Slowly, and Then All At Once

For as much as I read, you might be surprised to know that I'm not much for book reviews. I've never written one on Goodreads or Amazon any other blog I've had in the past. I guess the closest I've come to writing a book review was being an English major and writing 80% of my college papers in response to literature I read.

But I, like much of the blogosphere, recently finished reading The Fault in Our Stars by John Green.

Don't worry — I'm aggressively on the side of real books over ebooks. But I was feeling lazy and impatient. John will understand.
I was introduced to this book actually over a year ago — #YAAddictForever — when I included it in my curriculum/public ed newsletter {for my day job} on a list of top-rated YA fiction to get teens excited for summer reading. Ever since then I've been meaning to read it. And ever since then I've chickened out.

You see, I'm a really, really emotional person. I'm a "highly sensitive person." I'm an empath — let's talk about that another time, though. But what that all boils down to is the knowledge, even before I cracked the spine of The Fault in Our Stars, that I would be very, very, very emotional reading it.

For those of you who don't know — no spoilers — this book is about teenagers with cancer, written from the perspective of 16-year-old Hazel, a girl with terminal cancer, about her relationship with Augustus, a boy in remission who quickly wins her attention and affection. That's all the plot I'll reveal for now, for those of you who want to read.

I finally bit the bullet and went ahead and read The Fault in Our Stars after completing An Abundance of Katherines, another novel by John Green about a 17-year-old prodigy who's been dumped by 19 girls named Katherine in his short, intellectual life. Mostly, because I knew I wanted to read it at some point, and I wanted to do that before the film {out today!} was released and images and spoilers were lurking all over the Internet.

I started it Monday, finished it Wednesday, and felt a lot of things every step of the way. I'm not going to give a full review, but this book really, really touched something in me — I had the puffy eyes Thursday morning to prove it — so I wanted to talk about it a little bit here. Because the writing in this novel was just as strong — if not stronger, at times — than the story itself, I'm going to do this week's Friday Favorites a little differently. {Possible small spoilers ahead.}

"As he read, I fell in love the way you fall asleep: slowly, and then all at once."

I know this is a well-loved quote by most people who have read this novel, and it had to be included here. Because as I read it, a couple of things happened: One, I imagined, on command, the dreamy, hazy space you occupy at those two precious times — before falling into sleep and before falling deep into love; two, a wave of wanting, of desire to fall in love from the very beginning again; and three, an overwhelming urge to mark this passage as an example of what I, as a writer and hopeful one-day novelist, hope to deliver to readers some day.

"The weird thing about houses is that they almost always look like nothing is happening inside of them, even though they contain most of our lives."

This one resonated so, so strongly with me. At the risk of indecent exposure, allow me to just say that if I had been as eloquent as Green's Hazel in thought or speech as a child, I would have had this very same thought — though mine would have been threaded with an undertone a bit darker than hers — about my own home.

"And here it was, the great and terrible ten, slamming me again and again as I lay still and alone in my bed staring at the ceiling, the waves tossing me against the rocks then pulling me back out to sea so they could launch me again into the jagged face of the cliff, leaving me floating faceup on the water, undrowned."

Never until this passage have I read of grief in such a powerful and clear and desperate expression that it refused to allow me to think of anything, anything at all, other than how it felt to lose my grandmother.

"Writing does not resurrect. It buries."

You know, I'm not quite sure how I feel about the truth of this thought just yet. But I have to admit I've been thinking of it ever since I read it, and turning over the idea it presents in my head. That alone is worth something to me.

"Grief does not change you... It reveals you."

Oh, how true this is. And it's not limited to the grief you feel when losing a loved one. Grief is grief, and mourning is mourning, and having felt grief and having mourned many losses of all shapes and sizes in my 25 years, I can say without a doubt that this is true. Grief does not turn you into a different person. It lets out the parts of you that have remained in hiding until now.


I just wanted to add something here. While the story of Hazel, Augustus, Isaac and their peers is fictitious, there are children everywhere living out their story. Pediatric cancer and other terminal illnesses are real, and they are affecting children and young adults every day. One charity I support year after year is the St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, which is devoted to the treatment of children like these characters and spearheading pediatric cancer research. If you were affected by this story, or a similar real-life case of childhood cancer or illness, please consider joining me in making a donation to support St. Jude.

I know I haven't quite set you up for it with a post like this {I swear, I'm in a good mood today. I just really had to talk about this book!}, but I hope you have a wonderful weekend. I'm going to be having some fun with friends at the Color Me Rad 5k tomorrow, and then checking out an arts festival this Sunday. 

What do you have planned?

