March 1, 2014 by maddieswab
For February’s book, the ABM Book Club read The Fault in Our Stars by John Green which, I admit, I wasn’t super thrilled to read. I’ve read Looking for Alaska and know how amazing and emotional and thoughtful of a writer Green is, but I don’t love young adult books; they just aren’t my thing. Nevertheless, I really enjoyed The Fault in Our Stars! It was deep, sad, joyful, and meaningful. Emma also brought up how much foreshadowing there is in the book that you don’t notice because you are so deep into the book. It’d be interesting to go back and read it (it’s a very quick read!) and pick out the different situations that include some foreshadowing.
Okay, so beyond this point, there are going to be spoilers, so don’t read any further if you haven’t read or finished the book yet! I’ll be responding to some discussion questions that Emma posted on the ABM blog. Also, if you want to start on March’s book, Emma chose The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri–I can’t wait to read this book!
What do you think about Hazel’s initial reason for not wanting to let Augustus into her life? She talks a lot about trying to minimize her grenade effect on the world. She feels she will not be able to stop the pain that will surely come to her parents when she passes, but do you think this is the real reason why she seems to spend most of her time alone or with only her mom? Although a heroic thought–to minimize hurt to those we care about–is this really possible to the degree Hazel would like? Does it then make Augustus less heroic because he knows of his cancer but still chooses to fall more in love with Hazel while on their trip to Amsterdam?
While Hazel says that she doesn’t want to get close to anyone else so she won’t hurt them when she dies, I think that she also closes herself off because she doesn’t want to get hurt. Dying affects those around you in that they lose you, but you also lose everyone. Hazel is young and while she is more mature than most teens her age, she still realizes that there will come a day when she will lose everyone and everything. But she does realize that this–closing oneself off to everyone–isn’t possible to the degree that she would like. Sure, you can isolate yourself, but once you meet someone whom you click with, it’s impossible to rid your mind of them; you have to see them and talk to them and build a relationship with them. Switching to Augustus, I don’t think that he’s any less heroic for knowing about his cancer, but still choosing to fall in love with her while on their trip to Amsterdam. He shouldn’t have to be punished just because of something that’s happening to him that he cannot control. While I do agree that he should have told Hazel about his cancer earlier than he did, he was trying to protect her and give her one moment where she could feel normal and her time wouldn’t feel limited.
What do you make of the notion that the universe wants to be noticed? This is something that Hazel and her dad (who cries SO much in the book! He’s so sweet-seeming) discuss, and Hazel thinks more and more about it at the end of the book.
I’m not sure exactly what I think about the universe wanting to be noticed. Honestly, I didn’t extensively think too much about this while reading the book (too many tears and emotions!), but I think it’s worth rereading some sections to really figure out what Hazel and her dad mean and what I think about it.
Probably many of us can identify with Augustus’s wish to live for a big reason, or die for epic cause. He often sacrifices his life while playing video games with Isaac for the sake of saving others. Is this a good or bad thing to want in life? I mean, is this something any of us can ever control anyway? Augustus seems to be disappointed that his life will not mean something more. But does life ever mean more? I think for me, watching Augustus (and Hazel) discuss and wrestle with this idea reminded me that I ought to always work to take whatever is in front of me and maximize those experiences. As much as any of us might wish for a grander life, we will only get one life (the one we are living now), and we just have to make it the very best it can be. But perhaps that’s too easy for me to say, since I don’t have cancer and don’t have to face death today like Augustus did.
I think this can be both a good and a bad thing in life: it’s good in that you live your life selflessly and know that you leave behind something that matters, but it’s bad in that you don’t live your life for yourself. We can’t even completely control living for a big reason or dying for an epic cause, so we should live our lives trying to accomplish a mix of both. We should always try to make the most of our lives and live them to the fullest extent, but we should also know when to make sacrifices. I agree with Emma concerning the question of life meaning more. I think my perspective would also be different if I were facing a premature death, but I do think that we just have to make life the best we can and accept that our life is what we get; there isn’t more.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on Augustus’s unlit cigarette. Did you love it? Did you hate it? I thought it was an annoying little quirk at first. Apparently I’m kind of a jerk. 🙂 But then I realized (slowly, because I’m also not that profound of a reader) that this was probably more of a symbol for Augustus. It was his control over his health/life. He was denying death and its power every time he held a cigarette in his mouth but didn’t light it. But of course this control is an illusion. One day we feel we have it, and the next day we don’t. For Augustus, I guess he probably felt he lost it once he drove late that night to buy cigarettes but then had to call Hazel (and later an ambulance) to help him because he wasn’t strong enough to accomplish this task on his own due to his sickness. I cried when Hazel gave him a pack of cigarettes at his funeral.
I loved Augustus’s unlit cigarette. Absolutely loved it. He wasn’t being insensitive to anyone and he wasn’t harming his health, he was just using it to control one aspect in his life. He says that “You put the killing thing right between your teeth, but you don’t give it the power to do its killing;” the unlit cigarette is the one thing in his life he has control over whether or not it has the chance to kill him. And the metaphor continues until the one night where he wasn’t strong enough to buy his own cigarettes. He lost control over the killing thing and, in effect, was dying.