The Fault in our Stars
In this occasional series, I will be discussing books that a tweenage girl, Jonelle, instructed me to read. And when I say "instructed me to read," of course I mean "commanded me to read." For those of you who don't know her, she is a highly intelligent, sweet, precocious and fairly bossy young lady.
A large part of the reason why I read this book, and the other works that will be discussed in this blog series, is that I want to understand how tweenagers think. These posts will not be a review of the book per se as much as an exploration of my random thoughts on the book.
How did I get myself into this?
"There will come a time when all of us are dead. All of us. There will come a time when there are no human beings remaining to remember that anyone ever existed or that our species ever did anything. There will be no one left to remember Aristotle or Cleopatra, let alone you. Everything that we did and built and wrote and thought and discovered will be forgotten and all of this will have been for naught. Maybe that time is coming soon and maybe it is millions of years away, but even if we survive the collapse of our sun, we will not survive forever. There was time before organisms experienced consciousness, and there will be time after. And if the inevitability of human oblivion worries you, I encourage you to ignore it. God knows that’s what everyone else does."
The first book I read was John Green's The Fault In Our Stars (2012).
Having no idea what I was in for, except that a twelve-year-old girl (soon to be thirteen) wanted me to read it, I was pleasantly surprised. This is a very good book. It touched upon the nature of pain and suffering and loss in an honest, forthright manner. It followed a teenaged girl and her experiences dealing with cancer and how, in a support group for other teenage cancer sufferers, she found life...and love.
On a personal note, a few months prior to my reading this work, my dearest friend passed away from cancer. The subject matter hit me particularly hard and on more than one occasion, I had to stop reading and put the book away until I could pull myself together. I could almost see what my friend endured reflected in the words on the page.
I initially encountered the quotation from this book, reprinted at the top of this post, months before Jonelle asked me to read the book. Frankly, I was stunned by it. I don't know if I have the words to express what I felt when I read this for the first time. The degree of angst and mature existential contemplation is not what I expected when I began this book. Nor was it what I expected from a book recommended to me by a 12 year old girl (soon to be thirteen). Remember, this quote is from a Young Adult novel, from the middle (page 12-13) of the first chapter for Heaven's sake!
At one time in the not too distant past, my curmudgeonly self would have very much disapproved of any girl, not yet in high school, reading subject matter like this. It was my firm belief that the young should be allowed to stay young as long as possible and that mature and adult themes should be kept from them until adulthood was upon them. But current-day pop culture seems insistent on morphing tweenagers into teenagers and teenagers into adults. I don't like it, but there it is.
As a result, I was interested in what thoughts Jonelle had regarding this book. Would she be upset by the portrayal of youth suffering? How would she react to the representation of love...or death?
Her actual response was not what I expected.
When asked what she thought of the book, Jonelle stated that she thought the book offered a realistic depiction of the trials faced by the characters. Jonelle felt the book was very romantic, presenting the young characters in a very mature light. Coupled with the romantic aspects, Jonelle thought the book represented teenagers as better able to cope with life challenges than adults gave them credit for. In addition to holding these surprisingly mature opinions, she mentioned that she really enjoyed the interaction between the teenaged main characters and especially their moments of teen rebellion. This interaction served as a reminder to the reader that despite whatever trials they faced and no matter how stoically they faced them, these people were still teenagers.
After my reading this book and particularly after my brief discussion with Jonelle, I have come to the conclusion that perhaps I ought to re-examine my beliefs regarding the youth of today. Maybe the need to be a guardian, while still an imperative for me, can be supplemented by the chance to become a mentor. And not just the older to the younger, but perhaps the younger to the older as well, where each can learn from, and teach the other...