Tag Archives: love

A Fault in Our Stars by John Green

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From Krista’s Perspective:

Almost everyone is obsessed with leaving a mark upon the world. Bequeathing a legacy.  Outlasting death.  We all want to be remembered. I do too. That’s what bothers me most, is being another unremembered casualty in the ancient and inglorious war against disease. I want to leave a mark.

I had a hard time reading this book and have oddly super procrastinated writing this review.  I sat down to write it this morning and shuddered at the fact that I had made my notes while reading Fault in Our Stars on March 18th.  This book was exceptionally written and I poured through the pages in no time at all.  I felt countless emotions while reading it: humor, sadness, anger, devastation.  John Green has depicted life and death and love so honestly that his words resonated with me and you felt like you were living through the characters.  You empathized with them, you laughed with them, and you mourned with them.

But I had a hard time reading this book because of my own grief I am currently living with following the tragically sudden death of my fiancé in October 2011.  Hazel, Augustus, Isaac, the parents… all were living and breathing life and death so realistically that it hit incredibly close to home.  Hazel’s story put into words the wretched nature of grief that so many of us live with and so many aspects of the story felt like they were my own story.

The pain was always there, pulling me inside of myself, demanding to be felt. It always felt like I was waking up from the pain when something in the world outside of me suddenly required my comment or attention.

At times I felt like John Green was writing my story, writing this directly to me, and describing my grief in a way only I could understand.  That is the powerfulness of his words.  But I guarantee there are thousands of other people who felt the same thing as they read it.  The beauty of this book is that you can take it personally, see yourself within the pages, and completely understand the depths of what Hazel’s story is.  So many times I thought….. this is me!

The waves tossing me against the rocks then pulling me back out to sea so they could launch me again into the jagged face of the cliffs, leaving me floating face-up on the water, undrowned.

As Hazel describes her journey with her illness and her impressions on the futility of life, you find yourself drawn in and you almost cannot comprehend how this young girl is so wise.  Her illness, her brushes with death, and her losses have made her wise beyond her years in a way that only pain can.  Any one of us who has experienced tragic loss or lived with a disease, either personally or through a family member, understands how dramatically pain changes you.  John Green captures all of these emotions with ease and I think anyone who reads this would find it completely relatable to their lives.

What a slut time is. She screws everyone.

Even the concept of time was described in such a simple way and yet anyone who has experienced loss will understand it completely.  There is never enough time.  There are never enough tomorrow’s.  When you have lost someone you understand the obsessive desire for just one more tomorrow.  John Green captures this through his compelling words and you can’t help but be reminded how fleeting time is.  I think that was the best part of this book for me  — not how beautifully it was written, not how honest he describes the reality of life, not how intriguing the characters were, but how he tells life how it is in a no bullshit kind of way.  There is no sugar coating loss, death, suffering, and struggle.  Green is able to write this amazing story with complete honesty and makes no excuses for the reality of pain and one’s desperate need to cling onto time.

And then there is the love.  While the main focus of this book is about understanding death, tragedy, and genuine courage, there is love.  A sweet, romantic, teenage love story that can be seen as beautiful by a reader of any age.  This is no sappy childish love story.  This is one inundated with the harsh reality of their suffering and their unity over understanding the lurking sense of death.  This especially resonated with me and I understand Hazel’s anguish of loss and her unfailing love even after a harsh separation.

I want to close by saying that I fully recommend this book to absolutely everyone, but prepare yourself to be changed, to feel sorrow, and to come away from it with a new appreciation of time, life, and love.  I close with five final quotes that I cannot help but share.  I dedicate these beautiful words to my love, my sweet Zach whom I will forever love and will always wish for one more tomorrow.

I’m in love with you, and I’m not in the business of denying myself the simple pleasure of saying true things.

It would be a privilege to have my heart broken by you

I cannot tell you how thankful I am for our little infinity. I wouln’t trade it for the world. You gave me a forever within the numbered days, and I’m grateful.

The pleasure of remembering had been taken from me, because there was no longer anyone to remember with. It felt like losing your co-rememberer meant losing the memory itself, as if the things we’d done were less real and important than they had been hours before.

I missed the future. I felt robbed.

