by Sissy Goff & David Thomas
Every year, there is a YA book that takes the girl world by storm. You can name the last few: Twillight, Divergent…and now, The Fault in Our Stars.
The Fault in Our Stars is a lovely, well-written, beautiful book—and now movie— that speaks to everything that young (and sometimes old) girls love: drama, love, drama, beauty, and more drama. It nails it, in fact. And every girl between the ages of 13 and 18 I’ve (Sissy) seen in my counseling office this summer has been talking about it. One even made me sit down and watch the trailer she was so passionate about it.
A mom of an eighth grader I met with yesterday talked about how her daughter and all of her friends were “obsessed with it.” Here’s something you may or may not know. And, SPOILER ALERT, by the way. But, I believe, concerned and intentional parent important spoiler. They have sex. She’s 16 and he’s 17. And most of the girls I have spoken to about the book have said, “Well, they had cancer and thought they were going to die.”
What do we do with that as parents?
David, Melissa and I always say about any book or movie that captures the heart of your child specifically and teen culture in general - do your research! Read reviews from trusted sources, talk with friends, read the book yourself, or see the movie on your own. If your child is younger, you need to see it first. Read it with them or read it alongside them. You want to know your child. You want to be able to have conversations with them about the things that are important to them. And part of that is what is important to their culture. So, grab your spouse or a buddy, take your tissues, and go see The Fault in Our Stars. As Augustus says, “That’s the thing about pain, it demands to be felt.” And what better way to connect with your child around a movie that stirs their hearts and hormones…to share their pain and then to get to share truth—non-judgmentally, non-reactively, but gracious, hopeful, pure truth.
I (David) would piggy back on Sissy’s wise words and recommendation. I’d also add the recommendation that you have your daughter/son read the book before seeing the movie. As is the case with most movies based on books, there is so much more in the book. I can speak first hand to how reading this book and seeing the movie with your adolescent could be a great way to drive conversation. I read the book alongside my adolescent daughter and then we went to see the movie together. We ended up at Starbucks (because Sissy has wisely taught me that teenaged girls will talk easier with their middle-aged dads over a White Chocolate Frappucino).
We had this rich, long conversation comparing and contrasting the book and the movie. I listened to what about the story stayed with her and what affected her the most. If you choose to read the book or see the movie with your teen, be sure to ask them what they thought about the character of Patrick. He is the only identified Christian in the movie, and I sadly understand why Hazel wants to bail on his support group. Patrick unfortunately represents how Christians are often portrayed in films. We ended up in this great conversation about how he could have been different and what Hazel might have meant in the book when she talked with her mom about being “a better Patrick.”
We talked about Hazel’s relationship with her parents - what she needed from them and how they best supported her. I was leaning in and listening to my daughter’s observations about how an adolescent girl feels most loved and supported by her parents. We also talked around Sissy’s Spoiler Alert and it ended up being one of the easier ways to dialogue with my adolescent daughter about sex, boys, and emotions.
We respect whatever choice you make for your own family about books and films. We’d simply invite you to consider some of the stories our kids are drawn to as great tools to drive dialogue, to develop critical thinking, and opportunities for connection and being in their world. And don’t forget the Frappucino!