Two nights ago I read The Fault in Our Stars by John Green as the trailer was released and my cousin convinced me it was worth the read. She was right. Everyone should read it.
The basic synopsis is that two teenagers fall in love after meeting at a cancer support group and bond over a book about a girl dying from cancer.
If spoilers bother you, you should probably stop reading (although a study showed that people actually enjoy stories more when they know the ending so I'm actually enhancing your experience).
Besides some minor medical points that I had issues with (ie I can't imagine her oxygen flow only being at 2L), it was really good. It deals with illness, death, and dying in an way that doesn't talk down to you or make it all be part of some grand scheme in the end. There was also an abundance of sarcasm which I really enjoyed.
Here were some of the things I really related to:
1) The teens talk about how awesome good nurses are and how horrible the bad ones can be. It's true. Nothing beats having a nurse that treats you like a human being and listens when you explain how you like things. Nothing is worse than a nurse who refuses to see you more than their job or who gives you pity stares and makes comments about how depressing your situation is. Ummm, thanks?
2) Being teenagers, they hate any sort of motivational saying or cliche that tends to provide more comfort to those saying the phrase than those hearing it. Even as a non-teenager, I also hate those cliches. I understand people say them because they have no idea what else to say and I get that. I have said those cliches to people in the past because I also have no idea what to say. But can't we all come up with something better? I have ranted about this in the past.
3) The boy wanted his life to be part of a greater purpose. He had a hard time recognizing that most people live and die without ever getting their '15 minutes of fame'. This is probably getting harder for people as everything now is about leaving a legacy behind (which I've ranted about in other posts) or having a greater meaning to one's life than simply being a good person. In the end, he came to the conclusion that often in our attempt to leave a mark on the world, we end up leaving scars instead and maybe leaving the world as you found it is good enough. I loved that sentiment and appreciated that in the end, the author did not make his life as part of a great plan.
So much of literature writes characters with disabilities as a) having their purpose in life being to inspire everyone else, b) a saint-like figure, or c) the villain. It is always refreshing when a person with a disability is written having a regularly complicated life filled with video games and sarcasm.
4) The boy made his friends write their eulogies while he was still
alive which I think is a brilliant idea. They called it a 'pre-funeral'
and he got to actually hear all the nice things that people said about
him. I think everyone should get this chance. There is the problem of never actually knowing when you are actually going to die so
you could have a pre-funeral and then go on living for another year. It
is impossible to know when one's 'last good day' is going to be so maybe
we need to annually start telling people great things about each other on the off chance they will die that year. I think talking about death would would help people recognize how much they have impacted other peoples' lives. It might also make people more accepting of their mortality which I believe is a good thing. We really need to
stop pretending that death will never happen to us.
5) When the boy died, the girl got really angry when everyone he had gone to middle school with posted sympathies on his fb wall and commented about stuff he enjoyed then but had hated when he died. She felt it was insincere considering they hadn't made any attempt to keep in touch after he withdrew from school. I agree that typing on a facebook wall wishing someone is 'up in heaven playing basketball' when a) the person no longer enjoyed basketball and b) didn't believe in a literal heaven seems like a dick move. However, people need an outlet to express sympathies and if a facebook wall is how we do it now, that's fine. Also, people drift apart and you remember people by how you knew them in that moment. It would be unfair to think that everyone you ever knew will know your preferences when you die. There is a fine line of remembering the person as they were and remembering them how you wanted them to be.
I feel like I could ramble on about the book for much longer but that is all I'm going to say for now. In conclusion, if you have a few hours and want to spend it on a really good book, read this one.