Hi, everyone. Today we will be discussing The Fault In Our Stars, which was this month's selection for the A Beautiful Mess book club. I hope you enjoyed the book as much as I did! Although I feel almost bad typing that, as so many painful things happen within the pages of this book.
First off, you should know that this discussion (and probably many of the comments to follow) will contain SPOILERS!!!! So if you haven't finished reading the book, I'd highly recommend holding off on reading this until you have.
Personal Thoughts on this Book:
-I had heard this book was geared for the "young reader" audience. I remember this being mentioned to me with just a tiny bit of (I thought) snobbery behind the comment. And I must say, the book is a quick read and, yes, is based on teenage characters. But the subject matter (life + death, infinity, love, etc.) includes such big things to be dealing with at that age. And the characters behave and deal with these realities with way more maturity and wisdom than I think most adults I know (including myself) would.
-I love how self-aware, but also how unashamedly bookish, this book is too. 🙂 Let me explain. Hazel herself states that cancer books suck. But she loves Imperial Affliction, which is a (fictional) cancer book. And The Fault In Our Stars is certainly a cancer book. But the book is also highly aware that it's a cancer book and strives (and in my opinion, succeeds) at being so much more. I also love when an author very plainly and unashamedly loves to reference and nod to literature. This book makes numerous references to great literature such as The Great Gatsby, Ulysses, many great poets, and of course Shakespeare. I have a feeling there are many references that I didn't even pick up on, as I am certainly not the most well-read person in the world.
-I love when a book surprises you, not because it literally gives no clues to what may happen, but because it causes you to get so absorbed in the story that you ignore said clues. There are SO many foreshadowing examples that basically spell it out for us that Augustus will die first. He always hangs up the phone first. Both characters press "play" on the in-flight movie at the same time, but Augustus's starts (and ends) first. Hazel is our first-person narrator, and since Imperial Affliction ends with the death of its first-person narrator, it seems unlikely The Fault In Our Stars will. But I was still shocked when Gus tells Hazel about about his diagnosis. I suppose it's because I was beginning to believe, like Hazel, that they would be together until she died (which I was beginning to hope would be at least some years out). John Green, you totally got me!
-I think I cried at least a little every time I picked up this book. A few times I was reading on a plane, and I was trying *so* hard not to cry so I didn't look like a crazy lady to my fellow passengers! Feel free to chime in with your tissue count.
*What do you think about Hazel's initial reason for not wanting to let Augustus into her life? She talks a lot about trying to minimize her grenade effect on the world. She feels she will not be able to stop the pain that will surely come to her parents when she passes, but do you think this is the real reason why she seems to spend most of her time alone or with only her mom? Although a heroic thought–to minimize hurt to those we care about–is this really possible to the degree Hazel would like? Does it then make Augustus less heroic because he knows of his cancer but still chooses to fall more in love with Hazel while on their trip to Amsterdam?
*What do you make of the notion that the universe wants to be noticed? This is something that Hazel and her dad (who cries SO much in the book! He's so sweet-seeming) discuss, and Hazel thinks more and more about it at the end of the book.
*Probably many of us can identify with Augustus's wish to live for a big reason, or die for epic cause. He often sacrifices his life while playing video games with Isac for the sake of saving others. Is this a good or bad thing to want in life? I mean, is this something any of us can ever control anyway? Augustus seems to be disappointed that his life will not mean something more. But does life ever mean more? I think for me, watching Augustus (and Hazel) discuss and wrestle with this idea reminded me that I ought to always work to take whatever is in front of me and maximize those experiences. As much as any of us might wish for a grander life, we will only get one life (the one we are living now), and we just have to make it the very best it can be. But perhaps that's too easy for me to say, since I don't have cancer and don't have to face death today like Augustus did.
*I'd love to hear your thoughts on Augustus's unlit cigarette. Did you love it? Did you hate it? I thought it was an annoying little quirk at first. Apparently I'm kind of a jerk. 🙂 But then I realized (slowly, because I'm also not that profound of a reader) that this was probably more of a symbol for Augustus. It was his control over his health/life. He was denying death and its power every time he held a cigarette in his mouth but didn't light it. But of course this control is an illusion. One day we feel we have it, and the next day we don't. For Augustus, I guess he probably felt he lost it once he drove late that night to buy cigarettes but then had to call Hazel (and later an ambulance) to help him because he wasn't strong enough to accomplish this task on his own due to his sickness. I cried when Hazel gave him a pack of cigarettes at his funeral.
You do NOT have to discuss these ideas. It's just a jumping-off point. Let us know: Did you like the book? Hate the book? Get bored with the book? Cry your eyes out with the book? Are we all making plans to see the movie together???
Thanks for joining me this month! And don't forget that in March we'll be reading The Lowland. xo. Emma