How I Was Surprised by The Fault In Our Stars

Bookworm

My twelve-year-old has always been a bookworm, like me.

I never end a day without spending some time in the pages of a book, and she is the same.

She happily sat on our laps while we read book after book to her as a baby — her chubby, dimpled hands unable to turn the pages quickly enough.

This Christmas, she received  from The Fault in Our Stars from a family member. I had seen it in the teen section of the bookstore and heard some favourable reviews, but I didn't know much about the details of the story. I knew she could manage the reading level, but otherwise forgot about it with the busyness of the holiday season. 

I hadn't realized she started reading it without letting me know (because I had wanted to take a closer look at it first). I found out when she left it on my bedside table, because she thought I should read it too.

I remember seeing it there and feeling a bit unsettled because our roles had been reversed. I wasn't the one leaving books like Little House on the Prairie or Anne of Green Gables beside her bed this time. She was leaving a book for me instead. 

It felt too grown up and too soon.

This week, the book finally made it to the top of my reading pile. A few late nights brought me to its end last night. 

My thoughts felt so jumbled, while I was reading this book, and I felt desperate to share them. And I realized the only person I could do that with was her.

I actually wanted to barge into her room somewhere between chapters one and two, but held off until the end.

This morning I found her eyes and held them while the preparation for a school day bustled around us. 

I finished the book last night. 

She waited.

We have a lot to talk about.

She nodded.

But, Mommy, wasn't the writing beautiful?

I held my tears.

When she read the entire Harry Potter series in grade three, there was a twinge of concern it was too mature for her at eight years old. But she assured us that she understood the fantasy aspect of the storytelling and was not scared by its content. 

The Fault In Our Stars is fiction, but it is not fantasy. There are children and families that face the realities of this story every day. She would have known that when she read it, and she would have felt the weight of that understanding.

Her heart has always been in tune with the sorrows of others. It was hard to imagine how battered she must have felt reading those words or how much courage she had to summon to keep reading.

There are big emotions in this story. There are complex dynamics between the characters and concepts like love and sexuality, which we haven't talked about yet.

There is death, and grief, and loss.

There is a lot of pain.

As I reached the final pages of the book, I felt all of that wash over me and I thought of her doing the same. If I had read this book first, like I had planned to, I think I would have held on to it for awhile. 

And I would have missed this beautiful moment.

This book must have changed her.  

And I felt a hitch in my heart knowing it happened without me. 

I'm waiting for her to get home from school, and I don't know what I'll say or where our conversation will go — we have a lot of topics to touch on. I know she shared this with me, because she wants to talk about it.

And I can hardly gather my thoughts around the swell in my chest, knowing she chose me instead of a friend.

In 313 pages, she stepped outside of the place I've tried to keep her: where I turn down the radio, change the television channel, hide the section of the newspaper with the bad news.

And though she didn't need my help to stand there, she does need it to stay there. 

She has shown me once again that some of the most exquisite moments in parenthood reveal themselves after I've stumbled and while I'm searching for my footing. 

This book tells a story that makes people cry.

I cried, too.

But my tears didn't fall for the characters found on its pages.

I cried for the girl who lay awake in the room next to mine and turned them. 

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Elan Morgan

Elan Morgan is a writer and web designer who works from Elan.Works, a designer and editor at GenderAvenger, and a speaker who has spoken across North America. They have been seen in the Globe & Mail, Best Health, Woman's Day, and Flow magazines, TEDxRegina, and on CBC News and Radio. They believe in and work to grow both personal and professional quality, genuine community, and meaningful content online.