From Lauren’s Perspective:

“As he read, I fell in love the way you fall asleep: slowly, and then all at once.” ~~ John Green in A Fault in Our Stars

It isn’t everyday you read a book that takes hold of you and grabs your attention and your passion and even steals a bit of your life away.  It isn’t everyday that you are desperately happy not to fully enter the life of the characters you are reading.  To feel such pain for them and hurt for them because of what they are suffering, to empathize with them and to relate to them, but to really not want to be them.  Or to only want to be a part of them.  It is not every day you get to feel that much for a character in a book at all.  But the days I got to spend reading The Fault in Our Stars, I experienced all of that and more.  This book is beautiful.  This book is probably as close to perfect as they come.  And while technically it is supposed to have been written for a younger audience, it is beautiful and intelligent and self-realizing in a way few adult books today are.  It teaches.  It shows you life from a point of view that most of us aren’t familiar with, that most of us thank whoever it is we believe in that we aren’t familiar with it.  But it shows real life.  True and real living.  I beg everyone who reads this post to read this book.  It’s one of the good ones.

“That’s the thing about pain…it demands to be felt.”

To give a brief synopsis of this novel, I won’t say much.  I don’t want to spoil anything, and the plot is better left uncovered as you read.  Simply, I will say, it is about a girl who is ill and her journey through life and love.  It is about true love.  It is about pain.  It is about death and all that means to all people.  In a rather poignant statement, Green writes through his main character Hazel, “There will come a time when all of us are dead. All of us. There will come a time when there are no human beings remaining to remember that anyone ever existed or that our species ever did anything. There will be no one left to remember Aristotle or Cleopatra, let alone you. Everything that we did and built and wrote and thought and discovered will be forgotten and all of this will have been for naught. Maybe that time is coming soon and maybe it is millions of years away, but even if we survive the collapse of our sun, we will not survive forever. There was time before organisms experienced consciousness, and there will be time after. And if the inevitability of human oblivion worries you, I encourage you to ignore it. God knows that’s what everyone else does.”  It is in that statement that I can best describe this book.

“I’m in love with you, and I know that love is just a shout into the void, and that oblivion is inevitable, and that we’re all doomed and that there will come a day when all our labor has been returned to dust, and I know the sun will swallow the only earth we’ll ever have, and I am in love with you.”

To start, I will state clearly, the characters were charming.  Hazel Grace, the narrator is a rather precocious 16 year old girl.  She is incredibly intelligent, well read, and has accepted her rather hazy fate, if in a slightly anti-social and depressive way.  She is dealing with life’s problems the best she can, and her strength comes through on every page.  It is her strength that drew me in.  Her love of reading drives the novels plot forward, she says, “Sometimes, you read a book and it fills you with this weird evangelical zeal, and you become convinced that the shattered world will never be put back together unless and until all living humans read the book.”  Through this love she discusses her favourite book, the one she reads over and over and over again for how it relates to her, how it makes her feel.  Books, beside her budding love life, are the only place she finds any solace.  She is a solitary person and her books give her comfort.  The character of Augustus is also written perfectly.  He is weird and strange in all the right ways.  He is intelligent and happy and exactly the opposite of what you would expect an eighteen year old boy to be.  Both he and Hazel have intense world views, and quite astute beliefs about death and what that means for everyone around them.  They have, afterall, had a lot of time to think about it.  Put the two together, and you have star crossed lovers, reminiscent of a Shakespearean tale.  It is breathtaking.  Even the books secondary characters, Hazel’s parents, Isaac, and the drunken Van Houten are delightful in their own way.  But once again, I want you to discover them for yourselves.

“You don’t get to choose if you get hurt in this world…but you do have some say in who hurts you. I like my choices.”

Finally, I will discuss the writing within the pages.  I want to tell you how well I thought they were written.  How amazing a wordsmith the author is.  But I have shown you what I think already, by smattering this review with quotes from the story.  Even those were a snippet of the beauty held within, I had a million more I wanted to add in somehow, but couldn’t for fear of giving away the story.  The writing is brilliant.  It is simple, easy enough for a young adult to understand, but poignant and thoughtful enough for anyone to read and take away beautiful realizations about their own lives.  It is the kind of writing that I long for in a book.  Simple.  Beautiful.  Filled with meaning.

It has been some time since a book has touched me in a way this book did.  Please take the time to read it.  It will be well worth your time.  And hopefully you will learn something about true love, pain, and the unfortunate side effects of death.

Rating

Plot – 4/5
Writing/Style/Form – 5/5
Characters – 5/5
Enjoyment/Entertainment Value – 5/5

Overall Score – 19/20

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Where’d You Go, Bernadette? – By Maria Semple

Bernadette

“My heart started racing, not the bad kind of heart racing, like I’m going to die. But the good kind of heart racing, like, Hello, can I help you with something? If not, please step aside because I’m about to kick the shit out of life.”  ~~ Maria Semple in Where’d You Go, Bernadette?

