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Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Fault in Our Stars (Nothing resembling spoilers)

At the risk of sounding like I'm under the influence of something hard and illegal, my stomach feels like a tennis ball right now. I don't know why that's the image coming to mind, but I can't shake it. When my old dog was a jumpy, vivacious puppy, she used to tear the living shit out of tennis balls-- rip off all the fuzz, bat tiny holes into them with her nails, cover them in slobber-- and as soon as they were totally unrecognizable, she'd place them in my palm. My dog would then look up at me expectantly, wag, and I would pretend I wasn't on the verge of gagging because I loved her. The way those balls looked and felt after being destroyed, with their cores still intact but every other fiber an utter disaster... that's how I feel after reading The Fault in Our Stars.

Let me clarify: John Green's new novel, The Fault in Our Stars, is beautiful. At no point in its eloquent, funny, torturous pages does it resemble a chew toy in any way. I, however, am a mess.

I considered writing up a list of reasons why I'm a mess, citing quotations in MLA format, going into detail about which parts affected me in which ways. But I can't do that. Not only because my stomach is a raw, wet, skinned tennis ball after the emotional shitstorm I just dragged myself through, but because it was such a personal experience for me. It's likely that the vast majority of people reading this blog will also encounter the novel-- and I sincerely hope that they do-- but I don't want to talk about it. Does that make sense?

It reminds me of high school, when everyone assumes everyone else's lives to be public domain for discussion. Occasionally, I'd sit in class and read a book, and on every one of those occasions, someone would come up and ask, "What are you reading?" I'd sigh or shrug or breath-laugh, hold up the cover for them to see, and mumble, "It's just this thing."

What do you mean, what am I reading? Reading is not a group activity! Reading is not something I've chosen to share with you! There's a secret universe playing itself out in a buried corner of my brain right now, and you are not invited in!

That's... that's sort of how I feel about The Fault in Our Stars. I can't preach enough about how grateful I am to belong to a community of like-minded people who get the opportunity to love things together, and I deeply, sincerely hope that thousands of people get to love this book. I hope every person who touches it comes away with a tennis ball stomach, and I hope it goes on and on and breaks the hearts of people I'll never meet. But for now, even if it's unrealistic or selfish or juvenile or silly, I want to pretend that it belongs only to me.

However, I understand that I'm supposed to have something to say about it. I'm expected, as someone known online first and foremost for her association with the author and the things he's created, to review the experience I just had between bright blue covers. So let's just say this: Tonight, I finished a book that made my insides feel like they'd been through a spin-cycle in a dog's mouth. And it was extremely beautiful.

32 comments:

Ashley Unscripted said...

Wow, stunning review Hayley. <3

Alexis said...

Gah this made me tear up a little bit. That stupid, beautiful book. I love it so much.

Bridget said...

I'm the same way about feeling a book is private. When I read something truly breathtaking, and I know that there is an enormous fandom underneath it all, I believe I'm the only one who truly "gets" the book. It's just me and the book against the world. I don't know why, but I just get very emotional over fiction! Cannot wait until my grant money comes in next month so I can afford to buy The Fault In Our Stars! Haha, so excited :D

Anonymous said...

You summed up my feelings perfectly. I finished TFioS several days ago, and all I've wanted to do is clutch the book to my chest, sob, and pretend the story was written just for me. I don't want to talk about it or to share it. I just want to read it over and over again. I want to contemplate the intricacies of the universe and all of the tiny infinities we have. I want to indulge myself in the simple pleasures of looking at beautiful people, telling the truth, falling in love, and reading and rereading this beautiful, heart wrenching story.

The Bright One said...

I feel the same way, Hayley...It's been a few days since I finished it, and I still can't sum up my feelings for this beautiful book. Yours is one of the few reviews I've read of TFiOS simply because I want to keep my experience of reading the book as untainted with other people's detailed opinions as possible. For now, I still want it to be "my" book, influenced only by my experiences with it.

Dani said...

the way you feel about TFIOS is the way Hazel feels about AIA. She describes it as the kind of book "so special and rare and YOURS that advertising your affection feels like a betrayal."

Lucy said...

Lovely review. Lovelier book. It's just like how Hazel feels about An Imperial Affliction.

Anonymous said...

There was another review on goodreads and the girl didn't like the book, which is fair enough because opinions are subjective, but her reasons for not liking it were that she didn't think John had a right to write the story or that readers had the right to experience what they do while reading it and she said she wasn't comfortable with "death being used as entertainment in YA" and just...eugh.

She doesn't get it and I couldn't even find the words to disagree and explain it to her.

But anyway, this review is awesome and you described it perfectly.

Stefan said...

What kind of signature did you get? I just got plain old blue ink.

Carina Belles said...

