Monday, May 26, 2014

'The Fault in Our Stars' Book Thoughts and A Lesson

May is Get Caught Reading Month. I'm not really planning on doing anything special, except maybe introduce my children to some new genres or challenge them to read a type of book they don't usually read. Because of this focus on reading in May I thought I would use this month to share some of the books we're currently reading or recently finished.

Today my 13 year old daughter is writing about her current read. This is what she has to say.

My favorite book that I've been reading this month is "The Fault in Our Stars". I haven't finished reading it yet, but it is just so good that I had to write about it. This book is by award winning author John Green. I found out about the book on YouTube because the author is also one half of the Vlogbrothers, and has talked about the book on their channel.

" The Fault in Our Stars" is about a girl named Hazel Grace who has stage IV cancer. Her mom wants her to go to support group to make friends, much to Hazel's complaining, until she meets Augustus Waters. They immediately take a liking to each other and become friends. But this is tested when Hazel is waiting outside with Augustus he puts a cigarette in his mouth. When Hazel sees this she gets mad for smoking when she has lung cancer. She says, "Are you serious? You think that's cool? ... even though you HAD FREAKING CANCER you give money to a company in exchange for the chance to acquire YET MORE CANCER. Let me just assure you that not being able to breathe SUCKS." Then Augustus tells her that it's a metaphor. He puts something that is able to kill him right between his teeth but he doesn't light it, he doesn't give it the power to kill. After this Hazel feels better about it. After they are friends for a while, Hazel tells him about a book she likes, "An Imperial Affliction". It is about a girl who has cancer like her, and the book ends on a cliff hanger. Augustus reads it and likes it as much as she does, Hazel tells him that she has written a bunch of letters to the author asking what happens, but he has never written back. The next time Augustus talks to Hazel on the phone, he tells her that he sent an email to the author's secretary and the author wrote back through his secretary. Hazel also sends his secretary emails asking the author the answers to her questions, but he tells her that the only way he could tell her the answers is if she came to Amsterdam where he lived, and talked to him in person.

This is as far as I've gotten in the book, so if you want to know what happens next you have to read it yourself. I can not recommend this book highly enough, because it is so good. I would rate it 1,000,000/10 stars it is so good. This book is great for teenagers, but I wouldn't recommend it for children younger than that. The movie is also coming out this year so if you like the book, you should watch the movie too.

Mom's Turn

Despite how much my daughter enjoyed this book I didn't allow her to finish it. While she was writing this I picked up the book and started reading parts of it. I was unpleasantly surprised so I continued to read it later to get a fuller understanding of the text. What I found disturbed me.

  • There is a lot of inappropriate language used by the teens in the story. While I can't isolate my children from hearing this type of language, I don't feel it needs to be read.
  •  I wasn't pleased with the attitude exhibited by the teens towards their parents.
  • The main characters also engage in  a physical relationship inappropriate for children.
  • The graphic descriptions of the physical deterioration and process of death didn't set well with me either.
Unfortunately I can't give it as many stars as my daughter or really recommend seeing the movie.  The latter is hard to say, but knowing how books are often changed for movies I really don't expect the movie to be improved in a way which addresses my concerns.

The Lesson

Because I wanted to have the opportunity to discuss the book with my daughter I hung onto it until we had the opportunity to talk. I shared with my daughter my thoughts about what I had read and my desire that she didn't finish the book. As I expected this was not what she wanted to hear. Fortunately, she was semi willing to listen to my point of view and problems with the book. We discussed the situations and language in the story and agreed the language was probably not a major point to keep her from finishing the book. I was more concerned about the actions of the characters, the physical deterioration of the characters and the utter hopelessness they had due to their lack of faith and how this influenced their behavior.

While I realize all of these things are issues that she will probably encounter at some point in her life I don't believe she needs to read about them right now. I hope she will have time and more maturity before she has to wrestle and deal with these complex issues.

The Result

I did let my daughter read a little more of the book, enough so she could learn the outcome of the characters visit with the Author in Amsterdam. While this did not avoid the language and attitude issues, it did eliminate the other topics I found objectionable.

I also learned I need to be a little more vigilant about reading selections. I usually know what my children are reading, but when something is recommended by a professional I thought it would be ok. In doing some online research after this incident I also found it enlightening how books are currently classified, the labels used by the industry are not as straight forward as they are made to sound. They also use different age ranges than other industries. So this is something I need to research more. Something else to add to my summer to do list.

I have tried to keep this semi short and not go into many details because you never know who maybe reading over your shoulder. :)  If you would like more details about the content of the book or why I found it objectionable send me an email at martharf95@gmail and I am more than happy to share more thoughts with you.

1 comment:

  1. Martha,

    Are you familiar with Redeemed Reader?
    This blog sometimes covers controversial YA materials. Also, Sherry reviews YA sometimes and usually comments on objectionable content.
    Another is Breakpoint--