“The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars.”

I’m late to the game, but I finally caught The Fault in Our Stars last night. I’d been avoiding this book/movie because it’s not about one sick person in a doomed relationship but TWO. You know this story will only end in tears, and I just wasn’t in the mood for it.

But Ed Sheeran’s All of the Stars music video, as well as Birdy’s Not about Angels, drove me to watch it at last.

The last time I cried so hard over a movie … Shoot, I can’t even remember. Even though I might have cried six times throughout The Return of the King (because LOTR will always have a special place in my heart), I didn’t literally sob into my palms the way I had at TFIOS.

Thank you, John Green. And I know my tweet was mildly sarcastic

But really, thank you. For creating such a beautiful, tragic, but somehow uplifting story that sheds light on cancer and the battle cancer patients fight every day.

I’m generally not into books with insta-love (Twilight was a phase – we all have our inglorious pasts), because I can’t understand how people can fall so completely head-over-heels for someone so quickly. Crushes I understand – but love?

But I suppose for Gus and Hazel, with only limited time on earth, they would feel everything more keenly. Insta-love in this case is not only justified, but credible. I love how they bonded not over their illness, but over a book, and a huge part of the story follows them on their voyage to Amsterdam to find the author, Peter van Houten, who changed their lives. And their interaction felt so real, you feel like you ARE Hazel falling for Augustus.

I also really like Hazel’s relationship with her parents. It’s not the “teenager wanting to be free and independent and hence rebels against the parents” trope you see in many YA stories. Hazel’s parents are protective without being stifling, and they have an implicit understanding with Hazel that they’re all in this together. It’s so nice to see a loving relationship between the teenage protagonist and her parents for once.

After Gus’s funeral ceremony, when Hazel just sat in her car, taking a moment for herself, I felt her pain. Her grief, her longing, her sudden emptiness. I missed Gus as much as she did. I missed his sweet and adorable text messages. I missed his bravado, his cocky smirk. I missed the reassuring smile he reserved just for Hazel. I missed everything about him.

But while the ending was devastating enough to bring even grown men to tears (what did you expect, right, with a love story of two terminally-ill patients?), it wasn’t depressing. John Green gave Hazel – and us – closure with Gus’s letter.

“Mr. Van Houten,

I’m a good person but a shitty writer. You’re a shitty person but a good writer. I think we’d make a good team. I don’t wanna ask you for any favors, but, if you have the time (and from what I saw you have plenty) please fix this for me. It’s a eulogy for Hazel. She asked me to write one and I’m trying, I – I just.. I could use a little flair. See, the thing is, we all wanna be remembered.

But Hazel’s different. Hazel knows the truth. She didn’t want a million admirers, she just wanted one. And she got it. Maybe she wasn’t loved widely, but she was loved deeply. And isn’t that more than most of us get?

When Hazel was sick, I knew I was dying, but I didn’t wanna say so. She was in the ICU when I snuck in for 10 minutes and I sat with her before I got caught. Her eyes were closed, her skin pale, but her hands were still her hands. Still warm and her nails were painted this dark blue-black color and I just held them. And I willed myself to imagine a world without us, and what a worthless world that would be.

She is so beautiful. You don’t get tired of looking at her. You never worry if she’s smarter than you cause you know she is. She’s funny without ever being mean.

I love her. God, I love her. I am so lucky to love her, Van Houten. 
You don’t get to choose if you get hurt in this world, but you do have a say in who hurts you. And I like my choices. I hope she likes hers.

Okay, Hazel Grace?”

– Augustus Waters

*

I feel so much better now after getting this out of my system. I spent the remainder of last night completely zombified, useless with my chores, because TFIOS is one of those stories that reaches into you and wreck you from within.

Plus, John Green is such a lovely human being!

I’m officially a fan.

Next up, If I Stay. Already have it on my Kindle, along with TFIOS, so bring on another bout of the feels. Yay for YA fiction!

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Monday moodlifters!

(I’ve decided to name all my posts on Monday “Monday moodlifters” because I’m a lazy ass who doesn’t want to come up with new post titles every week. So if you have issue with the cheesy name, suck it. Kidding!)

So I came across this article on weird things that affect our dreams today. I don’t know if it’s all just a load of horse shit, but they do sound plausible. At least, we all know the stuff we’re exposed to during the day gets processed by our pre-conscious mind and they manifest in completely bizarre ways when we’re asleep.

Speaking of dreams, I had the weirdest dream last Saturday (I’m starting to see a pattern here – is Saturday the day when my circadian rhythm jumps out of whack?), and the emotions I experienced in it were so intense I woke up crying. No shit.

(It’s funny. You may be sobbing your heart out in your dream, so hard that you feel like your chest and face might explode from all that emotion, but you wake up and find that you’re only just tearing up. Like how you’re screaming and shrieking in your dream, and you’re actually just whimpering in waking.)

My dream might have to do with the book I just finished reading:

Wonder Show by Hannah Barnaby

 

It’s about a girl named Portia who was abandoned by her family at a home for girls during the Great Depression era. I generally avoid books set in depressing times because they’re such downers (sorry!), but this one has a circus, a budding romance and is a coming-of-age story about a girl searching for her father.

