Monday, June 3, 2013

The Fault In Our Stars

Every once in a while a book comes along that hits all the right notes and you cannot bring yourself to put it down until you read the last sentence - and then you start over.  Whether it is the tone, the characters, the underlying story itself, or all three, it captivates you from the first word to the last, every time you read it.
For me, the tone of the book is always the initial determining factor.  I can fall in love with a story after just three or four sentences (or still keep reading and trying after 50 pages before finally giving up) and know that I must buy it and read it right away. 
And for me, such a book is The Fault In Our Stars.
The first sentence (Late in the winter of my seventeenth year, my mother decided I was depressed, presumably because I rarely left the house, spent quite a lot of time in bed, read the same book over and over, ate infrequently, and devoted quite a bit of my abundant free time to thinking about death) immediately drew me in.  I was curious - why was she thinking about death? Why did she as a seventeen-year-old feel like she had abundant time to do anything? Who ever does? And why does she sound like an overachiever?
The main character Hazel, who suffers from thyroid cancer and metastatic lung cancer since age thirteen, is captivating.  She is a simple girl yet there is nothing average about her; in a way she is completely withdrawn from the entrapments of teenage life, but in other ways she is your girl next door, living as if she were healthy, not ready to give up.  Almost dying from pneumonia, a side effect of cancer, she travels to Amsterdam to meet her favorite author, mother, boyfriend, BiPAP and oxygen tanks in tow.  Therein lies her strength and the appeal of the story - it is not just a book about cancer, it is a book about living despite it. The other characters are great as well, and the unexpected relationship between Hazel and Augustus is perhaps more emotionally mature than most fictional adult relationships.  He lost a leg to cancer and thus can relate to her and understand her, more than we first realize. The characters you feel sorry for are the parents - as Hazel puts it, "There is only one thing in this world shittier than biting it from cancer when you're sixteen, and that's having a kid who bites it from cancer."
And that is something I, as a mother, can well imagine but hope to never ever have to understand.
Anyway, if you are looking for a great book that is a pageturner where you can wait to turn each page so as to savor the well written words - pick up The Fault In Our Stars