From Lauren’s Perspective:

I’m going to start somewhere I don’t usually start in these book reviews, I want to talk about the cover.  Although I’ve never mentioned it before, I believe that the cover of a book can completely sell a novel.  It can also completely ruin one.  There are hundreds of books I have passed by, even if I thought I’d be interested in the story, because the cover is atrocious and I can only assume that means the text inside will follow suit.  There are too many books out there for me to waste time on ugly artwork.  So I thought I’d start by saying that this is one of the best covers I have seen in a long time.  It drew me into the book before I even knew what the book was about, partly because of the beautifully contrasting colours, and partly because of the equally interesting title .  Either way, whoever created this cover design:  Well done.  I think it will catch a lot of eyes, and don’t worry, what’s inside is every bit as beautiful and contrasting as the cover.

Where’d You Go, Bernadette?  Is the story of a mother and daughter.  It is the story of family dynamics, and the story of love.  It is told from the point of view of Bernadette’s fifteen year old daughter, Bee, through correspondences between her mother and anyone who had been in contact with Bernadette leading up to her disappearance.

The layout of this book is fantastic.  It does not read in regular prose, but instead, you read letters and emails passed between various characters.  It is a fascinating and different way to learn about a characters personality and surprisingly easy to read.  When I first began, I did think it might be hard to follow the seemingly haphazard style that Maria Semple undertakes, however, Semple does a beautiful job mixing in letters with regular prose, taking us back and forth between Bernadette’s point of view in all her correspondence, and Bee’s point of view in the space in between.

The book was an absolute pleasure to read, and when you add in Semple’s beautiful knack for writing, the story becomes impossible to put down.  Semple writes in one of her more meaningful moods, “”That’s right,’ she told the girls. ‘You are bored. And I’m going to let you in on a little secret about life. You think it’s boring now? Well, it only gets more boring. The sooner you learn it’s on you to make life interesting, the better off you’ll be.”  It is through writing like this the the book really sold me.  I have always appreciated a good story, even those that are sometimes not written all that well (*cough* twilight *cough* *cough*), and really, I will read almost anything (Except Ulysses.  I tried.  I really tried.)  But when you throw together not only a wonderful story, but also beautiful prose; well that’s pretty much my heaven and it was close to perfect.

So far, here’s what you have learned from me, without giving away any spoilers:  The plot is haphazard and jumpy, but brilliant.  The writing is simply beautiful, it’s simple and beautiful.  Now, what about the characters?  I always find the most important thing (to me) in writing and reading characters is the ability to relate to the characters.  Obviously I’m not going to relate 100% of the time to every character, but I like to find a part of myself in each of them, no matter how fantastical, as a way of truly being able to understand the characters.  This book is a perfect example.  Bee is an over achiever, brilliant just like her parents, and not the most popular girl at school.  We have little in common, but I loved her.  I loved her because I could be a bit of a loner like her, and in that I found a common bond.  She is wonderfully written, precocious, and so smart you could die.  And what’s weird, she has an amazing family dynamic, this amidst a story where her mother inevitably disappears.  You find yourself yearning for friendships with your parents akin to the ones Bee experiences, and that’s an amazing thing.

Bernadette herself is perfect, in my opinion, because of her flaws.  Her life is a little off kilter, but she stands tall and proud when people start accusing her of her life being off kilter.  I love that.  Confidence in a woman who knows she has worth despite the fact that she is going through a small mental breakdown.  Reading some other reviews, I heard some people write that they didn’t like the character of Bernadette, that she was too whiny.  I couldn’t disagree more.  She is a strong woman who stands up for herself despite her fears.  Yes, she makes some bad decisions, but she is intelligent and strong through it all.  And honestly, I don’t find anything wrong with being a little crazy.  Bernadette is so full of love, I don’t know how anyone could dislike her.  She writes in a letter to Bee near the end of the novel the most perfect description of her passions and, through that, her beautifully broken mind, “Every single iceberg filled me with feelings of sadness and wonder. Not thoughts of sadness and wonder, mind you, because thoughts require a thinker, and my head was a balloon, incapable of thoughts.”  Her mind was amazing, despite everything going wrong within it as well.  As for the secondary characters, I won’t go into detail about them  as they played an important role in the book and were written well, but were not nearly as interesting as the two main characters.  I will say this about them:  They all have flaws that are at once delightful and infuriating.  They are all perfectly human.

In the end, all I want to finish by saying is this:  Read this book.  It is a beautiful tale of a mother and daughter, but it is also so much more.  It is the story of a life going wrong, trying to pick up the pieces, but standing tall and proud throughout.  It is a story of confidence in yourself, and having hope when hope is all but lost.  Please pick up this book if you have the chance.

Rating

Plot – 5/5
Writing/Style/Form – 4/5
Characters – 4/5
Enjoyment/Entertainment Value – 5/5

Overall Score – 18/20

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