Okay, that’s a terrible summary. I think this blurb from Teen Librarian Toolbox does it more justice:

Portia has always grown up hearing the stories of her family, but when her family disappears there is no one left to care for her except for The Mister. The Mister runs the McGreavey Home for Wayward Girls and it is a place that you would do anything to escape if you could, perhaps even death.  When one of the girls in the home, her friend Caroline, does indeed take her life, the thought that she may be a murderer haunts her.  For a while Portia languishes at the home, biding her time and praying that her father will magically appear and rescue her, but when the circus caravan drives by and a card with all their routes on it falls out a window and glides slowly to the ground, she has a new plan.


Portia jumps on a bright red bicycle and pedals to a new type of freedom, she hopes.  Her she stumbles upon The Wonder Show, a side show of circus freaks who caravan across the country and make a meager living based solely on their various oddities.  Tall men, short men, fat ladies and a woman with no arms who throws knives with deadly precision – they are now the only hope that Portia has of out running The Mister and trying to find the father she knows once loved the circus.  Portia knows it is only a matter of time before The Mister finds her, he is not the type of man to let someone get away. And Portia, more than anyone ever has, has upset The Mister.

 

Abandonment, optimism, flagging hope, It’s right in line with the themes and emotions of Neverland. Plus, the pacing is tight and keeps you turning the pages, the characters are people you want to root for, there is an underlying sense of urgency and danger threaded throughout the story, and you find yourself hoping along with Portia for her father to find her.

Some beautiful quotes from the book:

Sometimes promises are even harder to keep than secrets. Promises are easily made- we toss them like coins bound for a fountain and leave them there, under the water, waiting to be retrieved.

And:

The ones who left (tapped at the edge of her memory), and the ones who were left behind, everyone in motion like startled birds, trying to find a place to land.

And:

There was always someone going and someone left behind. Portia had been both. She had enjoyed neither. But she knew that leaving a place was sometimes necessary, when you wouldn’t breathe there anymore, when you weren’t yourself because of it.

And finally:

Lives only begin once.  Stories are much more complicated.

 

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I love it so much I NEED to own it.

Anyway, yes, the dream.

It involved a girl (let’s call her Iris) being found by Mother, a no-nonsense but kind lady who founded the Academy for Wayward Teenage Girls. There, she got into trouble with the other girls, got framed, got kissed, got blamed for a murder, got expelled, and finally she realised that she had nowhere left to go. That the Academy, for all its failings and imperfections and hateful rules and hierarchy, was the only place she had come to count on. That part where Mother had to let her go was the part where Iris (or, okay, me, since I was Iris in the dream) struggled to hold in her tears and eventually broke down. I woke up to find my pillow soaked, although I wasn’t choking on my tears the way Iris – or I – had been in the dream.

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What, you don’t get weird-ass dreams like that?

On the plus side, that dream made for some really good writing material. I might write something about it when I have the time, maybe a short story, if not a proper novel. I’ve been saving my dreams for ages, recording them in my notebook as detailed as I possibly can, hoping to one day discover them properly and fill up the missing pieces (you know how dreams can be a little hole-y).

Hmm. How shall I develop Iris’s story? I already have a few ideas brewing, but am not sure how to work out the technicalities…

NO, JOYCE, NO. NOT NOW. NOW IS THE TIME FOR NEVERLAND!! DO NOT GET SIDETRACKED.

Okay, that’s enough rambling for the day. Shall leave with a few lovely quotes and pictures, as usual.

John Green offers some very inspiring advice to aspiring writers:

Don’t make stuff because you want to make money — it will never make you enough money. And don’t make stuff because you want to get famous — because you will never feel famous enough. Make gifts for people — and work hard on making those gifts in the hope that those people will notice and like the gifts.Maybe they will notice how hard you worked, and maybe they won’t — and if they don’t notice, I know it’s frustrating. But, ultimately, that doesn’t change anything — because your responsibility is not to the people you’re making the gift for, but to the gift itself.

It’s easy to lose sight of the reason you write. We want to be published so badly, want everything that comes along with being published. Book tours, book signings, brushing shoulders with YA superstars – *ahem* Laini Taylor *ahem* Sarah Dessen… Writing is such a lonely journey we want to see results sooner, if not at least have people to share the process with. To find someone(s) who’s as excited and invested in the story as we are.

Which is why writing a novel requires SO MUCH patience and perseverance. You need stamina to see this shit through. To put yourself through this mental agony day after day until you hit The End.

But I guess I will try to see this journey – or, in fact, every journey, assuming I still have stories I want to write – for what it is. If not a gift, then at least a much-needed lesson in perseverance.

Laini Taylor on writing meaningful dialogue:

I think the trick to enjoying dialogue (which I think is the lifeblood of a book) is: to have characters who want things and are doing things. Then there’s plenty to talk about, and their unique identities emerge more (for me) in the writing of dialogue than anywhere else.

WANTING and DOING. What do my characters WANT and DO?

 

Rose garden love!
F.R.I.E.N.D.S. love!
Reading love!

And finally,

Pretty boy love!

 

Have a great week, everyone! ❤