For me, reading books has always been a way to get away from my real life, to escape into a world where I don’t have to think about anything except the characters and places around me. But even so, it feels good once in a while, to come across a book that I can relate to — a book that feels as if it was written about me.
I encountered one such book a couple of years ago, one that made me feel so many emotions all at once.
It is called The Fault In Our Stars and my copy of this book is probably the most well-read and annotated book I own because I have a habit of reading it at least once every year and each time, I discover something new to jot down or underline.
About the Fault in Our Stars
The Fault In Our Stars is a star-crossed love story of two cancer survivors who fall in love despite all the difficulties their illness creates for them. They aren’t deterred by the fact that their life is uncertain, that they could just die any day.
Characters in the Fault in Our Stars
At the same time, Hazel, the female protagonist, is stuck with the dilemma of following her heart or doing what she can to keep Gus, the male protagonist, away from her so that she wouldn’t end up hurting him if she dies.
That indecision, that fear of hurting someone like that, by dying is what made me relate to this book, to Hazel.
Why I Relate (Chronic Illness)
The reason I referred to this book so much is the fact that I too suffer from a chronic illness. It may not be cancer, but I could understand them and their feelings because I’ve felt like that myself also, more times than I can count.
The first time I read TFIOS, I cried like a baby. The second time I read it, I cried like a teen. The third time, I had no tears left, though the story affected me just the same.
It’s no doubt so many people are in love with this book. There is so much to learn from it. Like this line, that has become one of my most favorite quotes ever: “Pain demands to be felt.”
That one line holds so much meaning, so much of reality. You can’t get past the pain, it says. You can only get through it. This isn’t the only piece of advice the book holds, but it is my favorite one.
Now, it has been almost four years since I first read this book, and up until a month ago, I hadn’t found a single book that could match its beauty, that I could love as much as I love The Fault In Our Stars.
Another Book I Connect with is Five Feet Apart
And then, around four months ago, I heard about this book called Five Feet Apart. I heard about the movie. My best friend, who’s a Cole Sprouse fan, showed me the trailer, and my first thought after watching it was, that sounds like it’s based on a book! So, of course, I Googled it.
When my suspicion was proved correct, I immediately put the book on hold on my library app.
My spontaneous action was because of two things: (1) the fact that it featured a teenage couple with a chronic illness, Cystic Fibrosis, which I also knew nothing about before reading this book (2) the gorgeousness of its cover swept me away. (NOT the movie tie-in cover!)
And then I read Five Feet Apart, and the above list got too long to write down here. It was the story of Stella, a girl who wants to stay alive and Will, a boy who wants to live.
This book meant a lot to me because it ended on a hopeful note, with a promise of a beautiful future for my favorite characters. The book was much more confident and equally impressive.
“If I’m going to die, I’d actually like to live first.”
I think this line sums up what this book is all about pretty nicely. But at the same time, both of these books are about so much more than that.
However, while The Fault In Our Stars left me with tear-stained cheeks, Five Feet Apart left them lifted in a broad smile.
These Characters Understand ME!
I loved reading both of these books, not just because of the storyline, but because of the characters, too. Being in their company, I feel solidarity that I cannot think with any of my friends because try as they might, they can’t understand me as these characters do.
Hazel and Gus and Will and Stella, these characters make me feel at home with them.
Being in their company makes me feel comfortable; it helps me deal with my illness in a way that my friends and family can’t.
I guess what I’m trying to say is, every reader should look for that one — or two or three, or as many as you can find — the character that they can relate to, whose story seems like more than a fictional world to them.
Because escaping into fictional worlds is impressive, but so is stumbling upon that one character who has so much of you in it.
So if you can’t find that character? Simple. Create them yourself!
About the Author
Ankita is a twenty-something blogger, author, and student from a small town in India. She reads and reviews books in her spare time while spending the rest of her time staring at her screen trying to turn the words into something comprehensible and appreciable. She’s the author of a poetry collection called Scattered Constellations and is now working on a fantasy novel set in her hometown.