Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Bon's Book Club: The Fault in our Stars


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?  

The Characters:  
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 Grieving:
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.

What did you all think?  What did you like and not like about the book?  Here are some questions you might want to answer in your comments (Wow, am I an English teacher, or what?!?) or you can just say whatever you want.  If you did your own separate post, please post the links in the comments.  Can't wait to talk more about this with you!

+ 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.

40 comments:

  1. I loved this book as if it were a child that I gave birth too. The book was beautifully written, like one long poem. Agustus Waters has stolen a piece of my heart. I didn't expect Gus to be sick, and ultimately die. I expected the book to end much like and Van Hooten's book. Just mid sentence because Hazel could not go on. The ending was delicious, and sad, and better than I expected when I started the book.
    As for the way that these two kids talk to each other, I bought it, only because I talked like this as a 17 year old. Sarcastic, quoting favorite books and movies, though maybe not as brainy. But I felt like for the characters, who were well beyond their actual age, it was believable.
    Like I said, this is one of the most beautiful books I have ever read. I'm reading it again, and it did move me to tears.
    Great choice, so glad I read it.

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    1. So glad you liked it! I thought about it ending midsentence like An Imperial Affliction but I thought that would be too predictable. The Gus being the one who dies first, though, really threw me off.

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  2. I loved your review and loved the book! I didn't mind the way the kids talked to each other and I really did like the ending. www.patchingheartsblog.blogspot.com

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  3. A lot of my students (8th graders) had recommended this book to me. Once I started reading it, I couldn't put it down. I liked all of the characters a lot, and there were some very humorous lines. My favorite line of the book was when Hazel's friend Kaitlin talked about getting over her latest break up: “Oh, I got over it, darling. It took me a sleeve of Girl Scout Thin Mints and forty minutes to get over that boy.” I literally laughed out loud when I read that!

    The only problem that I have with this book is that it was TOO much like Nicholas Sparks' A Long Walk to Remember. Obviously young love/death (all the way back to Romeo and Juliet) draws us in and keeps us reading...every. single. time.

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    1. I'm surprised you've had students recommend this book. I don't know if we live in the dark ages over here or what, but I didn't have any students recommending it to me- I don't think they've even heard of it! And yes, I could see how it could be similar to A Walk to Remember...

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  4. I loved this book! So real!
    http://thecomewhatmayblog.blogspot.com/2013/03/the-fault-in-our-stars.html

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  5. I LOVE The Fault In Our Stars (I read it during the fall) and every other book by John Green. I feel as if all of his characters speak in a way that is FAR too advanced for a typical teenager. But it's almost just like one of his trademarks.

    More than anything, I love how John Green is so in control of words. I bought a watercolor (that he autographed)with the line "You don't get to choose if you get hurt in this world, but you do have some say in who hurts you." I mean. He says SO much in so few words.

    He's definitely my favorite.

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    1. "in control of his words." I Love that phrase and totally agree with it as it pertains to John Green. What other book would you recommend reading of his? I've heard Papertowns wasn't too good but my bestie LOVED Looking for Alaska. Do you agree?

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  6. The title of the book The Fault In Our Stars, I took it to mean people wish on stars for tons of things in their lives, including love and life. These two teenagers wished for time and found love as well. No amount of wishing on the stars however was going to give them the lives they truly wanted, thus the fault.

    This was a very moving book. I was glad it did not end like Vanhouten’s book. I was afraid it would and I think that would have ruined it. Having to mourn with Hazel was intense but I actually think the part of the book that had me bawling the most was when they had practice run on Gus’s eulogies. I get wanting to know how the people who mean the most to you really feel about you.

    I also made me understand maybe a little more how a sick/dying person feels. ALONE
    No matter how much caring and love we shower on that person we at some point walk back into our own healthy lives. Sickness is a full time job.

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    1. Love your interpretation of the title of the book. That makes perfect sense to me.

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  7. I did a blog post about my thoughts. It was my second time reading the book and just... OH SO GOOD the second time around as it was the first.

