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Grapey Book Club: Remembering The Fault In Our Stars

There's a saying out there that everyone deserves true love. 

People deserve to be loved for who they are, who they were and who they will be,  unconditionally. In saying that, there is an unspoken promise for hope of a life or eventual death accompanied by someone who loves them in that way. If you haven’t read it yet, The Fault In Our Stars is a novel that challenges the idea of a happy ending concerning love and soulmates and one that changed my ideas around the topic while reading it.

The first thing that comes to mind when people think of The Fault In Our Stars is cancer. The story begins by introducing the protagonist, Hazel Grace, as a cancer patient, and every main character, who, besides the parents, deals with cancer in some form. We also get to meet about Augustus Waters, a bone cancer patient, and Isaac, an eye cancer patient. 

Throughout the story, we learn more about the two obvious love interests, Hazel and Augustus. Although they meet through a cancer support group and both struggle with cancer, this story is not about that. This story is about them and their journey for love, despite how others may see them or, more commonly, how they see themselves.

Hazel commonly refers to herself as a “grenade,” which spouts from her concerns of dying and letting people down. On the other hand, Augustus doesn't care what others think, and it's shown that he doesn't really have those sorts of damaging thoughts as Hazel does. He exudes confidence and assurance throughout most of the book. A perfect example can be seen by pretending to “smoke” a cigarette as a metaphor, even on a plane.

The two characters provide a perfect juxtaposition of personalities and traits. Hazel is a patient who appears to be ashamed of what she is going through, not wanting to talk about it in her group meetings and embarrassed that she has to take an oxygen tank everywhere, but her issues lie from a deeper place.

She is on Phalanxifor medication, which slows down the rate of cancer but doesn't remove it completely, hence why she refers to herself as a “grenade.” She's scared of blowing up and hurting the people she loves, so she wants to stop the possible damage by holding herself back and being cold to everyone. She resists showing people who she is in order to save them the pain. Until she meets Augustus, of course.

Most teenagers I know would despise themselves if they had a prosthetic leg, but that seems to be another thing Augustus adds to his charm. He appears as a witty and charismatic boy with great empathetic skills, as we see multiple times in a plethora of conversations with Hazel. Of course, he is not without flaws, as he can be incredibly stubborn, which leads to devastating outcomes, like when he goes alone to a gas station to get another pack of cigarettes while already suffering from cancer. He also fears oblivion, that he won't be remembered for something great, and that he's not “heroic”. He fears he’ll be reduced to what he states: he “just has cancer.”

Their love story collides with Hazel’s novel, An Imperial Affliction, written by Peter van Houten. It describes a story of many interchanging parts, but one character that rings true for Hazel and Augustus’ experiences is Anna, the 11-year-old protagonist who dies of cancer. The unresolved part of the novel is its continuation after death, which brings the two characters to the author’s house in Amsterdam. Hazel needs to know what happens so she can gain some form of clarity about what will happen after her own death. This arc is important – it allows us to understand the pain that a lack of control over your life and death and what happens afterwards can bring.

The story ends in the way you think it would, but not exactly. Throughout the book, we’re given clues and signs to believe Hazel’s time is nearly over, despite her medication. But John Green finishes it with a heart-wrenching twist, with Augustus succumbing to his fear of oblivion after all.

The Fault In Our Stars is a reminder to all to not only enjoy life but also be wary of it. Take every day as it is, because you have no idea of the window of time that you're in between life and death. These messages are communicated greatly from a book with cancer and yet not about cancer, but about love, opportunity, and how, sometimes, the stars just have faults in them.


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