Now that I know who's doing what in the screen adaptation of John Green's 'The Fault in Our Stars', I'm really not inclined to watch the movie, especially if it's anything like 500 Days of Summer. Initially, I didn't even want to pick up the book. Well, it's a romance, and YA fiction. I don't like romances set in whichever century. Not familiar with John Green either, but the friends convinced me to give it a shot.
The writer explores the pain and trials of a teenage couple stricken with cancer. Hazel Grace Lancaster and Augustus Waters met at a cancer support group and fell in love. That premise, definitely forms a different premise when the couple thinks about their relationship. In that sense, when you read the stories, the age isn't going to be an issue. When terminal illnesses strike, anyone, any couple, would be forced to re-examine their life choices, options and decisions. (Read reviews here, here and here.)
Written in first person narrative as Hazel, she takes us through her journey, pain and life with Augustus, and life after his death. We are privy to all steps of cancer treatment addressed in the story. Time has no meaning in this journey, yet it's the crux of everything. The point of the story is nothing to scoff about, carpe diem, in the battle against cancer, yet on the other hand, I know so many people who are stricken by cancer, many who have succumbed, and many more who have won the battle. Always, I wonder, when's my turn? While I appreciate the writing- it's in simple prose, understandable language, with none of that crappy new-age slang that teenagers use and only they geddit. It's still a romance, albeit one that might just tug at your heartstrings a lot more. If you've got a tender heart and prone to weeping, don't pick up this book. You're going to bawl your eyes out.
But, Gus, my love, I cannot tell you how thankful I am for our little infinity. I wouldn't trade it for the world. You gave me a forever within the numbered days, and I'm grateful.
The ending is poignant, in the form of finding the missing pages of Augustus' journal, written "over many days in varying degrees of consciousness", ripped out and sent to one Peter Van Houten, to ask him to write a eulogy for Hazel. She was distraught, and lost, searching for his last words, either in a letter, file, or facebook post, anything, and couldn't find it, till the these pages came through the email, and eventually, the hard copies. With these pages filled with his words, she found a little bit of comfort, and importantly, closure.
I really thought she was going to die before I could tell her that I was going to die, too. It was brutal: the incessant mechanized haranguing of intensive care. She had this dark cancer water dripping out of her chest. Eyes closed. Intubated. But her hand was still her hand, still warm, and the nails painted this almost black dark blue and I just held her hand and tried to imagine the world without us and for about one second I was a good enough person to hope she died so she would never know that I was going, too. But then I wanted more time so we could fall in love. I got my wish, I suppose. I left my scar.
A nurse guy came in and told me I had to leave, that visitors weren't allowed, and I asked if she was doing okay, and the guy said, "She's still taking on water." A desert blessing, an ocean curse.
What else? She is so beautiful. You don't get tired of looking at her. You never worry if she is smarter than you: You know she is. She is funny without ever being mean. I love her. I am so lucky to love her, Van Houten. You don't get to choose if you get hurt in this world, old man, but you do have some say in who hurts you. I like my choices. I hope she likes hers.
I do, Augustus.