Lately I’ve been reading a lot of young adult novels. I certainly didn’t read that many YA novels when I actually was a young adult. I think it all began with finding out about The Fault in Our Stars sometime in the middle of last year. I actually do not remember how I stumbled upon it but I think it had something to do with a post on Buzzfeed.
Being 25 then, I was initially skeptical. I downloaded the pdf version and began reading, already rolling my eyes before I even got to the first page. For all I knew, this would be a sappy, mushy, hopelessly-in-love love story filled with the usual teenage issues of struggling to fit in, self-esteem and finding someone who, despite your every flaw, sees you for who you really are and accepts you with (muscular) arms wide open.
Needless to say, I was pleasantly surprised. Now I knew this story was about two kids who had cancer. But I was generalizing TFIOS. It didn’t make any sense as to why I’d do that, but I did it anyway. Sorry, John Green. I can safely tell you that you are now one of my very few favourite authors.
As I read through the book, I found myself aching for a love like Augustus and Hazel’s. I felt a gaping hole within myself when I read the part where they are in a restaurant and Augustus says “I’m in love with you, and I know that love is just a shout into the void, and that oblivion is inevitable, and that we’re all doomed and that there will come a day when all our labor has been returned to dust, and I know the sun will swallow the only earth we’ll ever have, and I am in love with you.” And the instance where Hazel tries to get Augustus out of a ditch, covered in vomit and not caring at all that his vomit might get on her clothes or being grossed out by it was one of many which made me tear up and yearn for the love I never had and the man that will never come to be, the type of man who will clean up your sick after you. I’ve never had that type of love, or any love for that matter. And I’ve always been single. I’ve never had late night text messages saying I miss you. I’ve never fallen asleep in the arms of someone who wouldn’t mind my drool on his shoulder. I’ve never been surprised on a birthday, or you know, the best kind, surprised out of the blue over nothing by a guy. I’ve not had life changing, deep, meaningful conversations with a man who may or may not end up being my husband. Neither have I held hands with someone and felt so safe and comforted for no reason just by that gesture. See, I crave these things. Because I’ve never felt them. I’ve never experienced them. I guess a girl with Cerebral Palsy is too much to handle.
And only through John Green’s writing did I finally experience them. I lived and breathed the essense of every miniscule emotion felt by Augustus and Hazel, Quentin and Margo, Alaska and Pudge and Colin and his Katherines and then Lindsey.
I had a sense of what I was missing out on right now and what I’ve missed as a teenager in terms of a relationship but I did not know what I was actually missing out on till I read these stories by Green. These miniscule, seemingly insignificant emotions and moments that change your life without even appearing to do so, and hit you so deep in the gut that you actually only become aware of it sometime later, were what I had been and am missing out on.
In An Abundance of Katherines, Colin tells us that “nothing was happening but everything was thick with mattering” and Lindsey tells us that some moments are so pure that it becomes nothing and everything at the same time, are some things I’ve gone through myself.
You see, last year the guy I like attempted to kiss my hand out of the blue in a crowded bar (he wasn’t at all drunk) and this seemingly insignificant moment, certainly forgettable was at the same time nothing and everything, and nothing was happening (because I pulled my hand away) but everything was thick with mattering (because I’ve never been kissed and because this was the closest a guy I liked had gotten to me physically). Everything happened and was over in less than five seconds. But it was everything to me.
For some, this might be laughable. So he tried to kiss your hand. So what? He’s just a guy. Guys do that. It probably didn’t mean anything. I’ve had friends tell me so. Because, in their love lives, far better and grander things have happened. Things that took their breath away and made them question the depths of love to which humans can go to. Fireworks, butterflies in belly and soulmate moments and what not.
So a guy kissing your hand? Psh! It’s nothing. Hell, even he might be feeling the same for all I know, because I got spectacularly friend-zoned a while later. But it’s everything to me. And it will continue to matter, simply because what happened in itself was special.
It has always bugged me as to why I’m in my late twenties and yet, so into reading YA novels, particularly John Green ones. Sure you don’t have to be of any particular age to enjoy a good book. But it bugged me.
And now I know. John Green is all about the tiniest emotions that eventually play out on a grand scale. In his novels, it’s the littlest of things that end up being the most significant. And these incidents, situations and emotions are normal day to day ones. In an Abundance of Katherines Colin says “I was just thinking out loud” and Lindsey says “Those are the people you like. The people you can think out loud in front of.”
John Green made me experience what I never had. And it was done in the simplest of ways. Felt in the deepest possible way. And that, I realize, is why I love YA novels, particularly those by John Green. Because I get to experience what I never could as a teenager and what it’s like feel love at its most purest.