Written by Cindy Kremer
The January selection of Writers As Readers (WaR) was The Fault in our Stars. The February selection was The Fault in our Stars. The March selection became The Fault in our Stars. FINALLY, we were able to meet one week after our regularly scheduled meeting in March. The fault was the beastly weather we experienced this winter.
Don’t regret growing old, it is a privilege denied to many. This anonymous quote expresses the theme that it is important to live every day of your life. This book, which was unanimously liked by our group, was a gentle reminder to experience life while it is happening. We did not feel that it was a book about cancer, although some felt the movie version of the book focused on cancer. The Fault in our Stars by John Green is a Young Adult book which explores the dynamics of several young people who are brought together because of their ill-fated medical situations. Hazel and Augustus meet at a cancer support group and we follow their relationship through the voice of Hazel. We agreed that the female voice of Hazel rang true and we enjoyed meeting the people in this book. Hazel was a reflective, mature teenager who we cared about. Augustus is a gregarious young man who accompanies his friend Isaac to the support group meeting. There is a chemistry which ignites during the first meeting of Hazel and Gus and it simmers throughout the book. This young adult book has garnered a large fan base from both the book and the movie. Our book club had a cascading discussion on several levels.
There were several scenes in the book that were riveting. When Gus pulls out a pack of cigarettes and puts one in his mouth, the disgust which Hazel feels is palpable. The nasal cannula is a constant reminder to Hazel of how precarious her lungs work. The exchange between Gus and Hazel about the cigarette is insightful on so many levels. Hazel becomes so disappointed that this is a hamartia to their relationship. Gus explains that it is a metaphor: “You put the killing thing right between your teeth, but you don’t give it the power to do its killing.”
Isaac is a secondary character who is provoked to channel his frustration with impending blindness and the demise of his relationship to radical measures. Hazel, Gus and Isaac are at Gus’s house where he takes his frustration out on Gus’s basketball trophies. One can envision the remnants of the trophies after Isaac’s tirade. Gus asks Isaac if he feels better. Isaac says no. “That’s the thing about pain,” Augustus says, “it demands to be felt.” After Isaac loses his sight they go to his former girlfriend’s house and egg her car. With just a few passages the reader can contemplate the intensity of Isaac’s impasse.
A major character in the book is the novel that Hazel loves. This novel takes the couple on a journey to Amsterdam where they will consummate the love they share and ride a bipolar range of escapades. I have been to Amsterdam and the descriptions of this picturesque city are spot on. We talked about how our love of certain books has motivated us to goad our friends to read the books we love. With “An Imperial Affliction”, the book that Hazel loves, she reveals herself to Gus. “An Imperial Affliction was my book, in the way my body was my body and my thoughts were my thoughts.”
Death is one of the characters but not the antagonist. We found it conspicuous that despite death being so prevalent that there was not a lot of religion in the book. We talked about consciousness, fate and the universe but it was not a depressing read even though death was a prominent character. We felt it was a book that would foster discussion about death. It is a tribulation we have all had to address and the perspectives of their shared experiences would promote a healthy conversation. We were glad that all of the characters had closure upon completion of the book.
As writers, we talked about the pacing of the book. Many felt that in YA you have to keep the story moving. This book accomplished that goal. We felt a little cheated by how quickly they were able to get to Amsterdam, but we agreed that organizations like Make A Wish are able to move very quickly given the constraints that medical issues have on providing “The Last Good Day”.
Another way that this book has influenced our writing is in regard to how much ‘back story’ we want to include in our stories. This book reinforced living in the now and provided enough back story as to not slow the story down. We have a diverse group of women who attend our sessions and this was another phenomenal meeting. I am so glad to share my time with them. This book reaffirms that we look at what is important in our lives and that we spend this short time we have on the planet doing what we enjoy.