Let me just start by saying that several people gave me warnings before reading John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars, anSee my original blog post here.
Let me just start by saying that several people gave me warnings before reading John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars, and that those people were right: I cried. I cried a lot. This is the sort of book that can’t help but lead to tears, both of the sorrow and laughter variety; I cried while I laughed, I laughed while I cried, and on and on. It’s the sort of book that I know I’ll have to go back and read again, not necessarily because I’m giving it an accolade of best-novel-of-the-time-being, but because there are so many subtle nuances nestled in its pages that I couldn’t possibly capture all of them on the first go.
One of the things I loved most about this book was the dialogue: it was engaging and felt very authentic of modern teenagers (that’s a compliment, in this case!) while never crossing the line into being pretentious. Hazel was a refreshing balance between the usual habits of fictional teenagers, she was neither too dramatic or too cynical; she drifts between witty bouts of snark and wading through a search for any kind of meaning beyond the disease that defines her life, but it never feels over done. I found myself constantly smirking at her various quips and back-and-forth banter with Augustus– who, despite my liking for Hazel, I have to admit completely stole the show. Loving Augustus Waters is hard to resist: he’s cheeky and endearing, while at the same time having a constant undercurrent of seriousness which only emphasizes his charm. Also, while giving praise, I enjoyed that while being a story inescapably intertwined with cancer and death as a circling menace, it somehow avoids being stuffy and overly-preoccupied with its own subject. Instead, it focuses more on the vitality of its characters: it defines them by their lives, their needs, desires, and fears– not through their illness.
There’s something to be said for a book about cancer that can treat mortality with a gentle hand; it manages to take a heavy subject and lighten its load. With Hazel and Augustus it's never the fear of dying that concerns them as much as their interest in living, in seeing what the world has to offer them while there’s still time....more
“It is embarrassing to admit that I didn’t begin [healing] until the age of thirty-four, when after a breakdown I began to get my life togethe
“It is embarrassing to admit that I didn’t begin [healing] until the age of thirty-four, when after a breakdown I began to get my life together through medication, therapy, and tattooing. Borderline means you’re one of those girls who walk around wearing long sleeves in the summer because you’ve carved up your forearms over your boyfriend. You make pathetic suicidal gestures and write bad poetry about them, listen to Ani DiFranco albums on endless repeat, end up in the emergency room for overdoses, scare off boyfriends by insisting they tell you they love you five hundred times a day and hacking into their email to make sure they’re not lying, have a police record for shoplifting, and your tooth enamel is eroded from purging. You’ve had five addresses and eight jobs in three years, your friends are avoiding your phone calls, you’re questioning your sexuality, and the credit card companies are after you. It took a lot of years to admit that I was exactly that girl, and that the diagnostic criteria for the disorder were essentially an outline of my life:
[Borderline Personality Disorder is characterized by] a pervasive pattern of instability of interpersonal relationships, self-image, and affect, and marked impulsivity beginning by early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts, as indicated by five (or more) of the following:
1. Frantic efforts to avoid real or imagined abandonment. Note: Do not include suicidal or self-mutilating behavior covered in criterion 5.
2. A pattern of unstable and intense interpersonal relationships characterized by alternating between extremes of idealization and devaluation
3. Identity disturbance: markedly and persistently unstable self-image or sense of self
4. Impulsivity in at least two areas that are potentially self-damaging (e.g., spending, sex, substance abuse, reckless driving, binge eating). Note: Do not include suicidal or self-mutilating behavior covered in criterion 5.
5. Recurrent suicidal behavior, gestures, or threats, or self-mutilating behavior
6. Affective instability due to a marked reactivity of mood (e.g., intense episodic dysphoria, irritability, or anxiety lasting a few hours and only rarely more than a few days)
7. Chronic feelings of emptiness
8. Inappropriate, intense anger or difficulty controlling anger (e.g., frequent displays of temper, constant anger, recurrent physical fights)
9. Transient, stress-related paranoid ideation or severe dissociative symptoms.
The first time I read these criteria, I felt like someone had been following me around taking notes.”(Loud in the House of Myself, pg. 8-10)
Even reading it for the second time, this memoir still hits very close to home for me. Having also grown up dealing with borderline personality disorder and having battled through manic episodes and deep depressive states, as well as my own forms of self-destruction, reading Pershall’s story felt almost like connecting with a kindred spirit. After just the first twenty pages of her book, I was laughing and sobbing simultaneously— unsure of exactly how to feel aside from an overwhelming sense of rapport, and the relief that comes from knowing that someone, somewhere, has been where you are, felt how you feel— and has survived it. I found solace in her story; although it's different in many ways from my own, there were times while reading where I felt that if I were to walk up to her and tell her a story from my life, she would know exactly what I was talking about. Her memoir is deeply affecting; you don't need to have lived through something similar to recognize her courage and applaud the strength inherent in her words....more