“Maybe ‘okay’ will be our ‘always.'”
So I just finished a 300+ page book by the “melancholy, sweet, philosophical and funny” writer John Green called The Fault In Our Stars, and now I’m sitting here contemplating the 80+ years we humans (well, some of us) are granted to live. And not that the heap of accolades this book received should convince you to read it — I had never heard of it until my best friend Grace gifted it to me as a belated present.
“As he read, I fell in love the way you fall asleep: slowly, and then all at once.”
And instead of giving you my review, or even tell you what it was about (The New York Times and NPR do a great job, anyway), I just want to get out my thoughts and hope that you read it so we can sit together in our pajamas eating chocolate crying our eyes out and discussing the meaning of life and love as you know it, too.
I am overcome by the honest-to-goodness actualization of the characters. In this book, cancer survivors and fighters aren’t glorified as ‘brave heroes ’til the end’ as they are on cold Facebook walls; it seems an insult to dismiss the roller coaster they actually do ride. And the people around them — their parents, their friends — aren’t always warriors, either. John Green writes luxuriously, yet with restraint, about Hazel Grace’s mother, who fights through tired eyes and weak smiles on some days; nonsensical but charmingly engaging reasons for celebration on other days, to cater to a sick daughter who rebels against this selflessness… not like a gloriously brave hero, but like a real, frustrated teenager.
“I would give the rest of my sick days just for a few healthy ones.”
Writers keep calling The Fault In Our Stars a “love story,” and perhaps it is my starry-eyed adolescence fixated on unrealistic Disney movies withholding me from this label, but then again, it really could be defined as such. This book exposes the love between a boy and a girl, both blessed and cursed with a hypersensitivity to our temporary existence, but an everlasting fervor for one another. It explores the undying love a mother and father carry, not as a burden as it could seem, to care for their daughter. It dives into our obsession with “what if”: the need for our curious human minds to grope for all the answers, even if reality deflates our hopes and dreams (I call this, the Adam and Eve complex).
“You know,” he said after a while, “it’s kids’ stuff, but I always thought my obituary would be in all the newspapers, that I’d have a story worth telling. I always had this secret suspicion that I was special.”
“You are,” I said.
“You know what I mean, though,” he said.
I did know what he meant. I just didn’t agree. “I don’t care if the New York Times writes an obituary for me. I just want you to write one,” I told him. “You say you’re not special because the world doesn’t know about you, but that’s an insult to me. I know about you.”
When all is said and done, The Fault In Our Stars strikes me as a love story between the reader and the aforementioned “temporary existence”. I, myself, am left with so many thoughts and questions. I used to strive to be an Augustus — to leave a mark on this world so my goodness is not forgotten, and yet monuments erected in a hero’s honor are still impersonal compared to the all-consuming flames of love that just three people can feel having truly known you. Because, in the end, no monument erected amidst cheers from thousands can appreciate someone as deeply as just three people can love you amidst your pains and pleasures; your intolerable moments, and those days together you wish would last forever.
And that, to me, is a small infinity worth holding onto.