Dear Mr. John Green,

When I was five years old, I was taken to the doctor’s office after complaining of not feeling well for several days. The doctor ran some tests and told me that I would have to be taken to the hospital to be diagnosed. The rest is just a painful blur. After those two days in the hospital, my life changed forever. I was diagnosed with Type One Diabetes (T1D).  My condition requires me to give myself multiple insulin injections and blood sugar level tests (by being stabbed by a tiny needle in the finger) each day. I have always wanted to see myself in a book. Not until I was handed that inch-thick blue book, had I ever seen myself in a book. The Fault in Our Stars was an amazing, well-written book but one thing set it apart from all others like it: it had a character that I could relate to. Hazel is what I was always searching for: a book character that could relate to how I felt and how my life was. 

Some people say that your life can change in the blink of an eye and it’s true, six years ago my world shattered and my life was turned upside-down. If you had asked me six years ago if I was going to have three auto-immune conditions, I would have told you “NO!” and that that was inconceivable. Bombarded with needles, fussy school nurses, food weighed exactly to the gram and worst of all, the judging stares of strangers and friends alike, I never wanted to be treated differently, but my difference was not something I could easily obscure from curious eyes. I just wanted to be normal. Hazel could definitely relate to the whole “wanting to be normal” thing, and the fact that neither I, nor she, could hide our differences. Hazel was the inspiration that I needed, she has been a guiding light in my life, like a little angel on my shoulder advising me on what to do and what choices to make.  In your book Hazel says “I'm like a time bomb and I would like to minimize the casualties when I blow up." Similarly, this is one of my daily interactions with my parents.  It’s not that I want to hurt them, but sometimes life can just be so frustrating.  I know my condition is not as life-threatening as having cancer, but it can still hurt like salt being rubbed into an open wound. When someone mentions my life pre-diabetes, a sense of loss seeps into the core of my very being, I feel like punching them and crying at the same time.

When I read your book, I saw little bits of my friends in Hazel and some in Gus. For instance, when Peter Van Houten confesses to Hazel that he had a daughter, whom he based his book character Anna on, and she, like Hazel had cancer, I saw a little bit of my Mom in Van Houten. She didn’t tell me that my grandpa was sick until it was impossible to hide. She was only trying to shield me from what she perceived as the horrors of life.  Trying to protect me from the sadness of the world like Gus tried to protect Hazel. Sorrow crept in to my heart for Van Houten because he lost his daughter before it was her time to go, but through his book, he was able to breathe a second life for her as a teenager.

I don’t see just one person in any of your characters, I recognize many of the personalities of the people I have known over these 12 years of my life. I became greatly attached to Gus, because he reminded me of my friend Zak. He tries not to let his emotions show but eventually they come flooding through in the form of tears. Zak has a tough exterior but on the inside, he is a soft, fuzzy bunny. When Gus died, sadness swept over my body in waves of tears. Pity was not the reason for them, the reason was true deep grief. The kind that comes when you have lost someone truly near and dear to you. 

A wise quote once said that "Everything has its beauty. Just not everyone can see it."  The message I took away from that quote was that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. Your book, The Fault in our Stars, changed my life.

I have read so many books but never once have I seen both a mirror of my own life and windows into other people's lives at the same time. Your book has also taught me a valuable lesson: not to judge a book by its cover (or a person by how they seem on the outside)

When I read the passage in which Van Houten confesses to Hazel, I realized that all throughout my life, I had judged people by what they seemed like on the outside, not what was on the inside.  That thought brings back one memory in particular.  I went to a day camp every year and it was mostly the same crowd, with a few new faces. There was one face that never changed; that of a girl, one who may have looked different than all of us, but was just as sweet. For two years I silently judged her without consciously thinking about it. I realize now that when Hazel and Gus first met Van Houten, I was appalled and disgusted by him, but now I realize that he was just getting emotional and didn’t know how to handle his feelings and they came out as anger towards Hazel and Gus. I can see how having a girl, who has cancer like your dead daughter, in your house could make you emotional. I loved how at the very end of the book, Van Houten tried to make up to Hazel, but he chose a rather unfortunate day.

The understanding that I was judging Van Houten hit me like a wave crashing into the shore. Realization swept over me, this was not the person I wanted to be. I thought "What would Hazel do?" She would give Van Houten a chance to explain himself, not just judge him. I realized that judgement was my way of life. I wasn’t stopping to discern whether anyone had a reason. Every time I find myself judging someone based on their looks or their actions I remember that this is not the person I want to be, and make a conscious attempt to stop. The conception brought me back to the quote, remembering its positive message about inner beauty. The more time the thought spent rattling around in my brain, the more I began to see its true meaning – there is always more to a person than what is on the surface. Your book has taught me that you shouldn't judge a book by its cover and you should always give everyone a chance to explain. No matter how horrible they may seem, everyone has a story and everyone deserves to share their story with the world. Thank you.

“My thoughts are stars I cannot fathom into constellations”- John Green   


Best wishes,

 Serena Martin

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Page last modified: March 22, 2018