Some books aim to make readers laugh; some aim at the heart- make them fall in love with the characters; some aim the tear ducts- make them cry; and others aim to make them feel the cocktail of myriad emotions. John Green’s “The Fault in our Stars” does it all.
Narrated by Hazel Grace, the very first page of the book grips you with its witty and philosophical lines. “Depression is a side effect of dying.” While you gasp at the beauty of the sentence framed, the narration continues at its pace. The lines are all realistic and true to their word- neither is pain or tragedy romanticized, nor joy or laughter. They don’t make you cry out your heart, but keep you constantly in the verge of tears. The exact word for it is ‘tragic realism’. And there’s a food for thought in every page.
Hazel suffers from stage 4 thyroid cancer, and lives her life with the waking realization that she could be dead any moment. She has left school, lost her friends and her social life owing to cancer. She thinks about death, lives around her-people who love her, and wonders about their lives after her death. She is depressed- a side effect of cancer, which is in turn a side effect of dying, as she chooses to phrase it. Until she meets Augustus Waters, a cancer survivor, and an amputee- who has a tremendous sense of wit, wisdom, quip, and metaphor. Both share their likes and dislikes- her immense admiration for ‘An Imperial Affliction’ and Peter van Houten, and his love for video games. The very presence of this fictitious book is alluring.
Hazel gives Augustus the book, who reads it and is all praises for it. He shares her views; opinions on the book- the fate of the characters in the book; and her agitation that the ‘ending’ is not actually an ending. They together embark on the mission of emailing the author, who is a recluse, and asking him about what happens next, and if sequel to it is due. Augustus does everything he can to fulfill Hazel’s only wish- to know what happens with her favorite characters, after the narrator of the book dies. This takes them on a journey to Amsterdam, Netherlands. There is love, unfulfilled expectations, and realization of the impending doom and amidst the entire commotion sweet dying hearts beat for each other. The last part is about fighting through disease, pain and embarrassments and unfulfilled dreams; and living through death, loss, and the void left behind.
John Green keeps it so real throughout the novel without any exaggeration. Will surely read ‘Paper Towns’ soon- now in my TBR file. And waiting for the movie eagerly- to watch Hazel Grace and Augustus Waters on screen, and relive their lives.