    Although I learned that plowing through it really fast in two days (especially during Holy Week when we're all depressed at church all week anyways...) is really bad for my emotional health.

    Anyways, here's the link to my post: http://www.lovewokemeupthismorning.com/2013/03/spoilers.html

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  8. To me, the title means that sometimes the fault really is in fate or how things work out and not the people in the situation. It's contradicting Shakespeare's statement. I loved this book, and while it was a little pretentious in some parts and many people complain that no real teenagers think like this, the book is extremely thoughtful and moving. It makes you think, and the metaphors and other literary items are really interesting. It seems like this intricate writing has been lost as the modern world comes around, so I think it's nice to see Green have such thought provoking ideals about the world around us.

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    1. I agree- I loved the metaphors and the references to literature, poetry, etc. I guess as I deal with teenagers on a day to day basis it was just hard for me to imagine ANY of them speaking like this. I guess that's what made the characters unique, though.

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  9. I loved this book! I read it because it's my daughter's (who is 16) favorite book right now and she has been begging me to read it for months. Gus stole my heart and I grieved right along with Hazel.

    The title, for me, goes back to the line that was repeated several times, "The Universe isn't a wish granting factory." The fault in the stars is that they are so far away that by the time we see the light the star is already gone. So we are wishing on something that isn't there.

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    1. How interesting that it is your 16 year old daughter's favorite book! None of my students are reading it. I will have to start encouraging them to!

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  10. I love it. This is one of the best books I've ever read and I'm so glad I'm doing the book club so I was introduced to it. I balled my eyes out!! I'm pregnant so the mood swing of the book were amazing for me. Funny then terribly sad then funny then cute. I love it. I love it. I've recommended it to everyone I see!

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  11. Hey, Bon! Was just reading Kelle Hampton's blog and saw where if you read her book BLOOM with your book club, she'll Skype with you! Thought of you and how cool that would be. Love her blog, and her book was great! www.kellehampton.com

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    1. oh wow! I might have to consider that! Is Bloom a good read? I guess i hesitate to read it because I feel like I could read all of it on her blog.

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  12. I was a little skeptical about this book at first. I am a Nurse and I see so much sadness and greiving in real life that I wasn't really sure I wanted to read about it in my personal life. However, I joined this book club to help me branch out so I thought I'd give it a try...AND I loved it!!! I'm telling everyone about it. Although it is sad and a bit of an emotional rollar coaster it was worth reading and over all I felt uplifted. I also really enjoyed the comedy in the book about life/death/cancer/unfairness..I will recommend this book over and over. There were so many great quotes in the book, I highlighted and underlined all the way threw :)

    One of my favorites: "I bought them a minute..Maybe that's the minute that buys them an hour, which is the hour that buys them a year..No one's gonna buy them forever, but my life bought them a minute..and that's not nothing" Even though in the book they were playing a video game and it had absolutely nothing to do with Nursing, being a Nurse I found this quote very moving!! I have printed it out and posted it at work for all of us to read..sometimes all any patient needs is one minute :)

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    1. Thank you so much for this comment. It's so great to hear how it was to read from a nurse's perspective. I'm sure you view books like this much differently than the rest of us.

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  13. Hi Bon!!

    I have heard so much about "The Fault In our Stars" I think I will have to read that next!

    If you have a minute, pop over to my blog and enter my little celebration give away :)

    xoTiffany

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  14. Overall, I thought the book was great. I felt like the dialogue was witty and fast paced, which I like, but at the same time unrealistic for two teenagers. [Though I could totally see my students saying, "Come on lungs, keep your sh*t together!" :) ] Nevertheless, the writing?…fantastic. Any book that quotes Shakespeare and William Carlos Williams and Wallace Stevens has to be good [I had forgotten Stevens' "Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird" poem since college and was so happy when Hazel said, "I do not know which I prefer…"]

    I knew I'd like the book early, when Hazel is talking about her favorite book and says: "Sometimes, you read a book and it fills you with this weird evangelical zeal, and you become convinced that the shattered world will never be put back together unless and until all human beings have read that book." Beautiful. That's exactly how I feel about "To Kill a Mockingbird." :) I didn't necessarily feel that for this book, but I did feel like it was filled with beautiful little nuggets like this throughout its pages [which I devoured in two days…so that says something, I suppose].

