It’s one of my favorite books! It’s about teenagers with cancer and…
It’s hard to explain to some people how I – a very old lady of 38 – can love a book written for young adults so much that I got words from that book permanently marked on my body. A book about two kids with cancer, one who very openly discusses their “terminal” diagnosis from early on in the book. The second you see the word “terminal” you know this book is going to break your heart. How could I love a book like that so much? Especially as someone who often says she wants to feel happy/joy with her books and movies? I can not count how many times I’ve angrily expressed hatred over a book/movie/tv show by saying something like, “It’s entertainment! It’s supposed to make me happy!”
Yet I’ve sobbed through the book about kids with cancer several times…and still, in a weird and twisted way, claim that it makes me happy.
I guess, in time for the movie, this would be a good week to put my affection for the book into words.
The first reason is obvious to anyone who has been around here for awhile. I love the book because my kid loves the book. I have written many times here how I think a key element to maintaining a strong relationship with your kids as the grow older, is learning to love the things they love. That way, at the end of the day where – maybe, you had to dole out discipline for bad grades or missing curfew – you can still get excited about the release of an album, or a book, or a movie together. That “thing” that I shared with E his whole life has been books. He introduced me to John Green before The Fault In Our Stars even came out, but we both adored it so much that we both inked our bodies with words from it…and that love for the book became a bond for us.
But the other reason is that the book spoke to me as someone who watched a loved one die from cancer. Sometimes books and movies and TV shows gloss over the dying process. The patient is clean and in bed and everyone cries as the sick family members slowly fades away. But that’s not reality. Death from cancer is messy and these two kids in this book have already had it ruin their quality of life in many physical ways. But they are also open about how it affects them emotionally. There are stories about brain tumors changing the personality of a person, and there are stories about healthy people abandoning sick people when they just get too sick. There are harsh realities to cancer and TFiOS didn’t gloss over those entirely like some stories and movies do. Especially the ugly, sickly, can’t control my bodily functions part…TFiOS gave those moments their truth but also showed the beauty in them in a way I didn’t think was possible. I always wish my Dad had fought harder and would have let me care for him in the ways some people in this book need care. But, Green also does a great job in showing how much the person also hates themselves as their body fades them, and that’s why my Dad didn’t fight. He had lived a long and healthy and full life, he didn’t want to go out watching his body disintegrate even more than it already had.
And the final reason is that sometimes…what you need most in your life…is a damn good cry. And this book somehow gave me that in a way I didn’t realize I even needed. It gave me relief from my grief without breaking me in half. Even in the sadness and the darkness there was always still beauty in the truth, in the life, and in the love that was woven in the pages of this book. I cried for the characters and the moments in this book, but I also cried for my Dad, and for myself, for anyone who has watched anyone in their lives fade and die. I cried for anyone who has died after watching their bodies fail piece by piece. And while all of that was so sad, the cry was rejuvenating, it let me wash all of that away for a time and let go of it all. It helped me grieve in ways I didn’t know I needed to grieve. I’ve read it 4 times cover-to-cover since it came out, most often when I’m needing to let go of the pain again. The book gave me that in a way I never expected.
So, I’ll pack my tissues on Thursday night as E and I go to an early showing of the movie to sob with every other fan in this country simultaneously.
And we’ll love every minute of it.