The Fault In Our Stars: BOOK MAMA’S Review For Moms (and YA)

By: John Green

So this is the first book I read DIGITALLY on my iPad.  I’ve been a hold-out for a while now—lugging stacks of books around when I travel and quite literally running out of room in my house to store books—and I am constantly giving my books away and yet they seem to continue to multiply.  Every table and every shelf is filled.  Every cupboard and every chest filled.  Husband asks on maybe a bi-monthly basis when I am planning to get rid of some books.  It’s a problem.

Everyone at work was raving about this book, but it was always checked out and I kept forgetting to order it on Amazon and my daughter said: don’t you have the iBooks app on your work iPad, and I said: yes and she said: well, you could like, download it and like, start reading it tonight.  And so I did.  And finished it somewhat later that night.  Like a lot later.  And then downloaded everything else John Green has ever written.  It’s easy to download books.  Dangerously easy.  Here are some neat things about reading books on your iPad instead of an actual book:

Storage problem?  Solved.

When you fall asleep reading…your iPad knows after awhile and it falls asleep too.  Your lamp on your bedside table doesn’t do that.  Well, mine doesn’t.

If you read about something or someone that you want to know more about, you can change screens right then and there and look it up, then with a quick swipe you are back into your book.

You can blow dry your hair while you are reading without having to prop up the book.

And as I mentioned above: if you finish a book that you really like, you can, within moments, start reading the next book by the author.

And as you read deep into the night, you can continually enlarge the font if you are crying so hard that you can’t really see.

The Fault in Our Stars is technically a YA book—which if you aren’t aware is a whole genre—a genre on a meteoric rise—called Young Adult.  Technically the whole Twilight series was written for “young adults,” as was Hunger Games.  But just as Harry Potter was written for children, lots of books cross the age barriers and become popular with everyone.  I actually have a little roll of stickers in my desk at work that say YA and I’m supposed to put one of those on the spine of any book I process that may have “R-rated or in any way questionable” material—either thematic or specific.  So it’s a little confusing—books can be in the YA genre but may not actually get the YA sticker because there’s nothing truly dodgy in the content that will have parents calling and complaining that their child checked out such an inappropriate book from our library.

Deciding whether to stick a YA label on can be tricky.  In some ways it’s like putting the “Graphic Lyrics label on the record album”—guaranteed sales boost with some kids.  But it can be a tough call…if the f-word appears 15 times in the first chapter, it’s an automatic but what about a book that’s about kids dying of cancer?  They aren’t swearing or having sex or taking drugs (at least not recreational drugs) but they’re young and they’re dying—that’s pretty heavy stuff.  Is it harder for a high school kid to read about a high school kid dying of cancer than it is for a mother of a high school kid to read about a high school kid dying of cancer?  There has to be an easier way to ask that.

It’s hard to write about cancer.  No one wants to hear more about cancer because everyone gets it and most people die of it and it just sucks.  Cancer sucks.  But, people have written about it and written about it well.  Elizabeth Berg’s Talk Before Sleep is a great book about her best friend dying of cancer which sounds really weird to say, but really the book is more about their friendship and the women themselves—who they were before the illness and who they become.  Anna Quindlen’s One True Thing is an amazing book that is really about the complicated love between a mother and her daughter, but the story takes place while the mother is dying of cancer.  And maybe it’s a cheap plot technique?  Maybe the tension in any story between any two characters or within a family is automatically dramatically heightened because someone is dying?  But so what.  People die.  And people live.  And people fall in love, and some people impact a lot of other people while they are here on Earth even if their time is limited.

John Green succeeds in writing an incredibly funny and romantic and smart story about two teenagers who meet in a cancer support group—Augustus has already lost a leg and Hazel Grace cannot go anywhere without an oxygen tank and tubes in her nose.  These are kids facing the largest possible considerations…life, death, love, honesty, integrity, but they are still just kids—smart, funny, deep thinking kids.  I wish I knew them.  And that’s what makes it even sadder for the characters in the story who do know them and must daily face the fact of losing them—terminal means terminal.  It’s a crusher of a story, but an important and beautiful one.  I’m so impressed by John Green…and Hazel and Augustus and their search for meaning in brutally shortened lives.

It is, of course, already in pre-production at a major film studio and it’s definitely one of those books that will make you care that they don’t “fuck it up” in the movie.  The casting will matter to me—the director will matter—I might not even be able to see it because Green created a little world—a perfect little infinite and triumphant, but totally unfair, world that was so real and tragic and thrilling and so much about what it means to be truly alive and in love.  This story is so pure; I’m not sure the movie will be able to deliver that transcendence.  I don’t know.  Maybe.  Stranger things have happened.  Read it.  Get the tissues.

Fun back story: Green announced he would sign all 150,000 copies of the first print run and the book shot to the top of Amazon and Barnes & Noble’s best seller lists 6 months before publication—what a guy!  Not only is he incredibly astute, sensitive, and brilliant, but he’s a marketing genius, too!

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