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Book Review: The Fault In Our Stars – John Green

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Book Review: The Fault In Our Stars – John Green

Introduction

A multi-million bestseller, this book has been highly recommended as a young adult fiction must read. It deals with issues from your worst nightmare, whether you’re a parent, teenager or friend: the issue of dying. This is interspersed with romance, philosophy and a fictional book – An Imperial Affliction, which also happens to be about death.

Author.

John Green – one of the most renowned authors in young adult fiction.  I don’t think I need introduce him any further.

Main characters

Character One

Hazel Grace Lancaster – 16 years old, has stage 4 thyroid cancer, which is terminal. The main protagonist who tells the story from her perspective. Fierce and independent, she wants to make the most of the time she has left.

Character Two

Augustus Waters – 17 years old, ex-basketball player, somewhat cocky almost verging on arrogant. Highly opinionated and expressive.

Character Three

Hazel’s Mother – dotes on Hazel, almost suffocating at times, but very sensible and forgiving.

Character Four

Isaac – a mutual friend of Hazel and Augustus, who has lost his eyes due to cancer and is now recovering.

Story

Hazel has cancer, thyroid stage 4, this is terminal and through a support group, she meets Augustus who is recovering from an osteosarcoma operation that has left him somewhat different to how he was before. Without giving the game away, the story is about the interaction of these characters and the growth of their relationship, mainly through Hazel’s perspective.

Themes

I would have to call this a tragedy interspersed with romance, philosophy, coming of age and real-world issues.

Evaluation

I had a lot of expectations from this book, as I had heard and read so many good reviews. So maybe this has tainted my opinion, but I have to admit, I was somewhat disappointed. Perhaps it is just the culture difference? But being British I found a lot of it way over the top. I understand the raw emotions of teenagers, I work with them and I was one, and in a lot of respects in my head, I still am one: everything is raw and intense at that stage of your life, even when you’re in good health. Time passes more slowly and things really do feel like forever. So, I totally get that if you’re a teenager whose dying, that’s going to increase at least 100-fold. But even so, there were just certain aspects that irritated me.

I thought the cigarette thing was just stupid. Every time it was referenced I cringed. I’m sorry but I don’t think it’s a metaphor, especially as even unlit there’s a lot of toxic crap in them that can harm you by putting them in your mouth! I found Hazel didn’t really have any depth to her and she didn’t really grow on me as a character. I don’t think the author quite got inside the mind of a teenage girl, Hazel’s voice wasn’t clear to me.

What it did like, was the dialogue. I thought the verbal exchanges between the characters, although sometimes over the top, were realistic and I really felt every word that was said. I thought the humour was relevant and well referenced. Subtle, yet obvious enough to be recognised. The interactions between the parents and the teenagers were really well portrayed, exactly as I would expect.

I also liked the, what as far as I could tell, sympathetic and realistic approach to the issues that were dealt with. The management and challenges faced by Hazel, because of the symptoms caused by her cancer, was really heartfelt; I developed great empathy for her, Augustus, and the parents and relatives. I think the author has taken some really sensitive, and somewhat taboo issues, and written about them really well with a balanced approach.

Overall, the book tells a heartfelt story of a teenage girl who happens to have cancer and falls in love with a teenage boy who is able to empathise with her situation. The dialogue is clear and realistic and the interaction between the characters if believable, if somewhat over the top at times. It is quite eye-opening and educational. Although I didn’t thoroughly enjoy it, I think it has a very important place amongst young adult fiction and successfully portrays what so many authors are unable to.

Rating

 

3/5

 

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Transcending Tragedy

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Transcending Tragedy

My apologies that I have not posted as often as I had intended. It is my intention to continue posting with my ideas about the job hunting and career process and overcoming challenges in due course.

Unfortunately I have just had to witness the rapid deterioration and passing away of my dearly beloved grandmother. A very sad and despairing time it has been. She was diagnosed with anaplastic thyroid cancer on the 3rd of August after being admitted to hospital on Friday 29th of July. I am in shock that it all happened so quickly. What a truly brave and wonderful lady she was and how I shall miss her dearly.

