Well, it's about time...

The Fault in Our Stars - John Green

So, I finally got around to reading this (It's only been on my Kindle for years, oops) and it's funny, but I wasn't sure what I'd make of it.


Let me explain:


I went to the same college as John Green, we overlapped by a couple of years (I'm older), but I didn't know him at all. We did take the same degree, so I know I would have seen him in Sunset Cottage or passed him walking in or out of Ascension, but I don't think we ever met. (Why am I telling you this, you ask? Well...) My college is a funny place. Only 1500 students, on the top of the only hill in the middle of nowhere Ohio. What's funny about it is how it produces readers and writers, like that's in the water or something. We've got this review, that's pretty amazing. We have fantastic artists in residence, killer professors and a history of really  groovy  alumni for such a small school, in the middle of nowhere Ohio. (We've also got a serious tragedy problem that produces more ghosts than you can shake a stick at, but that's besides the point.)


(Sheesh, why don't you get to the point already, Ceilidh...)


Because it's so small, because it's in the middle of nowhere, because there's the knowledge of all the talent gathering in this one little place, there's the connection to the school that never goes away. I've been stopped in traffic when someone noticed the sticker on the back of my car. I've run across a crowded shopping mall to speak to someone I notice wearing our t-shirt. There's a spirit and community there I've never experienced anywhere else, it's truly special. (So, any of you looking at colleges and like the idea of middle of nowhere in Ohio for 4 years, check it out!) It's a community and all of us that went there share a common experience that's unlike anything else I've seen so far in my life. 


What does that have to do with FiOS? Well, I think even if I hadn't know that John Green went to Kenyon, I would have figured that out.  My husband read it before I did and while he also knew John Green and I shared an alma mater, he doesn't really know the place since he didn't go there. Before I started I asked him what he thought and he said "it was good, but it felt really teenagery." He didn't mean that as an insult, but rather, as an adult and reading the book there were moments that really read like teen voice. While that was clearly part of the intent he said that made it a little less enjoyable for him. There's that separation of experience that sometimes can lead adults to get a little *insert eyeroll* "oh, come on kid" about some teen expressions or experiences. (NB: Clearly, I am not dismissing anyone's experience with cancer or other illness or other huge, life changing moments experienced as a child or teenager. Please do not take this as such.) Everything is so much more when you're growing up and it can be hard for adults to relate and remember that when the weight of life is pressing down. 


That said, after I finished the book, I told my husband how much I enjoyed it. How I felt there is such heart in this book. Such sincerity, at times an almost uncomfortable earnestness and eagerness. Where he I think saw artifice or possibly pretension, what I was able to see was an unguarded and honest treatment of something highly emotional. That John Green's experiences working in the children's cancer ward and the way that a Kenyon education seems to mold so many of us fortunate enough to spend 4 years there bled through the pages. My husband is planning on rereading it now to see if I'm full of it or, if he approaches it unbiased, if his perception will change.


Y'all've probably read many (far, far better and much more coherent) reviews of this book, but this was my impression. I wasn't weeping onto my Kindle. I wasn't dreaming about Augustus. I was hearing the authentic voices of young people struggling to grow up and survive under the most difficult of conditions. While the specific events and settings might have been a little over, the voices resonate and their struggles stay with you long after the last page is turned and I can't help but see Kenyon between the lines.


Old Kenyon, we are like Kokosing,
Obedient to some strange spell,
Which urges us from all reposing;
Farewell, Old Kenyon,
Fare thee well.


And yet we are not like Kokosing,
Which beareth naught upon its swell
But foam of motion's own composing;
Farewell, Old Kenyon,
Fare thee well.


But when we are far from Kokosing,
We still shall hear a calling bell,
When round us evening shades are closing;
Farewell, Old Kenyon,
Fare thee well.


And see a river like Kokosing,
In meadows sweet with asphodel,
Where mem'ry dwells dear past supposing;
Farewell, Old Kenyon,
Fare thee well.