Yesterday I took my almost 13 year old to see the Fault in our Stars. Which is probably one of the best books that I have read in a really long time. My first year teaching high school students I noticed that many of the girls and boys were all reading this book. During Christmas break I decided to see what all the fuss was about and oh my gosh. I knew exactly what attracted them.
First of all, John Green is an amazing author. He is very much in tune with kids of today. He is able to capture their thinking and feeling in a way that I think is hard for most adults. Therefore, it does not surprise me at all that he is a popular young adult author for that reason at all. But what I probably love most about this movie is the way love is portrayed.
Now I know there are many out there who won’t take their children to this movie or let their kids read the book. And for awhile I was in that camp too. But the more I thought about it the more I wondered why. I teach reading. I would encourage my students to read this brilliantly told story. I realized the reason I didn’t want her to see it or read it was mostly for me.
The conversation it could start might embarrass me or worse her having to talk to me about it. Then to sit in a theatre and see it with her. Then I again remembered in my classroom the things that go on and are said and I run a usually pretty conservative classroom. Kids are curious. I realized I could address all of it head on with her or I could let someone else (possibly a peer) address it with her. And these are topics that happen every day in curriculum that I am required to teach. We do talk a lot about things like death, being afraid, and life choices.
But more than anything the love story that is in TFIOS is a realistic, though fatally flawed, encouraging version of love. I want my daughter to know those kinds of love exist. I know sometimes that the love lines they feed us in contemporary and traditional literature is unrealistic. It there to teach us something. It is there to create the conversation of what real love looks like.
And is talking to my almost 13 year old about what love should look like that bad? I think not. My whole marriage I have tried to portray what love looks like. The respect, the kindness, the loyalty and even sometimes the anger. This movie had all of that. It was not some idealized version frought with unattainable and unrealistic possibilities.
As I read TFIOS, I was reminded of the movie and by far better book, A Walk to Remember, which oddly enough has a very similar story line. But the young couple goes on to get married. But the marriage was created because of the religious tension in the movie that was trying to suggest that a relationship cannot be complete without marriage. And I am neither here nor there on that front. But I do feel like it was for the purposes of sex that the marriage happened in that movie. And that was one part that just always sat wrong with me. Marriage is about so much more than that.
So yea, not that I needed to defend my choices, because I do not. But I took my daughter because the conversation that ensued after gave me a great opportunity to have an awesome conversation with her about love, life and relationships. Love can be everything that was portrayed in the novel and movie.
“Sometimes people don’t understand
the promises they’re making when they make them,” I said.
Isaac shot me a look. “Right, of course.
But you keep the promise anyway. That’s
what love is. Love is keeping the promise anyway. Don’t you believe in true love?”
― John Green, The Fault in Our Stars