I have never experienced such loss, helplessness and utter despair at the NHS healthcare system. I know that nothing could be done to save my grandmother. Her prognosis was bleak, but the level of care she received during her time at The Royal Sussex County Hospital was something to be desired. It just highlighted to me the importance of good communication amongst large organisations. I have worked for the NHS and I have great respect for anyone who commits their life to making a difference in a failing system. The people are wonderful, the bureaucracy and the system are failing. Misinformation, no information and poor or no communication occurred from the moment my grandmother was admitted to The Royal Sussex County Hospital and I am deeply disappointed that an organisation that I believe in so much, I feel, failed my grandmother in terms of the lack of quality care provided.

She had to wait for over two weeks before being transferred to the beautiful St. Barnabas Hospice near Worthing at which she spent only 36 hours before passing away peacefully in her sleep. For this I am grateful. I am grateful that it was quick, that she did not have to suffer for long, and that she passed away peacefully in a place she wanted to be, surrounded by happy memories in the form of photographs of those she loved most. Gratefulness is something that I believe we all need to practice more fully on a daily basis.

 

 

 

small steps

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small steps

Well I suppose I am getting more regular with this once again. Not posting as often as I would like, but making progress, and that is what matters. I owe this to my radical turn around of ideas, mindset and general outlook on life. I am undergoing a challenging decision making progress but feeling very positive for my prospects in the future. I am open minded but feel I understand myself more now; having gone through this process. I can accept my limitations without judgement; and choose to move in a new direction. A successful and fulfilling outcome lies ahead.

I have learned, among other things, that it is all too easy to be deterred by setbacks and feel disappointed if we feel like we’re not getting somewhere as fast as we would like; and we forget to look back and realise just how far we have come. How many steps we have made since we started. If we are always concerned with how far we have left to go, we tend to beat ourselves up and forget to congratulate ourselves for just how far we have come. Whether we have made one step or several, a step in any direction is better than stagnation.  Even if sometimes this requires us taking a step back, if we stop to reflect for a moment we will realise this is still a step away from where we were and that is progress.

As a teacher and support worker I have learned the hard way, for myself and my students, that learning and progress are not linear. They both require diversions and mistakes to be made, for this is how we learn. As I scientist I firmly believe that trial and error is how we have made our way through evolution so successfully over all these years. After all, Albert Einstein did define insanity as, “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results,” and I believe there is much truth and wisdom behind these words. We must learn to try new things throughout our life and to allow ourselves to embark on this journey and accept that we will not be perfect, mistakes will be made and there will always be more to learn.

 

The Present of the Moment

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The Present of the Moment

Wow. Was it really that long ago since I thought about you? Since I took the time and used the energy to commit myself to getting to know you? Yes, I believe it was. How time will pass us by, no matter what we do and how we do it. It doesn’t matter how we live our lives, time will always remain the same. Consistent. Reliable. Cruel. Real.

How many of us can honestly say that we take the time to just be. To live and breathe and emerge ourselves in the present moment. To let go of time itself and just observe ourselves, our surroundings, the world, for what it is. To let go of conscious thoughts of the past and present, what was, what might have been, what might be, and just focus on what is. Here. In the here and now.

I know I haven’t. I find it far too easy to become wrapped up in what I haven’t done, what I needed to do, the should haves, the could haves, the would haves and the if only’s. Oh the bain of the if only’s. If only I had studied psychology instead of biochemistry, if only I hadn’t moved back to Kent, if only I had stuck it out, said this, did that, didn’t do that! What a waste of time and energy. But what if I could release myself from the grip of ruminating in the past, the anxiety of the unknown in the future, dwelling on things beyond my control?

I am referring to the practice of mindfulness. The guidance required to learn to let-go of reflecting and ruminating and to just live in the now. To stop doing and start being, now, in this moment. This is a powerful tool when it comes to coping with debilitating conditions such as depression and anxiety. With the help of apps like headspace you can take back control and learn to live life how you want to, even if only for a few minutes, to gain perspective of the reality of what is really going on. To prevent catastrophising and see things as they really are. This is the power time has over us. Mindfulness takes the power of time and returned it to you. So you are able to function in the present. Believe yourself better.