The girls at my youth group are always reading some sort of young adult novel. Usually, this entails either talking about the film adaption or the novel or the differences between the book and the movie. A year or so ago, a cinematic adaptation of The fault in our stars was due to be released, based on the best-selling book by John Green.
At the time, this was the top book to be reading, and the girls at my youth group had been banging on about it for weeks. With the upcoming premiere, they had all read the book and were very keen to watch the film upon its release.
I became interested when I heard it was a best-seller, and decided that if it was interesting enough to get our youth reading for fun rather than for school, then I might just read it myself!
They got me in too...
'What is The fault in our stars about', you may ask? Well, if a girl from my youth explained it, it would be "It's ada blah blah blah, it's so super, it's sad, it's so great"—a lot of nonsense words and adjectives.
Five minutes later, you find out that it is essentially a love story about two teenagers with terminal cancer who meet at a support group and develop a relationship with each other. It shows the highs and lows of young love between people who really have to live in the now due to their terminal illness.
It must have looked like a weird scene that weekend when I purchased the book at my local store. I mean, a 6'0" male, currently sporting a beard, wandering in the teen-fiction area in search of this book. It wasn't hard—there was a full display of them in the middle of the store. Once I started reading I flew through the pages and finished it quickly.
Without giving too much away in terms of plot, I could immediately see why the girls at my youth group loved it so much. The male protagonist (Augustus Waters) always has a clever quip during conversation, and the banter between him and Hazel Lancaster (the female protagonist) is often heart-warming whilst also being quite funny.
The plot openly deals with cancer and the toll it takes on all those involved. From medical visits, hospital scares and treatment through to recovery and support. The emotions of the characters are strung out well from page to page.
No kidding—the book was great, and I even had some 'laugh out loud' moments reading on the train. But the fault I found was in one of the more popular quotes from the book: "Some infinities are bigger than other infinities".
A subtle but important challenge to readers
This line caught my attention, due to the fact that Augustus had openly said the only thing he feared was oblivion. The fact that we have a finite time here on earth and an infinite time after we 'move on' seemed to be a very subtle reference to Christian beliefs. Although the book has some Christian/non-Christian themes (the author himself is a Christian) the book is not overt in terms of Christian content.
The fear of oblivion is one that has filled the minds of humans for centuries: 'what happens next'. Christians know that when we die, we are simply resurrected with Christ in Heaven, and spend eternity with him. The opposite of that is an eternity of separation from Christ spent in Hell.
At the end of the day, it comes down to a decision: the bigger infinity of Heaven, or the smaller infinity that is your 80 years of life? For some of my youth, the 'here and now' seems more important.
I hope The fault in our stars shows them it is important to remember that you are not immortal, but mortal. Your teenage years can very easily be thrown upside-down due to unforeseen circumstances. Sure—make the most of today, but don't ever forget the bigger infinity awaiting you.
Christopher Archibald lives in Sydney and is a Youth Leader at New Life Christian Church in Blacktown. A voracious reader, he ploughs through many books in a calendar year, with a bookcase that is constantly being rearranged to accommodate new additions.
Christopher Archibald's previous articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/christopher-archibald.html