that "suck at being lungs". I wish I could find the words to describe Hazel that Hazel herself wouldn't hate, but I'm kind of at a loss. I guess what I can say is that TFiOS is like the anti-cancer cancer book. It is well written and executed beautifully, but the story is ugly in that it is, to me, truthful. Cancer is ugly and awful and life can be equally awful and entirely unfair. I was constantly reminded that people fighting a losing battle with cancer are still people, just like me. They still deserve to be treated as people, not the walking dead. We don't need to eulogize cancer patients while they still breathe, we need to remind them that they are still them and we are still us and cancer can't change that. For people whom death is imminent (b/c I guess I can't say dying b/c we are all dying, just at a different rates), and I don't know this for sure, I think they want to maintain their dignity and we could all do more to help that. I think this is best achieved by doing nothing. Not nothing, just nothing special.
I hate that so many books or movies or tv shows about cancer allow the disease to become the defining trait of someone or a modifier to their pre-cancer traits. I love that TFiOS doesn't do that. I would consider it a personal favor if everyone would read this book. Then, go here and learn about Esther Earl. (I realize that it sucks that to learn about someone who touched many lives, I have to send you to an obit. It sucks that you learn about how someone was amazing by reading about what people said when they died. I find this point awful and I wish there was a better summary I could find for people who don't know who Esther Earl was, but I don't have one. This is the best I could do. I encourage anyone unfamiliar with Esther to read the obit first and then do some googling because your experience with the plethora of videos and such will be heightened when you have some context.) Then donate to the charity Esther's family created in her memory.
Coincidentally, today is Esther Earl day. A celebrated by Nerfighteria as an occasion to tell the people you love that you love them. I think in honor of the girl who influenced a book I now love, I will tell people I love that I love them. And, as always, don't forget to be awesome.
Educate yourself about the topics in this post:
- John Green: http://johngreenbooks.com/
- The Fault in Our Stars: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/11870085-the-fault-in-our-stars
- This Star Won't Go Out: http://tswgo.org/