Hey C+S Book Club-ers! Last time we visited Harriet the Spy, and since we’re ladies in our *late 20s*, our next choice is obviously a little more mature than a kid spy. This time it’s about teenagers.
By now, most of you have heard about or read John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars, a young adult novel about two teens, Hazel Grace Lancaster and Augustus Waters who meet and fall in love. Oh and they both have cancer. I remember reading this for back when it first came out and appropriately crying harder than I have ever cried before. Legit had to stop reading it for a few days because it made me that sad. Now that the movie is coming out today, I can only imagine how that feeling will be magnified thousands of times more once I see it with my eyes. But essentially, TFiOS isn’t supposed to be a sad story, it’s supposed to be a celebration of life, no matter how long or short it is. So with that, here are just a few of the life lessons I gleaned from reading this book – **spoilers ahead** (but you should really read this book and see the movie anyways).
You can’t escape the hurdles
“I wondered if hurdlers ever thought, ‘This would go faster if we just got rid of the hurdles.'”
Hazel & Augustus initially meet in a cancer support group for teens, so a lot of the folks we encounter in the book (save for the parents and hospital staff) have been dealt a rather bad card of hands when it comes to overcoming difficulties in life. But it’s there in front of them, and the only thing to do is try to clear it and get to the next problem. We may face hardships in our life, but we can’t just give up. What would become of us if we didn’t have hardships or hurdles to get over and improve our lives (hopefully) for the better? The things that try to bring us down in the past only make us stronger. And then we can look back and see just what we’ve gone through.
Pain demands to be felt
“That’s the thing about pain – it demands to be felt”
Pain wouldn’t be pain if we didn’t at least feel something when we get hurt. You can’t go on avoiding something that you know is going to hurt you because you don’t want to feel it. If you do, it’s going to get worse and worse, so it’s better to just let it all out. In TFiOS, Augustus’ BFF Isaac has eye cancer, and subsequently has to undergo surgery which leaves him blind. During this time, his girlfriend breaks up with him, and he has so much rage that he just needs to let it all out. Augustus lets Isaac demolish his old basketball trophies in his basement, as if it’s no big deal. Why? Because Isaac needed to let it out. There’s no use of keeping that anger and frustration in. And while it might be gut-wrenching as it happens, that pain needs to be felt – or it will never go away.
Time isn’t good to anyone
“What a slut time is. She screws everybody.”
I can’t tell you how many times over the past few days I’ve said, “HOW IS IT JUNE ALREADY?!?” When we want time to speed up, it seems to slow down. When we want it to slow down, it’s like it’s gone in seconds. Luckily, everyone is a victim of time’s bitter kiss. Both Hazel and Augustus know they don’t have very good chances of staying alive forever, so it’s even more frustrating that they fall in love knowing this devastating fact. But the most they – and we – can do is make the most of our time, and not waste it on things we will regret doing.
Dare to be fearless
“Our fearlessness shall be our secret weapon.”
It’s easier said than done, but a problem I think a lot of people have is not being afraid to jump in and do something out of your comfort zone, no matter the outcome. We worry too much about what’s going to happen next that we don’t think about how great it could be if we even try. For the longest time, Hazel put her feelings about Augustus to the side, and refused to let their friendship turn romantic, as she called herself a “grenade”, ready to explode at any second. She finally put that fear aside and let her guard down, only to experience one of the greatest loves of her life.
Your true self is revealed in the darkest of times
“Grief does not change you, Hazel. It reveals you.”
Like 9/11 or the Boston Marathon, there were the people who ran away from the explosions, then there were the first responders who initial reaction was to run towards the problem to see who they could help. That first gut reaction of how you respond to something tragic and life-changing tells a lot about you as a person. You can either give up, not face the “hurdles”, or you can be strong, live a life – live a better life knowing that whatever caused you grief in the first place has since given you reason to become a better person. When Hazel and Augustus visit the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam, Hazel takes note that Anne’s father, Otto, was the only one out of their family to survive the Holocaust. She says, “I thought about Otto Frank not being a father anymore, left with a diary instead of a wife and two daughters.” Otto eventually decided to publish that diary, and of course it went on to become on of the most revered and studied books from the war. Otto didn’t give up when he was left alone – he preserved their legacy.
You can’t always get what you want
“The world is not a wish granting factory.”
“Cancer perks” are what Hazel and Augustus call the things they’ve received in sympathy for their struggles with cancer, you know the Make-a-Wish type things. Throughout the book, they make it clear that their sickness is not what defines them, it’s just something they have to live with, therefore the cancer perks, while usually cool, ultimately doesn’t give them what they really want. If you do want something, you have to work for it, and if you don’t get it – you don’t get it. Not everything is going to work out in your favor, but the most we can do is try.
A life is still important, no matter how long or how short
“Some infinities are bigger than other infinities.”
Probably one of the most quoted excerpts from the book, this line really sums up the entire story of Hazel and Augustus. Towards the end of the book (again, spoiler alert, I’ve warned you twice!) Augustus dies, another teenager succumbing to that bitch called cancer. While his life may have been short compared to you know, people who live to be 100, he still lived a significant life. The point of the book isn’t to feel sorry for Hazel and Gus, it’s to remind us that a life, no matter how long, or how short, can still make a profound impact on those around you, but it’s our choice as to how we decide to live it.
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