I haven’t been able to stop thinking about Hazel, or, as Augustus likes to call her, Hazel Grace. She got too deeply under my skin. It’s a young adult fiction, but though I am many decades past young adulthood, I cried my way through most of it last weekend. I cried for Hazel, and because John Green so perfectly nailed the whole thing of dreams and futures being completely and crudely interrupted. I cried for Hazel, and for the young man she fell in love with, and for their utterly heart-broken parents, and for the courage they all so doggedly pursued, and perhaps most of all for the real-life daughters and mothers and fathers and husbands even more deeply under my skin, those who are living in the bitter-sweet zone of crushing illness interrupting the plans and dreams they are on the cusp of realizing.
The Fault in Our Stars is a young adult story, but trust me, these young adults know more about living fully than do many full-fledged adults. They know about fear, and about being honestly and fully human, about accepting reality over denial, about what needs to be done now, before it’s too late. They embrace how badly they want to live, they understand denial, and they lead their families and us as readers through the jungle of denial through to acceptance. They know anger is inevitable and honest and at times essential, and that platitudes and false hopes are mostly defeating. They speak the truth about how desperately they want to avoid being a grenade in the lives of those they love, leaving them with too much shrapnel to bear, but also about how desperately they want to be remembered, how badly they want their lives to have meant something. And they know the infinite value of love.
Don’t read this if you’re afraid of feeling things deeply, if you need to avoid intensity to keep your head above water, or if you’re so jaded you’ll write it off as a manipulation. But if you’re ready to take that next step into reality, John Green is an outstanding guide.