TFiOS and My Feels

I finished The Fault in Our Stars last night. I basically read this book in two night sessions over the last two nights. Pretty much everyone in the world has read this book already, but in case – like me – you’ve been avoiding this book and don’t know what it’s about here’s the GoodReads description:

Despite the tumor-shrinking medical miracle that has bought her a few years, Hazel has never been anything but terminal, her final chapter inscribed upon diagnosis. But when a gorgeous plot twist named Augustus Waters suddenly appears at Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazel’s story is about to be completely rewritten.

I’ll try not to spoil anything for you guys going forward. But beware, there are some spoilers ahead.

So why have I avoided this book? A couple of reasons. First, while I like John Green for the most part, sometimes I don’t like how his characters talk. I’ve only read a short story by him in Let It Snow – which I recommend come Christmastime for a fun read – and I liked his installment, but sometimes the dialogue, man. I know I’m not alone in my criticism of Mr. Green. He doesn’t jive with everyone, as is true of most authors. But I do like him, I just have to be in the mood to read him. Which is true of any lit fic for me.

Another reason I was avoiding it: the book is about death. I know, I know, some are going to argue that it’s about love and living the best life you have, no matter how shitty that life might be, but seriously, it’s about death. Cancer specifically. I do not have a close relationship with cancer like so many other people do. When I was young, I lost a great-grandmother to cancer (I can’t remember the specific name because, seriously, they make the names so hard to say and remember). I have an uncle who beat a tumor when I was even younger than that. My most recent acquaintance with cancer was about five years ago when my husband lost his uncle to pancreatic cancer that he got from being exposed to Agent Orange back in Vietnam. Man, cancer is a sneaky, cunning bastard.

But all these things aren’t exactly visceral for me, like it is every day for so many other people. Like it is for the characters in this particular book. So I was pretty confident that I could go into the book and be able to deal with the cancer aspect pretty well. So why was I avoiding it? Because I knew it was also a love story.

Marriage is a very strange thing. It can really change a person. I was changed by marriage. When I was young I didn’t date a lot, I was, what you would call a professional monogamist. If I started dating someone, I committed for a very long time. If you go through my high school dance pictures, each of them are me and the same guy because we dated for two and a half years – that’s a long time in high school. So even though I made long lasting commitments, I didn’t ever think about death. I never, ever worried about my boyfriends dying. I never worried about my friends dying (though mostly because I was always the DD and I made sure they didn’t and if anyone was contemplating suicide, I was the hotline they all called – but that’s a post for another day). I never thought about my parents dying. I don’t know if it was some twisted sense of teenage invincibility or whatever, but I didn’t think about it.

Sure, I wrote my fair share of teenage agnsty poetry, my whole damn wardrobe was black, and I loved me some angry, hard music. But death was an abstract concept for me back then. People didn’t die.

Then I met my husband. We dated for four years before we got engaged and I never thought about him dying, or me for that matter. But then we got married. And it was as if a switch was flipped in my brain and I thought about death a lot. About his. About mine. I don’ t know why it’s so different. But I worry about death now. All the time.

So I didn’t want to read TFiOS. But I did. And I cried. In fantasy books, you know it’s not real, it’s never going to be real, and while you can fall in love with characters and be sad when they die, there is something about it being fantasy that doesn’t hurt you. In books like this, which are contemporary and about real things in real life that can totally happen, it’s different for the reader. While I figured out what was really going to happen long before it did, it still hit me. It hit me because I am terrified of my husband dying. I am terrified of dying before him. It is strange that we form these relationships with people knowing that, some day, we’re going to hurt them with our deaths. Obviously you can’t help it, and that’s the point of the book – we are going to hurt each other because we love each other.

But oh god, having a book zero in on your greatest fear, it hurts something inside of you. It was the middle of the night when I finished the book and I put it on my nightstand and then rolled over to hug my husband.

It was a good book, the character dialogue bugged me once in a while like Mr. Green always does, but it hurt me to read it. You’ve been warned. Be prepared if you haven’t read it yet.

Now I will look for a lighthearted fantasy, full of magic and fun to scrub my brain. And here is a cute kitten to make you, and me, feel better.

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