WELCOME TO MARCH'S EDITION OF BON'S BOOK CLUB!!!
DISCUSSING: THE FAULT IN OUR STARS BY JOHN GREEN
I kind of feel like this whole experience would be better if we are all eating. Hurry! Go grab a bowl of ice cream and then meet me back here in three minutes!
Ah, isn't this so much better? Why is it that food enhances every single human experience?
I really liked Hazel. At first I thought she was a little bit pretentious and pretty ornery. I don't generally like characters that hate the world. But then Hazel lets readers in and you get to see a lot more of her vulnerabilities and why she's so grumpy. Because she's dying, duh! I was especially struck by the part of the book where she tries to break things off with Gus because she doesn't want to be like a "grenade" that hurts anything that is close to her. I especially identified with her through the end, through her mourning process. I liked Gus, too, although I thought him to be just a bit too good to be to true. My sister said once that the formula for writing a successful teen fiction is to have a girl attract a guy who is way out of her league. (Twilight, anyone?) For some reason it works every time, and I felt like it was true for this book too. Gus felt like a guy who would never really go for Hazel in real life.
One thing that bothered me a bit about Hazel and Gus is that I can't see any teenagers really talking the way they did. Sometimes the way Gus talked, especially, was over the top to me. It was too distracting. For exapmple, at one point they are playing video games and Gus says, "Sadly the bridge is already under insurgent control due to questionable strategizing by my bereft cohort." At the moment I kind of rolled my eyes and thought, "Give me a break, Green. No one talks like that- especially not a seventeen year old."
Peter Van Houton:
I LOVED the side story about going to Amsterdam and meeting Van Houten. I thought it was pure genius and something about Van Houten showing up to Gus' funeral really hit me hard. When Hazel turned back and saw him there I had to catch my breath. I did not see it coming at all. I also loved that even when Hazel so furiously told him to leave that he snuck in her car and demanded to give his apology. I guess what I loved about it is that it showed the goodness and strength in somebody as totally awful as Van Houten- that even the worst people have some good in them.
The Love Story:
I liked that Green took a long time to develop their relationship. It felt more real to me that way. One of the sweetest lines for me was when they are on the airplane going to Amsterdam and Hazel states, "I fell in love the way you fall asleep; slowly, and then all at once." Is that not the most beautiful description you've heard of falling in love or what?
I appreciated that the love story went past the romance and flowers and kisses and to the stuff that is real love. The scene where Gus pukes all over himself and has to call Hazel to help him was where I really felt how strong their love is. It is also the part where I totally lost it and just succumbed to the nonstop crying. Green paints such a fantastic picture of someone so totally degraded by his condition. My favorite excerpt of writing from this part:
"This was the truth- a pitiful boy who desperately wanted not to be pitiful, screaming and crying, poisoned by an infected G- tube that kept him alive, but not alive enough." But it wasn't until Gus' miserable pleas of "I hate myself I hate myself I hate this I hate this I disgust myself I hate it I hate it I hate it just let me f***ing die" did the tears start rolling down my cheeks. It made my heart ache for those who have to say goodbye slowly, both those who are leaving and those who are being left.
Oh- and I loved the "okay" "okay" "okay" form of flirting and communicating that Hazel and Gus had. Such a cute little inside joke that Green added in that made the relationship feel that much more authentic.
The part that I liked most about the book were the descriptions of Hazel after Gus' death. I like that the book didn't end right with his death, as so many stories do. I needed that book to give me at least a little of Hazel's grieving process, and it did. I loved this description that Hazel gives of her grief and I identified so much with it:
"It was unbearable. The whole thing. Every second worse than the last. I just kept thinking about calling him, wondering what would happen, if anyone would answer... The grief was slamming me again and again as I lay still and alone in my bed staring at the ceiling, the waves tossing me against the rocks then pulling me back out to sea so they could launch me again into the jagged face of the cliff, leaving me floating face up on the water, undrowned."
At the funeral Hazel experiences a lot of anger- anger for people who act like they miss Gus when they never spent time with him, anger for people who say that he is in a better place or this was supposed to happen, anger toward people who somehow make her feel that her relationship with Gus is threatened in any way. I'm so glad Green put those in there because I felt it was such a real betrayal of very real emotions. I feel like by adding all of this into the book, Green is able to allow us to connect even more with Hazel. She becomes so real and I love that we get to see all of her flaws.
I still can't quite figure out what the title is supposed to mean. Your thoughts? I know it comes from the quote from Julius Cesear, "The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves that we are underlings." I feel like the title has some epic meaning, but I can't quite put my finger on it.
A thought that has stuck with me after reading the book is Gus' explanation of why he doesn't play basketball anymore. It's just trying to put the same thing in the same basket over and over again. Along with that, his description of hurdlers- "Do you think they ever think, "Hey! I could do this a lot faster without these hurdles to jump over." It makes you think about the uselessness around you, the things you do just to do, the futility of so much we do in life.
All in all, I absolutely loved the book and would recommend it to anyone. The end was so moving to me and I connected with it in on a level that is rare for me. I read the last 50 pages on an airplane, and I couldn't help but cry and cry at the last pages. They were so powerful. I was sitting in the middle seat- in between two big, scary men. One of the guys- a huge white guy that looked like he would beat the crap out of anyone who messed with him- turned to me and said in the nicest, sweetest voice, "Are you at a sad part in the book?"
Yes. Yes, sir. I am at a sad part in the book.
+ Do you see Hazel as a likeable narrator? How about a realistic one?
+ Why did Green choose to add Peter Van Houten and the trip to Amsterdam to the story? How did that affect or change the book?
+ Was the book too sad or tragic for you or did it somehow leave you feeling uplifted? How?
+ There are some graphic scenes including Gus peeing his own bed and vomitting all over himself. Why do you think Green chose to add these. Are they appropriate?
+ What makes Gus and Hazel's love story unique? Do you see them as real characters- why or why not?
+ Would you suggest this book to someone who has cancer or is close to someone with cancer? Why or why not?
+ The book is classified as "young adult" fiction. Do you think this is an accurate genre for the book, or do you consider it too deep for that age group? On the back cover of the book it says that Green writes "for youth rather than to them". What do you think that means?
+ What did you think of the end of the book? Did it give you enough closure?
+ What did you think of Green's description of Hazel's grieving process immediately following Gus' death? What touched you the most about those scenes?
+ What is the significance of the title of the novel?
April's book club discussion will be on The Great Gatsby on Thursday, April 25. (Book club is always the last Thursday of the month.)
For the books we are reading for the rest of the year, go here. You can join in at any time. I'd love to have you along for The Great Gatsby- it is my favorite book of all time.