Wednesday, March 7, 2018

John Green and Cancer

Okay, now I’ve read The Fault in Our Stars. When I read Looking for Alaska last year, I didn’t realize I would end up reading more John Green but I’ve ended up reading both The Fault in Our Stars and Paper Towns over the last month or so.

I might be done now :D

Over the course of these three books, I think that John Green’s real gift is remembering what it was really like to be a teenager so his characters are really believable. Looking for Alaska reminded me a lot of my freshman year in college, although I never took up smoking :P

Green’s teens are self-centered, vulnerable, foolish, self-destructive, curious and growing. Really, a lot like adults only without any of the coping mechanisms (good and bad) we develop as we get older. Sometimes, that doesn’t make them likeable but it males them real.

He also seems to have a real interest in deconstructing the ‘manic pixie dream girl’ (thanks, TVTropes!) That’s the idea that some wild and crazy boy or girl is going to shake up your life and make it better and probably be the love of your life too.

I really enjoyed Bringing Up Baby, which helpdd create that icon but i have to agree that its not healthy in real life.

Thanks to now being a major hit movie, everyone knows how The Fault in Our Stars ends by I’ll still skip spoiling it.

I do want to say that The Fault in Our Stars is the strongest and best (?) of the three Green books I’ve read. And, annoyingly enough, it’s because of cancer.

In real life, cancer is a horrible, horrible thing. Like everyone reading this, I have many people I care about to cancer and I know many cancer survivors. But in fiction, cancer feels like an easy cliche, a cheap way to get an emotional reaction.

That said, the fact that the characters in The Fault in Our Stars have cancer does mean they have real and serious problems to deal with. Which was one of my problems with Paper Towns. In that book, the fundamental problem of Q and Margo was that no one understood them. Which can be a legitimate issue but their way of reacting wasn’t reasonable.

While the character decry the cliche of the innocent, maybe saintly victim of cancer, I’m not convinced that the book doesn’t end up ultimately use it. I did appreciate that Green makes cancer ugly. The characters don’t just lie weakly in bed. They lose control of their bodily functions and emotions and lives.

Part of me really wonders if Green got his cake and ate it too, if he tries to deconstruct cancer as a way to get an emotional reaction and then used it that way. But, I was genuinely moved by the book and cried a couple times. So, whatever he was trying to do, it worked.

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