Linking up with my favorite Friday crew || WhitneyAmandaLauren


  1. My coworker and I are taking a long lunch today and seeing the movie! I am not usually touched that much by books or movies, but this one definitely did its job. Have fun at the Color Run!

  2. I love reading your words. When I saw you were reading this on Goodreads I wanted to say something but couldn't. The book is too amazing. I cried, I laughed, I thought. All signs of a perfect book.

    The quotes you picked truly are some of the very best ones. The first one.. yes. Everythign you said. And it's so very true. The second, that one made me think. Again, true. Everything looks so perfect and manicured on the outside but inside it could be an absolute nightmare. The third, I know this feeling. And the description he used is perfect. There are no other words. The fourth, I agree. Writing, at least for me, is cathartic. It puts away and "deals" with those feelings and thoughts that would otherwise make me crazy. When I lost my sister I didn't think I'd be able to write, turns out it was the bet way to keep going. And the last, so. very. true.

    And now I need to go cry because this books is emotional and for some reason I've been a sap since 7am today :) (End longest comment ever)

  3. Beautiful. Clearly this book touched me as well! I have copied a lot of quotes from it and just have them. That last one is beautiful and true.

    Loved this post so much I can't even tell ya.

  4. I've read this book 3 times and cried every single time. Have you read "Looking for Alaksa" yet ? Because hands down, that is my favorite.

    I'm also resisting the urge to try and go see the movie this weekend (because, well, people) but I don't know how long I'll be able to hold out. Come back to NC to come see it with me so I don't have to go by myself.

    Also, thank you for reminding me to use my Goodreads account. And have fun at the color run !

  5. You are such a great writer. I haven't read the book but I still couldn't help reading this post because you write so beautifully.
    Have a great time at your run tomorrow! I've done one color run and I'm interested to find out what you think about it ;)

  6. I have been waiting to read the book until after I see the movie. I just don't want the movie to ruin the book for me. So I figure I won't be disappointed if the movie isn't as good as the book.

    <3 Jackie

  7. This was my first John Green book that I read, and it's still my favorite, I think. I love him so much...I just can't say it enough. I love the quotes you picked, too! I have a bunch of pages tagged on my iPad - I have to go back and write the quotes down.

    Going to see the movie next Wednesday. I have a few days to mentally prepare.

  8. I absolutely loved reading this and getting to go through the book all over again with you. It's amazing how one passage can mean so many different things to different people. Have fun at Color Me Rad - I think I'm going to have to sign up for that one next year!

  9. WOW!! All so true!! Seems like an amazing read! Great post Alyssa!! XOXO


  10. I can't wait to read that book!! I got it for our Summer travels (the plane is like the only time I have to sit still and read). Then I definitely want to see the movie! Thanks so much love for linking up!! I hope you have a fabulous weekend!!! xoxoxo

  11. Oh my goodness that book had me in tears!! I'm nervous to see the movie, but I must!!

  12. Meh. Haha. Not your post, of course. The book. I've read passages and they all sound a bit contrived to me.The characters say things that I'm sure teenagers don't really say. But I'm 31 so maybe I don't know what teenagers say anymore anyway!

    1. To be clear, I'm not saying I could do better :)

  13. Despite everyone's praise I haven't actually read this book yet. I love reading but tend to stay away from fad books until they're old news. Makes no sense but it's what I do lol. Glad I've got something to look forward too though :)

  14. I am scared to read this book, because I am worried that I am going to be so emotional when reading it.
    Hope you are having a wonderful Sunday!

  15. Loved this book and your review and you picked out almost all of my favorite quotes from the book too. That first one is everything.

  16. I just finished reading this book and WOW. Ok, so at first I just wasn't sure about the writing at all but after you get into the mind of Hazel, it really fits. The book made me cry twice, where normally books don't make me cry at all. I loved it!

  17. I LOVE IT! I'm so happy you read it so quickly. I think I'm going to try and go though it again & maybe try not to cry so hard. I think I missed things in the second half ha… But Seriously. Go see the movie. (But maybe in the middle of the day, when there aren't wailing 13 year old who scream at the sight of a nice set of abs. My mom & I were like really. reaaaallllyyy.) Anywho. I typically despise every movie of books I have read like this. But this one is a winner. Only a few changes that irked me slightly. Not enough to warrant dislike…
    And not to relate myself to the characters, because no,obviously I cannot. But they speak like I do. And I love it so much.

  18. ok for reals you should do more book reviews. you're such a good writer! mine are like: i liked it. lol.
    im sitting here in mcdonalds using the free wifi and getting cold chills and feeling all the feelings all over again.
    the whole 'ten' part had me balling like a freaking baby. thats why i loved this book, because i just loved the writing. he is brilliant.


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