Tuesday, 10 February 2015

The Fault In Ourselves

Guys, I read The Fault In Our Stars.

If you like the book, you probably won't like what I have to say.

You have been fairly warned.

The Fault in Ourselves – Semi-Collected Thoughts Upon the Reading of John Green’s Best-Selling Tearjerker

Spoiler Alert: This is not a review, these are reflections. Spoilers abound.

I. Why I Read “The Fault in Our Stars”
            The fact that I actually read the book might come as a surprise to some, considering my previous posts concerning bestsellers generally bear titles similar to, “Why I Am Not Reading ________”. But one reason I decided to read the tale of two “extraordinary teenagers” – who also happen to be cancer patients – is because, although I may not be an “extraordinary teenager”, I  was once a cancer patient. On October 4, 2005, I was diagnosed with osteosarcoma – the same kind of cancer Augustus Waters is in remission from in The Fault In Our Stars. And like the book’s main character, I had a wish that came true due to what Hazel – or rather John Green – calls a “cancer perk”. I guessed that I probably wouldn’t agree with the worldview of the book, but I wanted to read it because I wanted to know if the cancer that is making teenage girls cry is the cancer that so many real teens have, or whether it’s some kind of Hollywood/John Green version. I wanted to know whether the death was romanticized or realistic. And so I bought a copy of the book, opened it up, and began to read. But to be honest, my cancer story is nothing like Hazel or Augustus’; I couldn't really compare it at all. Yes, every cancer story is unique, because each person is different and therefore every story and every experience is different. But I have, and I pray that you have, something that Augustus and Hazel do not have. And that is hope – real hope.

II. Initial Thoughts
            I’d read a synopsis of the book so I’d know which sections to skip. Generally to review a book, one must actually read the entire book, but this is not a review and there are some scenes in the story of which I am perfectly content to remain ignorant. I honestly find it hard to understand how Christian girls can read this book without feeling uncomfortable.
            However, when Green’s writing is not a) inappropriate/using swear words or b) ____ about God, he’s a pretty good writer. Some of the book’s witticisms did make my mouth twitch in an upward direction, and I will admit that I teared up (and might have sniffled) at some parts.
            Though I was not surprised, I was frustrated that every mention of God and/or Christianity was either written in a disrespectful or condescending way. Any characters with any kind of Christian inclination are seen as detached from reality or pitifully ignorant at best (and rather unfeeling at worst). Augustus states that he believes in a “Something with a capital ‘S’”, but his musings don’t extend much further than that.

III. Why?
            This book, and seemingly any book about death or suffering, brings up the question, “Why do bad things happen?” Usually the question is, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” But Hazel and Augustus don’t really seem to think of themselves as good or bad. Those factors don’t appear to matter. Augustus fears “oblivion”, and Hazel fears the suffering her parents will endure when her terminal cancer finally takes her life. But neither of them appear to have any fear of hell or even consider it.

IV. Hope
            Let’s face it – this book is just plain depressing. Sure, it has its, “Awww” moments and its laughable sentences, but this book is mostly just, well, sad. The book ends on a mildly happier note as Hazel is assured that her parents will live on even after she does not, and that they will always be her parents just as she will always be their daughter. But in the end, she never knows what happened to Augustus after he died; she never knows whether or not he fell into the oblivion he feared or even if she will ever see him again. The message this book sends is basically, “Let us love and live however we want, for tomorrow we die!”
            The Fault In Our Stars poses lots of deep questions; it prompts readers to think about life and death. But it doesn’t give its readers any answers. In a way, The Fault In Our Stars is just as unfinished as An Imperial Affliction, a book Hazel loves, which ends mid-sentence, leaving the reader hanging and wondering what happened to the main character and her family. The Fault In Our Stars shows us suffering, but it doesn’t give us any true hope.
            The main reason my cancer story is so different from Hazel and Augustus’ is because I have something they didn’t. I have faith – not the kind of faith that is only expressed in stereotypical comments and feel-good “sentiments” hung on walls – but the kind of faith that sustains a family in the darkest of times and brings hope when it seems like all hope is lost. Christ arose and therefore we know that there is a resurrection for us as well. Death is not the end, and those whose sins have been forgiven do not have to fear it.
            Also, I have the answer. The Bible gives us the answer. Why do bad things happen to “good” people? Because we are not “good” people. To parody old friend Shakespeare, one could say, “To obey, or not to obey?” (Spoiler alert: The first two people chose to disobey God, and since then everyone else has chosen to disobey God too). Because God loved us so much He created Adam and Eve with a will so that they would have the ability to choose to obey Him. Death and suffering were the consequences of their disobedience, because sin is serious. Though our unchanging God has always loved us, He has never hated sin any less. But God loved us so much He gives us hope, true hope – that those who trust Jesus as their Savior from sin’s punishment need not fear death. In a way we are all “grenades” because death will come for each and every one of us (unless Jesus comes back first). But spoiler alert – Jesus lives. And because He lives, we have true hope. Jesus overturned death because He gave His life as the sacrifice for our sins. If you know Jesus as your Savior, then you can know that God will sustain and guide you through the darkest of times, and you can hold onto the promise that one day we will no longer have to experience death or suffering, but will be able to worship God forever.
            This makes me think of the hymn, He Lives. The chorus says, “Because he lives / I can face tomorrow / Because he lives / All fear is gone / Because I know / He holds the future / And Life is worth the living / Just because He lives.” (And frankly, I’d much rather have that quoted to me than, “The Red Wheelbarrow” poem {which Hazel quotes to Augustus}). 

V. Conclusion
            Shakespeare was right. The fault, dear friends, “is not in our stars, but in ourselves”. Praise the Lord that He loves us despite our fault and despite ourselves!

“But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8

1 comment:

  1. I loved reading this reflection post. The Fault In Our Stars is such a great book and though it does have a few icky moments, all around, I think it's a wonderful story that teaches us it's okay to leave the world without everyone knowing who you are and what you've done.

    Great post, m'dear. <3


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