Book 1 of YA for Adults Book Challenge

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Title: The Fault In Our Stars

Author: John Green

I’d like to start off by admitting something…I have already read a few of the books on this list. However, some I have read more recently than others. In order to better review these books, I will be re-reading books I haven’t read in a while…it’s only fair to both the books and myself.

I’m sure countless thousands of reviews have been written and shared over the Internet about this book in hundreds of different languages. It’s a phenomenon that has swept world-wide and has only grown with its upcoming film premiere this upcoming weekend (the U.S. release anyway). I read this book a few years ago as part of a YA book club that my friends had asked me to join. When I had read the synopsis, I muttered to myself “Ugh…a cancer book”. As soon as I met Hazel and read her thoughts on the subject matter – “Cancer books suck” – I knew I had found a kindred spirit. No I do not have cancer. I have had family members who have had cancer, one in remission and one passed. Yet, both family members were older when they learned of their illness. I don’t think I need to state the obvious in comparing a devastating illness in the elderly compared to someone barely out of their teens.

For this review I’d like to comment on where John Green got his inspiration for the title of this book – only because I have yet to read a commentary dedicated solely to the title. I’m sure you can read thousands of reviews about the countless “feels” you get from reading the story. Besides, I think we all agree this is a good book and deserves a chance to be read by all at least one time….Anyway, Green has been quoted in deriving his book’s title from a famous line in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar

“The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves, that we are underlings.” (I,ii,139-140)

[To me] In Shakespeare’s work, it is being said that fate is not to blame for what happens in our life – contrary to popular belief brought about by Shakespeare’s OWN work. No, we – humans – are to blame for our own faults and mistakes. It may seem that we are merciless against what the Fates have planned for us but that isn’t true…”we are underlings”. The Fates are busy worrying about more important things than us mere mortals. We must take care of our own problems. Let’s be honest, Caesar was sort of an ass. I’m not condoning murder, but you could see his “fate” coming a mile away.

Green, in an interesting twist, changes the famous words to read that “the fault is in our stars”. Living with illness, whether it’s cancer or otherwise, is not a fate I would wish upon anyone. Whether you are the patient or family member watching it happen…it just sucks all around. I feel that Green is making that point with is title. No one would consciously make the decision to become grievously ill or would actually want someone else to suffer through it. Hazel and Augustus have not even reached the “prime” of their lives. They’re children when they’re first diagnosed. Was it their fault? A mistake from a past life? Some consequence from the misbegotten youths of their parents? No. No. Definitely not. It was fate, it was written in their stars. They were doomed from the start. The title is just take on the age old saying, “Life isn’t fair”. We can’t control what families we’re born into or what obstacles we come into contact with, but we can control how we meet those challenges and we will be remembered (by those that know us) by how we dealt with those same obstacles. Here are some of my favorite quotes…I stress some because rewriting the book in its entirety would break copyright laws…

“You are so busy being you that you have no idea how utterly unprecedented you are.”

“I fell in love [with]the way you fall asleep; slowly, and then all at once.”

“It would be a privilege to have my heart broken by you.”

“Sometimes it seems the universe wants to be noticed.”

“Some infinities are bigger than other infinities.”

“How are the eyes? Oh excellent. I mean they’re not in my head is the only problem.”

“You gave me forever within the numbered days, and I’m grateful.”

“You don’t get to choose if you get hurt in this world, old man, but you do have some say in who hurts you. I like my choices. I hope she likes hers. I do.”

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Here’s to hoping that the theatrical version won’t crush us with feels! On to the next book in my challenge 🙂

Nerdfighters Unite!

I haven’t been part of the community for long, but I watch the vlogbrothers and crash course videos has now become part of my daily routine as I get ready for work in the morning. John and Hank Green have asked all Nerdfighters out there to fill out their second census to get a better idea of what our community is like. If you haven’t done so already, fill out the census here. I just did. It took about 15 minutes. I really liked how they allotted spaces for us to not only give more suggestions but write how we felt. Take the time to give your thanks 🙂

Oh John Green, you’re killing me…

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So my cousin’s girlfriend lent me a copy of John Green’s “Looking for Alaska” a few weeks ago and I decided to finally read it…cause it’s rude to hold onto people’s books, they could be missing them (Yes, I believe books have feelings! Don’t judge me!). Honestly I wasn’t expecting much going into it – in order to make sure the book didn’t fall below my expectations.

***If you have NOT read the the book, please click away NOW. I WILL be mentioning happenings that are critical to the plot of the story. Don’t blame me for SPOILERS!!!***

In high school everyone wants to be a bit like Alaska. Center of attention, likable without being condescending, the girl of every guy’s fantasy, smart, witty, adventurous, edgy/dangerous, an uncanny way of making you see mundane things in a new light…but the problem with these idealized high school figures there’s always some flaw that cannot be discounted. My sophomore year of high school we lost one of the friends in the group. He was nothing like Alaska. Sure there were some parallels- he was well liked by every crowd/”click” in school, smart, and had a very unique perspective – “Have you every noticed how when you stare off in class those little specs seem to have a halo effect around them? It’s almost like they glow.” He was one of the most caring, compassionate, and humble human beings I have ever known. But like Alaska he was a “deeply unhappy person”, something I often wish we would’ve noticed. The day after he committed suicide our entire sophomore class was called to gather into the cafeteria, much like in the book. I remember noticing that he hadn’t showed up to school that day and thought he might be sick. I thought it was odd, he was never sick, but quickly dismissed it. Once we were told the majority of the class broke down, sobbing aloud and turning to one another for comfort. I remember just being shocked. Not believing that this could’ve happened. I wandered around school aimlessly for the rest of the day. Not really sure if I believed it or not. When our school brought in grief counselors for our group I remember being angry. Angry at the thought that in on brief hot moment he could have ended his own life. Angry that I had to listen to people who barely knew him cry as if they were his best friends. Angry that I’d no longer have my friend.

When reading a book I feel that it is best to connect with the character, but not always necessary. Often times reading is a cathartic art. The way we can release feelings that we have hidden away in that dark quiet place in our minds. But for young readers, these type of stories, are their way of learning and understanding these life defining moments. That is what John Green has been doing with his books. I’ve watched and listened to my students as they have read these books and what they think of these experiences. As a middle school teacher, I know the majority of my students are not mature enough to fully comprehend the weight of this type of loss. Some are, but not all. Yet it is important for them to be exposed to this genre of literature. Maybe if we’d read something like this growing up we would’ve been more prepared to loose our friend. Yet ultimately, I don’t think we would’ve ever been ready for that.