The Fault in Our Stars

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Book Reviews Living with an Illness ME

What it’s like to live with an illness

The Fault in Our Stars and misconceptions about people living with a chronic illness.While I was enjoying my time off last week, I decided to treat myself to some of the books and movies I haven’t had the time to read/watch. One book that I have had on my list for quite some time is The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. Apart from being an author of young adult fiction, John Green also has a YouTube channel with his brother Hank, and I love their videos. They’re both such intelligent and proud nerds. They also promote and raise awareness about a variety of causes from political situations in the world, to environmental issues and do so with humour and kindness. I happened to already have TFiOS, so I decided I would give it a go and I was not disappointed.

The story is told from the perspective of Hazel, a teenage cancer patient and begins when she is urged by her mother to attend a cancer support group. I have to admit that I am not a huge fan of young adult novels because…well…the stupid teenagers annoy me. There, I said it. I have been a teenager and I was never that idiotic, and even if my memory fails me, I know plenty of teenagers who are so much more than their literary counterparts. I found the characters in this book to be a complete breath of fresh air. They’re witty, intelligent, while still retaining the innocence and naivety of teenagers. The fact that they’re also dealing with cancer, adds complexity and depth. I fell in love with the characters, was totally drawn into their adventure and was heartbroken for them too.

After I read the book, I went to Goodreads to rate it and to browse through the comments and reviews. I’m never interested in why people feel the same way about a book as I do, I want to know why people feel differently about a book. I came across a very long rambling rant about how The Fault in Our Stars was the worst book the reviewer had ever read and she had a number of people who agreed with her. Just because a book is popular, it does not mean that everyone will like it. For example, I loathe and detest the extremely popular Fifty Shades of Crap Grey and Hamlet, Romeo and Katniss Everdeen are just some of the characters that annoy me. We won’t all connect with or even understand the characters in different stories, but what I found remarkable in this girl’s rant was that she accused the author of having no idea what teenagers with cancer would feel like and she didn’t think teenagers would be that witty or intelligent. This is what she had to say: “One thing I don’t buy is that teens with cancer suddenly become magically wise. They become terrified, confused, depressed and angry. They DON’T magically gain great insight in life and go around puking long monologues about the meaning of life.” The author, John Green, did actually work with cancer patients and their families as a chaplain, but even if I did not know that, I do know plenty of teenagers who have ME, and they do not spend their time terrified, confused, depressed and angry. My friend Peter has had ME since he was 14 years old, and he is one of the most well-read people I know because of all the time he had to read so many books, much like Hazel in TFiOS. Also, when you’re faced with a situation not only where you could die, but where you are dealing with a massive disruption to what people perceive as a normal life, you find meaning in your own life. I not only found that to be totally plausible, but know it to be so. I’ve been ill for over 13 years and I can assure you that I find meaning in so many things that other people just take for granted.

I find it ridiculous that we think so little of teenagers and this is what John Green had to say on his website: “Teenagers are plenty smart. I don’t sit around and worry whether teenagers are smart. I mean, most of the people currently reading ‘The Scarlet Letter’ and ‘The Great Gatsby’…are teenagers.” This was evident when I last met up with my cousin and her 15 year old son. He’s a teenager, and loves computer games and has a new trendy hairstyle, BUT just in those few hours I spent with him, he discussed the art in the National Gallery in a very thoughtful and intelligent manner and talked about The Tale of Two Cities which he was reading.

The Fault in Our Stars is a wonderful, touching story and I would recommend it as suitable for everyone. Check out some teens talking about the trailer for the movie and what they thought of the book below.