When I interviewed the author John Green, who wrote The Fault in Our Stars, I was a bit star-struck. Here I was schmoozing with the Judy Blume of our day, and one of the other interviewers on the call asked him how he felt about that title. He admitted that being called the modern Judy Blume made him feel uneasy but also very proud. Her books dealt the tough issues of puberty and adolescence of her day and so do his. He writes so eloquently about illness, death, falling in love, breaking up and the tough choices we have to make in life.
It was just about a month or so before the release of his film, and I could hear and feel his excitement through the phone receiver. There was no question that his imprint would be all over the movie and that it would be a faithful adaptation given his involvement. He had hemmed and hawed for so long about making it that he clearly wasn’t going to let anyone run over it.
When the movie came out, I really wanted to see it. I did really like the book, and I was quite intrigued by all the attention it was getting: “50 million dollars in one weekend!” “Bringing back girls and women to the movies I wondered if I could take my 11 year-old with me. I like films with the emphasis on females and I knew it was about young romance, one’s first love. But it’s also sad and could potentially touch an emotional chord. Was I setting myself up for disaster?
None of my daughter’s friends were allowed to go see it. As usual, I was one step ahead of all of them, and I really wasn’t letting their feelings supersede my own.
In the film, Hazel, the main character, is suffering complications from Thyroid Cancer. The truth is that…yes, I have also been suffering complications from the same illness. While mine will hopefully not progress and continue to be treatable, there is always a chance the tides can turn.
A friend of mine advised me not to take her, but the truth is that my children don’t quite understand the full picture of what I’ve been going through nor the risks involved. I had a feeling she wouldn’t connect the dots.
But when the film started, and Hazel appeared in the flesh, just as John Green created her in his beautiful story, I began to worry. Was I taking my daughter down a road of reality that she’s really to young to know about? She hadn’t read the book and didn’t really know the full story. When she found out, would she start to cry and think she was going to lose her mother?
That was not the case.
Fortunately, that wasn’t the case. While I found the story slightly depressing yet uplifting in how the two main characters embraced the life they had left on this earth, I knew the ending and shed only a few tears. Whenever I looked at my daughter in fear of reality being thrust upon her through a fictional tale of a young girl’s fight with the same disease that’s inflicted me, she looked at me in wonder. Why was I checking her out so often, she must have been thinking. Meanwhile, all I could think was how could I pick her up and whisk her out without making a stink of the reality of own condition?
The film is just as graceful and sensitive as Green’s words on the page. I recalled lines that I read and heard them being dictated word by word.
I think that my daughter gravitated toward to the love affair that unfolds throughout the 100 minutes, and not illness and death. These are two worlds unknown to her, and there is no reason for her to know any more than she knows. I was so relieved on the walk home that our conversation quickly turned to other topics, most importantly getting ready to go away to sleep away camp.