Dear John Green,
When I was sixteen, your novel The Fault in Our Stars captivated me –Augustus caring for sick Hazel Grace entranced me with love defying all odds, even sickness. But, John Green, when it comes to love and sickness, while you got some things right, you got some things wrong.
Okay, you penned the “falling-in-love” part accurately. I was that girl, he was that boy. That was me, spending every night from 6-8 pm vomiting up my ham and cheese croissant, oatmeal with bananas and honey, and Fuji Red apple I had eaten the day before. And that was him, gently asking me to try and eat another sandwich, maybe this time with turkey, no cheese. Maybe this time my body would accept it.
That was me at the drive-in theater in the white pick up truck, pinching myself to stay awake to prove I had enough energy to watch How to Train Your Dragon 2, our first night out in 56 days, to be exact. And that was him, tucking the big, blue, Target blanket around my feet after I inevitably sank into slumber, waking up for the movie credits.
That was me, bursting into tears in aisle 9 of Meijer’s frozen foods section, standing before shelves of Ben and Jerry’s half-baked ice cream after being told: “No more ice-cream or solid foods, only smoothies (soy milk, half a banana, two gogurts, and some ice) for a while.” And that was him, slow-dancing with me in the middle of the grocery store until laughter erupted from both of us and smoothies didn’t sound too bad after all, as long as he was the one making them.
And that was us, clutching champagne at the top of the Eiffel Tower, toasting negative test results, toasting benign tumors, toasting an uphill battle we had won. You penned us right, John Green, when you penned the sick girl and her doting boy.
But, John Green, there are many things you fail to mention about sickness. You do not mention the beginning, when stomach pains tug at her waist like an annoying little sister, when she pops two ibuprofen every two hours to numb both it as well as her thoughts.
Mr. Green, why did you skip the part when the ambulance whizzes the girl into the ER, drowning her tears with even louder siren cries? What about where doctors whisper behind closed doors, words like “rare,” “cancer,” and “for life” popping in and out of their conversation?
Did you forget the scene where the girl, in a voice she does not recognize, yells at the boy for eating a hamburger (ketchup and pickles only, please) or for playing Frisbee, both activities she cannot do?
But most importantly, you forgot the chapter on how the boy feels trapped. How he uses all of his strength and energy to support her, but has no one supporting him. How as she regains her strength and energy, he loses his and walks out. How she shivers in her black BMW, rain pelting her window, yelling at God, demanding of him sickness instead of singleness.
I think, John Green, you took the easy way out, narrating how love overcomes sickness. What about when sickness overcomes love? What about when the girl finally cuts off the pink hospital wristband on her left hand, slips off her light blue hospital gown, and steps into a life without him? What about when she gazes into the mirror and notices not her rosy-red cheeks or healthy figure but instead the trail of mascara dripping from her eyes and the tingling spot where he last kissed her? Where is the chapter on how the sharp, twisting pains in her stomach are replaced by the dull but constant throbbing of heartache?
I appreciate, John Green, your portrayal of love caught in a web of sickness. And to tell you the truth, I fell for it – until I lived it. I fell for love overcoming all obstacles, until our love choked, tangled in IVs and stifled between crisp linen sheets. Sometimes, John Green, sickness overcomes love. Sometimes, between floors five and six of Spectrum Health, first loves turn into first break ups. Sometimes when contrasted with heartache, health seems futile. Sometimes she wishes her hands were frailly clasped in his instead of strongly grasping at air.
At twenty, your novel still captivates me. And I admit, I enjoyed the movie interpretation. But the title still bothers me, John Green. Maybe the fault is not in ourselves, as Shakespeare asserted. But maybe the fault is not in our stars, either. Maybe the fault is in our sickness.