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.