More than just okay

There are some stories that stick with you long after you’ve turned the last page. There are some stories that affect you in ways you never thought that printed words could. There are some stories that teach you how to love, how to live, and how to truly appreciate the world around you. And then there are some stories that are all these things and more. For me, that story is “The Fault in Our Stars,” by John Green.

It’s one of those rare books that can can be called life-changing without sounding hokey. It can make a person laugh and cry in a single sentence, and in the next make them question the universe. I’ve had trouble in the past coming up with words that can encompass everything that this book is. But now I think I’ve got it. It’s real. As far as cancer books go, this one is painfully truthful. Green never once glazes his characters in a sugar-coating.

The young adult genre has often struggled with this word in the past, and I’m not talking about the fantastical paranormal romance or the sword-wielding medieval princesses that reign over lands overflowing with magic. I’m talking about the impossible happily ever afters, the rosy lens that sees the world in terms of puppies and unicorns. I’m talking about the books where terminal illness means miraculous recovery, and death is always dealt to the people who deserve it. Life doesn’t exist like it does in a YA novel, but somehow John Green has managed to grasp reality in his.

“The Fault in Our Stars” is not a truly happy book. How could it be? But at the same time, it’s not the kind of book that will leave you feeling only deeply depressed. It’s the mixture of the feel-good and the depressing that makes this book special.  This book tells the story of two “star-crossed” lovers who meet in a cancer support group. The story is told through Hazel Grace Lancaster, a sixteen-year-old girl who has been terminal since she got her first period. She confronts her issues with a dry humor and devil-may-care attitude, allowing her to connect with a lot of the teenagers that read the book.

And then there’s Gus. The beautiful, wonderful, and tragic Augustus Waters. He is a perfect complement to Hazel. Hazel is cautious, a grenade who wants to minimize the casualties when she inevitably goes off. Gus wants to impact the world with the life he’s given, to touch the lives of the people he comes to know. He is a true friend, both to Isaac and Hazel, and confronts the world with his own sense of humor.

These teenagers don’t let cancer define them. Green writes them in a way that reminds readers that their stories were not written upon their diagnosis and that there are more facets to their personality than sick. That’s one of the things I loved about this book. While it was painfully obvious that it was a cancer book, like the characters, there was more to it than that.

There’s so much more I’d like to say about TFIOS, but I firmly believe that no words can truly do it justice. It’s the first book I’ll recommend to anybody who asks, the title that comes to mind when I think of my favorite book. And with the movie coming out in just a few excruciatingly long months, there’s no better time to read it for the first time. The trailer itself was enough to reduce me to tears, so I can’t wait to see how torn up I am after the actual movie.