Friday, February 8, 2013

The Fault in Our Stars

Volume One in The Books That Matter Series

It's amazing how books have a way of coming into people's lives just when they need them the most. Hazel, the main character of The Fault in Our Stars, would probably laugh at this as it bears striking resemblance to an affirmation hanging in her boyfriend's house: "In the darkest days, the Lord puts the best people into your life." But in my opinion, both are true.

When a friend of mine told me about The Fault in Our Stars by John Green, I knew I had to read it. But when she told me how she almost stopped reading it because the subject matter hit too close to home, I realized that books have a way of finding the right people at the right time. And I am very thankful that this book found its way to her and in turn to me.

Being a teenager is tough, being a teenager with cancer is horrible, but being a teenager with terminal cancer describes Hazel, the sixteen year old main character from The Fault In Our Stars. But as Hazel describes, "You have a choice in this world, I believe, about how to tell sad stories, and we made the funny choice--" And that is exactly what John Green has done with his book. He took a depressing, grim subject matter and turned parts of it into a lighter universal story about teenagers, allowing readers at times to forget that these characters had cancer.

Now, I don't want to be one of those people who goes on about fictional characters when real children and teenagers are facing cancer each day. But maybe that's why John Green wrote this story. He had worked with teenagers who had cancer and had wanted to write about it. But as he states in the beginning of the book before the novel begins, "Neither novels  nor their readers benefit from attempts to divine whether any facts hide inside a story. Such efforts attack the very idea that made-up stories can matter, which is sort of the foundational assumption of our species."

So yes, this story is fictional and the characters made up but the subject matter is so strong and true that there is something much deeper at play here. In my writing, I tackle tough problems people face in life, often making my books too heavy. My friend, the same one who recommended this book, gave me some sage advice. She heard somewhere that for every dark moment in a book, there must be something light. It is a balancing act, one that John Green has mastered with his blend of a heavy storyline and a sense of humor that keeps the plot feeling like one about teenagers and not always one about terminal cancer.

If you are looking for a book with a powerful message, I strongly recommend The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. It will make you laugh and cry, leaving you thinking long after you read the last word.

And that's my opinion For What It Is Worth. Check in soon for Volume 2 in The Books That Matter Series, which will feature a middle grade novel with another strong message. If you want more information about childhood cancer or are interested in donating to organizations that help children with cancer, please visit one of the following sites:

For St. Jude's Children Research Hospital:

For The Tomorrow Fund Clinic:

For The Jimmy Fund:

1 comment:

  1. Karen--you are absolutely right! Books have a way of coming into our lives at the right time--maybe because we are open to certain aspects of them as we read, or maybe because there's something big at work in the universe that helps us keep learning (reading?) what we need to learn. And you are right about John Green writing a book that's about teenagers, not about cancer. No matter what we write, it's about people first and how they handle the things that happen to them--because we are all people first. Not cancer patients or survivors. Not siblings of the disabled. Not teachers or even writers. As human beings who happen to be writers, it's good for us to always remember that.
    I can't wait to read your next blog on books that matter--you've given me a lot to think about, and I like that!
    Thank you!