The Fault in Our Stars
“Cancer books suck.” observed Hazel is seventeen year old teenage girl who has survived cancer. She lives with her mom and dad and is home schooled because the cancer left her unable to breath without mechanical assistance. She spends most of her time reading the same book over and over and thinking about Death.
Just the same, The Fault in Our Stars is not a cancer book. It’s a book about how a young adult learns to live despite her illness. She has questions about Life and the Universe. She has normal emotions and desires for human companionship.
One might have trouble deciding to read this book. I certainly did. I did not have any desire to read about some fictional character suffering from cancer. I expected it to be sad and discouraging. However, my book club decided to read it and I went along with the decision and to step outside my boundaries and comfort zone. I am glad I did. John Green wrote a wonderful story of love, hope, fear, and human companionship. The story is often funny and hopeful.
The book Hazel reads over and over is titled, An Imperial Affliction. For her, it is too special to talk about. She holds it close to her heart, protectively, concerned that her best friends, and even her parents, will not appreciate it and destroy the special feelings she as for it. Taking a chance, she shares it with her new friend, Gus.
I certainly understand her hesitation. I enjoy movies, immensely. Often I walk out of the theater having witnessed a special moment or concept I wonder if the Universe, itself, hasn’t arranged something special just for me. Something I need to witness, that day, that hour…. I have learned, repeatedly, that watching movies with friends can change the effect movies have on me and as a result I prefer to go to the movies alone. Like Hazel guards her favorite book, I guard my movie ritual.
The Fault in Our Stars is a hero’s journey. Epic, classic. It is not not a journey through illness, but a journey through life and discovery in spite of tragic illness. Surrendering to the unknown and randomness of life. Pulling oneself up and trudging forward.
Once a chaplain caring for children like Hazel, the author, John Green, said he believed that “life is utterly random and capricious, and arbitrary,” once feeling life’s randomness “robs human life of its meaning.” Yet after writing and finishing The Fault in Our Stars he no longer held those feelings.
For a young girl ravished by illness, yet not spoiled in spirit, The Fault in Our Stars is a search for meaning, for completeness. Hazel steps from the shadows of convalescence into the light of normalcy and pursues her answers. For myself, the story not only renewed my personal quest for the meaning of life, demonstrating that it is not our disadvantages which define us, but our strengths.