Lovely February is just about pack up its dirty snow and old chocolate hearts, making way for Spring breaks, shamrocks, Lent, The Walking Dead, and a certain madness that entails endless basketball games. I assume the "Madness" refers to my state of being after listening to a month-long infinity of either zombie breaths rasping through dirty straw-sized wind pipes or sneaker squeaks sounding from the living room.
Luckily February's departure also means that the A Beautiful Mess blog book club posted a discussion of their February selection today. I'm very interested to see what people in that creative and crafty world of DIY bloggers have to say about The Fault in Our Stars.
Hazel Grace Lancaster is a sixteen-year-old girl who is anything but normal. The only typical teenage-girl part of her is her weakness for America's Next Top Model. Otherwise she is a snarky, thoughtful reader of deep, intellectual novels and poetry who takes college English courses and considers her mom her best friend. She also has terminal thyroid cancer. At a support group session, Hazel meets a dreamy ex-basketball player who buys cigarettes not to smoke them but to satisfy an atypical obsession with metaphor. Augustus Waters also has cancer, but a surgical removal of his leg leaves him in remission. The two find themselves star-crossed in love almost at first sight.
For me, reading The Fault in Our Stars was sort of a love/hate relationship, but those are strong words, so let's call it a like/dislike situation. Unfortunately I could not ignore the achingly cliche and romanticized characters in this story. The brilliantly witty girl who doesn't know she's gorgeous. The blue-eyed mountain of man muscles with an extensive vocabulary and a blunt sense of humor. I found them very unrealistic. The plot, too, was precisely predictable. Perhaps this was because John Green employed a lot of foreshadowing.
Nevertheless, I found this book very enjoyable and tore through the virtual pages of my Kindle.
For me, this was not so much a love story between a boy and a girl as it was a story about the love between a kid and her parents. For me the most touching scenes were between Hazel and her mom and dad, not between Hazel and Augustus. I didn't cry very much (I know, I may be a robot) but the parts I did get choked up on always involved Hazel's parents.
About halfway through, it became a much more meaningful read for me when a co-worker showed me an article (from People magazine, maybe?) about Green's inspiration for the novel, Esther Grace Earl, a teenage girl who died of thyroid cancer. The article explained that Esther had two goals, the first to make a difference, which she definitely did through her foundation for families with kids with cancer. The second was to kiss a boy, but Esther never found the right boy or the right moment. Green's dedication of The Fault in Our Stars to Esther along with girls' shared middle name made Hazel and Augustus's love story a fulfillment of Esther's second wish. This gave the book another layer of purpose for me, making it a sweet tribute to a real and courageous girl.
The book club's March selection is The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri, which is another very popular novel from 2013. I've been wanting to read this one, so this is a great excuse to make it happen. What about you? Have you read The Lowland? Will you read it this March? It's probably a great Spring break read. :)