Narration, Authorship, and Memorial in John Green’s “The Fault in Our Stars”

(This post contains spoilers for The Fault in Our Stars… also, I wrote this as part of my application for MFA programs in spring 2017—and it worked!) Upon a first read, John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars (2012) might seem to be chiefly concerned with death. Indeed, the gut-wrenching novel about star-crossed teens is filled with morbidity and mortality—it has to be, for it is about terminal cancer. Hazel Grace Lancaster, bright and practical, knows that sand is falling through the hourglass of her short life. There’s no question that she will die, it’s when she will, likely when the miracle drug trial she is on fails to work or loses funding or she contracts an illness that would fatally cripple her compromised immune system. When Hazel meets Augustus Waters, aka Gus, at a church-basement support group for kids with cancer, she is intrigued by his easygoing-yet-blunt attitude. Gus smashes the defense-mechanism cage where Hazel guards her love and trust captive. Earlier Grace confessed to her mother that, “I’m like. Like. I’m a grenade, Mom. I’m a grenade and at some point I’m going to blow up and I would like to minimize the casualties, okay?” (Green 99). Later, Gus...

How to Stay Connected to the Book World While Homebound

Because I have a chronic illness that can be debilitating, I have spent some time during the past few years homebound. I work remotely, so I’m home a lot of the time anyway, but when my bipolar illness is acting up I barely feel up to leaving the house. This often means no libraries, no bookstores, and no book club. With ebooks and home book delivery from online retailers, one is never at a loss for accessing books. But obtaining books is perhaps not the biggest challenge for those confined to their homes. For bookworms who are unable to leave their house, it can often feel lonely, especially if you, like many readers, feel energized by being around books and talking to others about them. But being homebound does not have to be isolating, especially not in the age of the Internet and expanded library outreach services. Just because you or someone you care about is unable to leave the house does not mean the bookish world is out of reach entirely. Here are some of my favorite ways to still soak up conversation in the reading world, reach the world beyond my house, and feel connected to fellow bookworms....

Reading and Bipolar Disorder | Tips and Advice for Bipolar Readers

When it comes to reading, bipolar disorder is definitely a mixed bag. Let me give you some background on my reading history post-diagnosis and offer some tips and advice for reading when bipolar. Reading with bipolar disorder can present an obstacle, but it can definitely be overcome. A little personal history of reading with bipolar disorder When I was in college, starting in freshman year, I found it so hard to read. I had such difficulty concentrating on anything, a product of the lithium and later Seroquel. I would stare at sentences, my eyes barely able to glaze over the words on the page, and ultimately retaining nothing. Student Disability Services worked with me by running the books through some kind of scanner, which would then convert the text into an auto speech-to-text so I had an audiobook version to listen to as I read. I’m embarrassed to say it, but I relied on Spark Notes all too often. What’s worse, I was an English major, with a concentration on Victorian literature—aka long, looong books by Charles Dickens, George Eliot, and Wilkie Collins. After graduation, I slowly resurfaced (especially after going off Seroquel) and, with no syllabi to restrict my reading...

Books about Bipolar Moms

Recently I was feeling really bummed out. I was talking to my best friend on the phone and explaining that usually I start to tune a novel or premise out when it’s about kids or pregnancy. First of all I tend to prefer stories that deal with people my age or younger, and I’m not really ashamed of that; I think it’s natural to want to read about people who have had the same experiences you have or are about to experience them. But I also find it harder to find stories about women in their late twenties like me but without kids/children/pregnancy. I think this is going to be a big problem I will continue to face. My horrible secret—the one that makes me feel like less of a woman, like there’s something horribly wrong with me and this is why I don’t have a Happily Ever After by now, like men can see through me and deem me unfit for procreation—is that I’m not really sure I want kids. I think I’d be a terrible mom—I don’t handle crises well, I find it hard to sugar-coat a situation or not shoot from the hip giving people advice, and most...

YA Novels about Disability and Illness: Some History and a Forecast for 2015

A Little Personal History The first time I officially recognized my illness as a disability was in 2006 when I registered with Student Disability Services at Barnard College, which I attended at the time before transferring to Penn. I was initiated into the world of Reasonable Accommodations and Documentation. I was encouraged to frame my “invisible disability” illness to professors in terms of “flare-ups.” I was encouraged to disclose my illness but also “not let it define me.” Was my illness a crutch? Or was sitting some classes and assignments out crucial to maintaining my already fragile health? And so began a cycle of shame and pride, secrecy and disclosure. For someone like me, who was frighteningly ambitious and set her sights on the top, not to mention negotiating an intensely competitive academic environment, accepting what I could and could not handle was a process that took the better part of 8 years. Saying “I think I can, I think I can” didn’t apply anymore when it was my mind that was affected. The “thinking” was the root of the issue. At Penn first as a student and later as an employee, I navigated my abilities and disabilities as I accepted...

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Welcome to Broke By Books, a blog by Sarah S. Davis, where the guiding mission is to spread a contagious love for reading through helpful, thought provoking, and enjoyable writing about books. Please join me in growing an inspired, engaged, and fearless reading life.

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