WHAT ARE YOU READING UGHHHHHH *vomits*

Alexis said...

Still waiting for my copy to get here to Australia... But WOW. I really can't wait to read this book.

anna said...

Nailed it.

Julie said...

Wonderful review-type thing. I guess it's just one of those books I like to keep to myself. For a while. When one of my friends asked me about it, I couldn't even bring myself to answer the question: "What's it about?"

Christina said...

I understand what you mean about not wanting to talk about TFIOS...the experience is too sacred and personal, and talking about it will make it lose some of its luster.

I'm currently waiting until I finish my finals (they end Friday) to read TFIOS..it's a difficult decision, but I want my mind to be clear so I can fully appreciate the book for what it is :)

Anonymous said...

I had the same feeling when I finished it. After finishing it, one of my friends suggested that we get together and discuss it... but the only things we could both say were "it was beautiful...". There was something about how it affected us that just made anything else so private and hard to share...

Amanda said...

I haven't read a book like this in a long time. You expressed yourself much more eloquently than I could, though. I didn't even know how to recommend it to people because it really did feel like I just had such a personal, intimate experience. It felt weird to share it, even though I want every single person on the planet to read this book.

madhu~ said...

that was just perfect. i read it and i'm re-reading it and i think others should read it too

Jeneva said...

Hayley, believe it or not, but this is EXACTLY how I feel right now, and I haven't even finished TFiOS yet! I can't put the book down long enough to survive my classes, but yet I don't want to be seen publicly reading it because someone could ask me what I'm reading, and then I would be expected to somehow describe it. And I just can't do that right now. My emotions don't feel well at all, and you know what? I'm okay with that. I'm spending the night on my own, in my room and hopefully I'll finish the book tonight. I just wanted to tell you that I was confused about my feelings, yet you summed them up perfectly. <3

Jen said...

It's so lovely the way that you reviewed the book. I completely understand your possession. John's book is heart wrenching, yet wonderful in every possible way. It had me trying to not sob and continuing to read through the tears and ugly crying faces, yet I was never sad about it. As someone who embraces the world of fiction a little too much and falls too in love with it, I don't think anything has ever stuck with me like this. After I was done reading, I remember this stomach jolting fear I had after slightly implying to someone that this book that I had been just GUSHING about for weeks before it had even come out was just thisfreakinggood. Like they would now read it and they would know this thing that I feel is so terribly mine. I love the book. But I don't want to discuss it or share it. I don't want to read all of these reviews about it
(I excluded yours because I'm a fan?). I want to keep it in the pure, raw, emotion screwing, beautiful state it was in when I read it.

Jessica Johnson said...

My copy of the book came in yesterday. It's sitting on one of my book shelves; I don't really know why I haven't started to read it yet...

Kara said...

I definitely understand the feeling. I got TFIOS the morning it came out and all day at school kids were asking me what it was about. I hate having to give summaries and trying to convey what a book is about, because there's no way not to understate it and make it sound less important than it is. If you want to know what a book is about, read it! And if you want to know if it's good, read it! I don't read so that I can tell people what they'll think of any given book or if they should read it, I read to think and love and sob and experiences things -- all in my own head!

kira902k said...

Beautiful metaphor/simile/analogy/whatever it was.

I felt similarly after completing the novel.

nelamonster said...

I often feel like that.
'What are you reading?'
Me:'... King Lear'
'Is it good?'
How. Can. You. Even. Ask. That.
I like how you put it. Reading is not a group activity. (And when it is, the majority of people usually doesn't bother to do the reading.)

Kathy S said...

This review reminds me of the way Hazel describes her book :)

sterff1face said...

I like your brain. Strange to say, but... :P
That is why I wish that you posted videos/blogs/annoyinghayleytweets every couple minutes or so.
But alas, you have a life. Why is that again? Jeez, selfish much? :P (The sticky-outie tongue face means "I'm totally kidding about that comment, I swear" and I only clarify because I know that there are a lot of people who think that for rizzles) :)

maggie m said...

the fault in our stars was absolutely brilliant. i was sick as a kid (not cancer sick, but the type of sick that makes life hell for a couple of years), and it brought back memories of things that i haven't thought about in years. his descriptions were spot on and he really captured the way sick kids feel. im glad you liked the book hayley. :)

AmyK7 said...

You always manage to sum things up brilliantly. You're the best. <3

PhredofMars said...

Funny, I used to feel exactly the same way about books before stumbling onto this amazing Harry Potter fan community of which you are a big part. Different strokes for different reads I guess.

Anonymous said...

I would love it if you would make a video talking about TFiOS but make it private and link it somewhere so that people who haven't read the book probably won't read it. I have my own opinions about the book and I was wondering if we have the same opinions about certain parts.

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