    I'm no longer a teenager, so the "love story", though sweet in parts, wasn't life altering for me [though I did love and highlight the same quote as you, Bonnie]. And then they sleep together. Two teenagers. I get that they are dying, but I got mad at that part. It didn't need to happen. It didn't make what they had any more special. I think I was mad because I thought about my student who had loaned me the book, and other 17 year olds, reading it thinking that if you love someone then you should sleep with them. I get that they are dying, but I still thought it was unnecessary.

    I also like the part Jessica [the nurse!] highlighted-- beautiful :)

    There were so many parts of this book that you could sit around and discuss, which I think is the beauty of Green's writing. Like when Van Houten spouts, "Yes, but in freedom many people find sin." WHAT?! Hours of discussion. Or when Isaac and Hazel are talking about promises and love:
    ----"How can you just break a promise?"
    ----"Sometimes people don't understand the promises they're making when they make them," I said.
    ----Isaac shot me a look. "Right, of course. But you keep the promise anyway. That's what love is. Love is keeping the promise anyway."

    And I think it is a very simplistic and beautiful thing- love is keeping the promise anyway. Love is keeping the "'til death do us part." Love is forgiving a forgotten errand, even when you've reminded him time and again to 'please-pick-up-some-milk', and keeping the promise anyway. Love is putting aside your frustration and anger, even when justified, and keeping the promise anyway.

    In a society that so quickly moves on when "the-feelings-just-aren't-what-they-used-to-be", or "I'm-just-not-happy-anymore", love is keeping the promise anyway.

    I'll stop there… since I finished my ice cream ;). This book redeemed the book club after "Gone Girl"! :) Thanks for hosting, Bonnie!

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    1. Another great quote is when Van Houten says "Grief doesn't change you, it reveals you." That one really resonated with me.

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    2. Ha! Glad you will still be in the book club after "Gone Girl". It definitely wasn't my favorite either. Interesting perspective that you have about the sex scene. I didn't think about it in that way, but I can definitely see where teenagers would feel like an excerpt like that gives them license to do the same thing. I think the book would have been just as powerful and their love just as meaningful without the sex.

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  15. Holy long comment. I apologize to everyone. Sheesh.

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  16. This is one of the best books I have read in a while. It was also the only book that has made me cry in a looooong while. I loved it. Gus and Hazel were beautiful characters and the way Green wrote captured the emotion of the whole thing. Incredible.

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  17. Loved it! Review at:

    http://mcubedblogger.blogspot.com/2013/03/review-fault-in-our-stars.html

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  18. I realize I'm a day late...but, I did LOVE this book. My book club has chosen some real lame books lately, so this was a breath of fresh air. For me it was refreshing to read intelligent banter between Gus and Hazel. It reaffirmed to me that teenagers (some teenagers) are smart. :) Green does a really great job of developing his characters and helping the reader connect with them.

    I'm not a crier and this book did not move me to tears, but I can assure you I did feel emotions ranging from happiness to sadness. I found myself chuckling with Hazel's retorts to her mom and Gus always calling her Hazel Grace.

    I gave this book four out of five stars. I would recommend it to anyone and I would read it again and again.

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    1. Dal! Thanks for commenting! I'm so glad to have you reading along and participating! I agree with everything you said but I don't know if I would read it again and again because at times I felt like it was a little slow. Am I the only one?!?

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  19. Thanks for giving me the push I needed to read this book! I downloaded it last night and finished it today and I.loved.it.

    The only thing I didn't like was the way that Augustus & Hazel spoke to each other sometimes...all in metaphors and just overall a little too grandiose to me. Like, Dawson's Creek put to print.

