Tuesday, February 28, 2012

News and a Review: The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

"I can't understand why a person will take a year to write a novel when he can easily buy one for a few dollars." ~ Fred Allen

I would just like to say to Fred Allen (no, I cannot really speak to the dead, but often wish I could), that if it only took a year, this would be a much easier business.

Things at our house have finally settled down a little, and I am getting back to doing some writing. My husband, Dave, has been extremely ill and now is finally on the mend. Our daughter Sara says we must now refer to him as “Lefty” since he had his right kidney (and the nasty tumor attached to it) removed. I kind of like the moniker. I’m still nursing him, but am finally able to breathe easily. We also had a roof leak in the middle of all this and had to have some pretty significant repairs on our home. Now writing is percolating back up to the top of my to-do list. It’s been a long dry spell, and I am so glad to be back to it.

I spent a lot time in the last several weeks waiting – waiting for appointments, waiting for workmen, waiting quietly for Dave to wake up and hopefully be hungry. There were weeks I was afraid to leave his side for more than a moment. Yes, he was that sick. But I filled a lot of the waiting time with reading, something for which I never seem to have enough time. Many of the books I read were for the Sacramento Book Review, but I also got to several books on my long TBR list. I will be reviewing some of those wonderful books in the coming days.(If you'd like to read some of my reviews for the Sacramento Book Review, go HERE.)

I have been kicking an idea for a book around in my head for quite awhile, and I already had a perfect title picked out – The Fault is Not in Our Stars. So imagine my chagrin when I started reading everywhere about the hot new YA, The Fault in Our Stars (an interesting twist on the original quote) by John Green. (Please click on the title, not the book cover, if you want to order the book.) I told myself, when I get my book written, no one will remember the other one, so it’s okay. But I felt compelled to read the book, and now I had the time, so I did. Let me start by saying I don’t believe this book will be easily or quickly forgotten.

It’s ironic that while I was dealing with my husband’s illness, a big part of which involved cancer, I found this amazing book about some cancer patients. And I do mean this is an AMAZING book.

Hazel Grace Lancaster, age seventeen, is a terminal cancer patient. She was diagnosed with thyroid cancer which has spread to her lungs. Her mother thinks she is depressed – Now why would she think that? – and her doctor convinces her to attend a support group for teen cancer patients. Hazel doesn’t really like going to the support group, but she does – probably more to please her mother than for any other reason. After all, her mother has put her life entirely on hold to see her daughter through to the inevitable end. Hazel’s father is also present in the book. Every time we see him, he cries. His daughter’s illness overwhelms him and he cries easily.

In the support group, Hazel has a friend named Isaac who has lost one eye to a rare eye cancer and is going to lose the other eye soon, as cancer has invaded that one as well. Isaac is angry and so sad about this impending surgery, that his pain is palpable.

Wow, I can hear you saying, now why would I want to read such a depressing book. Let me tell you, this is not in any way a depressing book. In fact, it is downright uplifting. And FUNNY. I found myself laughing out loud many, many times while reading it. And sweet. There is romance, too, in case you’d like some of that.

A new member joins the support group – Augustus Waters – who is drop-dead (probably a poor choice of words) gorgeous and seems quite fascinated with Hazel, to whom he always refers as Hazel Grace. When Gus starts to move around, we (and Hazel) find he has lost a leg to cancer. However, he is happy to say, they got it all and he is fine. Gus and Isaac are friends and soon Hazel Grace is pulled into a friendship with Gus. They share favorite books with each other and learn much about each other through those books. Hazel’s book is about a cancer patient and stops, rather than ending. It is a source of great frustration to her. Gus feels much the same. Hazel has written many times to the author, a recluse who has moved to the Netherlands, asking for resolution to questions she has. Gus feels the same after reading it, and they spend a lot of time talking about ways to contact the author.
John Green

Gus finds out Hazel Grace used up her wish (from a group like Make-a-Wish Foundation), but he has never used his. He decides the best thing to use his for is to take Hazel Grace to the Netherlands to talk to the author. Not only is it difficult to arrange to meet a reclusive author (think J. D. Salinger), but getting two cancer patients and one mother there is no easy task. Then, toss in the mother of all twists, and you have quite an extraordinary story.

Don’t wait for time to read this wonderful book. Make time. The writing is spectacular and the story is fantastic.

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