The Only Thing That Bothers Me About “The Fault in Our Stars”

I have had limited internet for the past two weeks. The following was written on July 8 in Heathrow Airport in London.

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In one twelve-hour layover, I read all of “The Fault in Our Stars.” Since I am writing this only fifteen minutes after finishing the book, I am unsure how well I have processed the book; it’s still too new to me to speak intelligently about. 

I can however speak emotionally about it. The book is too popular to not have known the ending before reading it; too many people were talking about it for me not to hear that Gus died. A mark of a good book though, knowing the ending didn’t ruin the story. There were enough twists and turns along the way to keep my interest.

One thing I didn’t like was that Gus hid his illness from Hazel. I understand Green did this to teach Hazel a lesson; it was silly for her to push those away from her simply to prevent them pain. Those who love her are going to love her no matter what. But Green hates that cancer books are always about sick people teaching the healthy important life lessons, so why is it okay for sick people to teach other sick people lessons? When two people people, especially two people with feelings for each other, have sex, that creates a bond. Keeping such a huge secret from Hazel cheapens that bond to me, makes less of something that was otherwise described as being something so sweet.

An Abundance of Katherines

abundance

Roaming through the library, I stumbled upon “An Abundance of Katherines,” by John Green and decided to pick it up. It is a fantastic book, one that I really resonated with and within a two days I had finished it.

Colin, the main character, is a child prodigy but he feels like everyone is catching up with him, that he is no longer significant. More than anything else he wants to matter, both in terms of being famous and of being loved. After graduating high school, he has yet to accomplish anything extraordinary that would make him famous, and his girlfriend had just broken up with him. In order to shake him out of his misery, Hassan, his best friend, takes him on a road trip. Ending up in the middle of nowhere, Tennessee, the two get a job interview people with new friend Lindsay about the history of the town. Throughout the course of the summer, like any good coming of age story, the three friends change and grow, overcoming their insecurities to come a little more mature and a bit wiser.

Lindsay is a social chameleon, changing to suit those around here, Hassan is afraid to do much of anything in fear of failing, and Colin is obsessed with fame and matter to others to the point that when he fails at that he becomes physically sick. It is him I relate to most, the child prodigy concerned almost exclusively by living up to his potential and becoming an adult genius. He wants more than anything to invent, discover, or create something, anything,to get him recognition. He wants to be in the history books, otherwise he feels he will have wasted his potential.

While no where near as smart as Colin, who at some point mentions his IQ is around 200, I was always smart as a child. Teachers would tell my parents I was special in the way that is a compliment (not a euphemism), questioning, and heading towards success. By the end of high school especially, I stressed about living up to my potential. The average Disney star, I reasoned, was my age or younger. If they had already achieved fame and significance, why couldn’t I when I, I was sure, was much smarter.

This I think is an issue many  my age struggle with. Zuckerberg was in college when he created Facebook, Veronica Roth wrote Divergent when she was twenty-one, and Malala Yousafzai is only sixteen and has already been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. In comparison, I am old, wasted potential; a failure.

That is of course, a self-defeating attitude; as soon as you decide you are failure you become one. There is a popular meme of Tina Fey and Amy Poehler hosting an award show with “They didn’t have it all figured out when they were twenty either” written over it. Fewer words have been so comforting. Recently I read “Things a Little Bird Told Me,” by Biz Stone. He spent most of his life in debt and was in his thirties before he created Twitter.  Success takes hard work, and doesn’t always come at the age of the twenty.

Colin, throughout the novel, learns it is more important to matter to himself than it is to matter to others. Only as he becomes more confident in his abilities and in his future that he starts achieving his goals. He creates a formula that calculates the length of his relationships with each Katherine based on a number of variables, he moves on from his last break-up, and he falls in love with Lindsay. Instead of trying to prove he is a genius, he tries to become a better person.

That is an important lesson for all of us to learn: panicking about being successful young prevents being successful young or at all. Work towards your goals, but also accept the ambiguity of being in your teens or early twenties. You don’t have to to have everything figured out, and trust yourself enough to know you will eventually get where you are supposed to be.

My First Love

Writing my about page earlier reminded me of my first favorite book-The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. It was a birthday gift; a week after my birthday it came in mail from a distant aunt, and I remember touching it lightly in awe as my mother held it out for me to see. The book is beautiful, covered in velvet with gold detailing. As I opened it and read it, that awe I first felt never really went away.

To me, it was exotic, taking place in India, a place known to me at the age of nine only because elephants lived there, and the Yorkshire, a weird place in England I had never heard of before. And the big house! With the secret rooms! And the secret garden! It was all so mysterious and exotic to me. But it was still so relate-able. Friendship and play were the key components of the story, and what kid can’t relate to those? That wonderful mix of exotic and relate-able created a sort of magic that can never be diminished.

I’ve ruined the binding having read the book so much, maybe ten or twelve times. Each time I open it I still feel the magic I felt the first time I read it, ready to be taken to the Yorkshire marshes full of hidden surprises. The Secret Garden was my first “favorite book,” and it is the book that caused me to fall in love with reading, a love I still have today. No matter how many other books I read, and no matter how fantastic and inspiring they are, The Secret Garden will always maintain a special place in my heart.

“The Handmaid’s Tale”-Margaret Atwood

Have you ever read The Handmaid’s Tale? You absolutely should. In the two days I’ve almost finished it; this book is absolutely mesmerizing and impossible to put down. The story is about Offred, who is a handmaid, or a girl given to a family to give them children. Through Offred we not only learn about her life as a handmaid, but also about how Western society (the story seems to take place somewhere in New England-Boston is mentioned as not being too far away, and they are less than a day’s drive to Canada) came to become the ultra-conservative society it is in the book, and Offred’s life beforehand.

Women in this society are completely controlled. They have no power, cannot work, own property or have money; they are not even allowed to read or write. Women are either daughters, wives, handmaids or “Marthas” (servants), and their roles are completely within the house. Eyes watch their every move, and disobedience is threatened with becoming an “Unwoman.” Suicide is so rampant that anything that could creatively be used to kill yourself is kept away from women, especially handmaids.

Right now I’m at the part where she meets up with Moira, her long lost best friend. I like Moira; from what we’ve learned about her so far she seems pretty awesome. I’m curious to see how this meeting goes.

Have you ever  read The Handmaid’s Tale? What did you think of it? Any other good books to suggest? Let me know in the comments below!