    I definitely agree that a requirement of YA fiction is that a there is a "too-good-to-be-true" boy that falls for an "ordinary" girl. So at first I was rolling my eyes at the love story, but I also appreciated how JG took the time to elaborate ... and then to add in in another part that it wasn't "just puppy love" (from one of the parents I think. I disagree with another comment that that sex was unnecessary ... I think the way it was written was perfect. That was also around the time I started thinking Augustus was sick again! UGH!!

    I think this is a book to read as a young adult but would probably be different if you read it years later or, specifically, after experiencing death or intense grief. Having lost my share of people in my life I often wonder when I read books like this if my grief is amplified by my own experiences (it must be!) ...the world is not a gift-granting factory ...UGHHH all i kept thinking is how UNFAIR life is, which is not the first time I've had that thought and it certainly will not be the last.

    Also, one more point - regarding "encouragements".... i loved the broccoli/chocolate comparison!

    Ok, I think this sufficiently long. I couldn't put my finger on the title either. Romeo & Juliet - star-crossed? Gus's letter to Van Houten -- words are stars that can't form constellations? ...all over the place!

    & I never thought the book would end mid-sentence...never even occurred to me, and if it had I would've gone crazy! LOL!

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    1. "Dawson's Creek put to print." HA! I am so impressed that you read the whole book in a day. I used to often do that, but nowdays it seems like I never can read a book that fast.

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  20. I read this over the summer, so the details are a bit fuzzy. As soon as I realized Gus was the one who would die, I was angry. I was very unhappy with the author. I actually closed the book and refused to read for a while. Then my need to read the rest of the story took over and I finished it. I definitely cried ugly tears.

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    1. HA! I loved that you refused to finish the book. I could see myself doing that, but for some reason I was ago with Gus dying. It somehow made Hazel's situation more fair to me?... Yah, I know. It makes no sense.

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  21. loved it. i was skeptical before i read it because i've read one other book by john green and hated it (paper towns). but this one was so good!

    http://ilikebigbooksblog.wordpress.com/2013/01/06/book-review-the-fault-in-our-stars-by-john-green/

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    1. Why did you hate papertowns? I am so interested to know because I know my sister in law is doing that book in her book club later this year. Have you read anything else by Green?

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    2. those two are the only ones i've read by him so far. i'll definitely read some more of his books. i didn't like paper towns because i hated the main character, margo. she was a stupid, selfish brat. there have been three books in the past year i didn't like (that everyone else seems to love) and that was one of them along with beautiful creatures and thirteen reasons why.

      http://growninsouthernground.wordpress.com/2012/08/20/book-review-paper-towns-by-john-green/

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  22. I loved this book. It struck me in a way that is hard to do. The title to means (to me) that the stars aligned just right to bring Gus and Hazel together but the fault is that they were sick and their romance together was too short.

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  23. I really liked the book. It's been awhile since a book had me eager to learn more about the characters. I also loved the relationship between Hazel and her parents. It seemed very real to me. Too many times young adult novels portray the parental relationship as if the parents are complete idiots. I loved how Hazel's mom let her know that she and her father would be all right and how she gave Augustus his space to tell Hazel how he was sick.

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  24. So I didn't read the book at the same time as you but I got it recently because I knew it was on the list and I needed a book for vacation. I ended up finishing it in one day and was left without a book the rest of our cruise haha I absolutely loved this book! Like could not put it down. I balled hysterically through the end. You had said that you were wondering about the book title. I have the "special" edition of the book and in the back of it there is a whole Q&A with John Green that was pretty amazing to read. It just helped piece even more things from the book together that I overlooked because I was enjoying it too much.

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  25. I have to say, I didn't enjoy the book at all, but each to their own I suppose. I thought it was a cheap tear-jerker without any real substance (my blog isn't too kind about it) to be honest, but the population at large seems to love it! (Your stuff on Gatsby is great by the way.)

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