(Spoiler) Discussion Sunday // Did TFIOS Have A “Happy Ending”? What is a Happy Ending? Is A Story The Author’s or Reader’s Story?

Discussion Sunday

Another lovely discussion with Josh @ Diurnal Discussions.

Interview

This is the second discussion I have done with Josh, so I decided to also have a mini interview.

What is your favorite dessert?  I’m not a huge dessert person, but I have a severe weakness when it comes to Kraft No Bake Cheesecake.  I will eat it until I die a fat, happy man if given the opportunity.

Favorite Genre?  I’ve always been a huge sci-fi geek.  I love fantasy and really any story that takes me somewhere I can’t actually go, but my love of technology makes sci-fi settings a little more appealing.  It’s also been fun watching some of that fictional technology become a reality in my lifetime.  Still waiting for my working magic wand or pet dragon…

Favorite book?  Ender’s Game has always been among my top books, and definitely the one I have re-read the most often.  I read it for the first time when I was about 12 and so I was able to relate more easily to the main character, but the theme and emotion of the book is what keeps me coming back.  A lot of books satisfy our desires for importance by putting us in the world of someone who is, for one reason or another, important.  Harry Potter is the boy from the prophecy (probably), Percy Jackson is the child of a God, Bella Swan gets to fall in love with a pervy vampire and….ok, so they’re not ALL important.  But in no other story have I seen the darker side of this importance and fame portrayed as accurately as in Ender’s Game.  It shows the often overlooked consequences of such a life and the toll it takes on the person in a way that I feel speaks more honestly than your typical ‘hero’ story.

Josh writes amazing stories about his dreams on his blog. He is a fantastic writer and is also currently writing a book. Go check out his (new discussion based) blog Diurnal Discussions.

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tfios

*Spoiler alert!

Since this conversation would be much duller without spoilers and practically impossible to have, there will clearly be spoilers. Please do not spoil yourself if you haven’t read TFIOS.

There are a few possible endings to TFIOS, and we plan to address each.

  1. Hazel died a year after Augustus. (John Green actually tweeted about this once, but it never actually said so in the book.)
  2. She lived out the rest of her days in agony because she could never love someone enough to amount to what she had felt with Augustus. (a real downer, but hey! she is still alive.)
  3. Hazel and Isaac end up healing each other and eventually find happiness in a world without Augustus Waters. (of course not as happy as a world with Augustus Waters.)
  4. Hazel goes full Frankenstein and finds a way to resurrect Augustus from the dead, only to have him feared by the townspeople, who eventually rise up and drive the affront to the Lord away, at which time he goes to college and develops a cure for cancer.  He then cures Hazel, they move to Amsterdam and together author a book. When writing the last page, they both look to each other, smile mischievously and end the book in mid sentence.  The book is published and immediately becomes the most read book in the history of the world.

Ok…….maybe not that last one….

 

Did The Fault In Our Stars Have a Happy Ending?

Aubrey: When Josh approached me with this question, it really made me think. Was the ending of TFIOS really sad? Yes, I balled my eyes out and then got mad at myself because the world was so blurry I couldn’t see the page in order to keep reading, but is there a possibility that there was a happy ending?

 

Why Do You Think TFIOS Has a Happy Ending?

Josh: Let me start by saying that I don’t think two kids dying from cancer makes for a feel good time.  I cried at the end of the book as much as your average teenage girl, which to be honest, is not something I admit to easily.  

Josh: But I can’t help but look forward past the conclusion of the book to what the future holds for Hazel. Even though the true tragedy of the story is the death of Augustus, her cancer is still very real.  And although the author of the book has gone on record (well, Twitter) as to what her eventual outcome is, the book itself leaves us with two distinct possibilities.  Either Hazel’s cancer kills her or it doesn’t, and my argument is that the happier of the two for Hazel is the former.

Josh: Let’s say that after Augustus dies, Hazel lives on for another 50 years.  Some might consider that a still tragic, yet ultimately happier outcome.  But think of what this means for future Hazel.  She had fallen in love so strongly and yet their relationship was cut so very short.  All relationships start out with infatuation.  That feeling when the relationship is new and you still get to experience all those firsts.  First time you hold hands, the first kiss…other such relationship milestones…  It’s part of what makes falling in love so much fun!  But for Hazel and Augustus, they never got past that new phase.  So why is that a bad thing?

Josh: Every relationship she ever has from that point on will compared to a standard that no one else can ever live up to, simply because they will all outlast that infatuation.  As soon as it wears off, Hazel will feel like that relationship is falling short of what she and Augustus had, and must not be real love, even though it’s only after this feeling fades that we really see what true love is.  

Josh: She will be perpetually trying to recapture a love that simply does not exist, yet it’s the only idea of love she knows.  But, if she dies shortly after Augustus, she never has the chance to seek love and to see it fall short of what she believes it to be.

Josh: So while I would consider her early death to be sad, I can’t help but feel that it’s a bit less sad than a lifetime of disappointment.

Aubrey: I hadn’t put much thought into that (until now), but I do agree that it would be much less painful for her to have died not long after Augustus. (Wow, that sounds awful. Let me backtrack for a moment.) I think it would have brought her less pain if she never had to live without him (no one wants to live in a world without Augustus Waters.)

Aubrey: That being said, after I read the story, I had this crazy crackpot theory that Hazel and Isaac ended up dating. They were both broken people who had both lost the people they love, and they were also best friends with Augustus. I think they were the only two people that could have helped each other to heal and live their lives again. If Hazel did die a year after Augustus, think about how it might have affected Isaac. He would have lost yet another of his few friends and would be blind and most likely still wouldn’t have any robot eyes. What a sad life. Do you think that Hazel and Isaac could have been happy together? I do. I think that they could have helped each other to heal and have a more quality rest of their lives.

 

Cry Factor: Just because a book leaves us in tears, does that mean it’s sad?

Aubrey: There are many reasons why a person cries. I cry a lot during books and not as much in “real life”, but I get so invested in books that when anything happens to any character in a book that I have become a part of, I feel it. I don’t generally sob my eyes out during books, but TFIOS did that to me. I knew what was going to happen. I even knew EXACTLY WHAT CHAPTER it was going to happen in. Thank you for spoiling it for me (for the sake of protecting the *cough* uninnocent from the webernet, I won’t name names here).

Josh: I had a very similar experience as I went into the story knowing full well how it ended.  In fact I only read the book at all because I felt like reading something, and my wife had already purchased it on our Kindle, so it was really just out of convenience.  I’ll be honest, I did not expect the book to hit me emotionally.  I didn’t find myself relating to the characters very much at first, as one is a girl and the other was much too extroverted.  I’ve never had to honestly face my own mortality or deal with a condition that, for better or worse, excludes me from normal society.  

Aubrey: I think that is another big part about TFIOS. I personally connected a lot with Hazel and Augustus because 1) somehow John Green understands teenage girls 2) I adored Augustus’ charisma, but I think that anyone is able to end up having a major connection to the characters emotionally. The story requires emotions to be felt and I got invested in all of the characters.

 

What is a happy ending?

Is there truly such a thing as a “happy ending”?

Josh: I have discovered that I am a very cynical person, so the idea of a true “happy ending” just doesn’t bode well with me, mainly because the ending we’re presented may be the end of this story, but it’s not usually the end of the character’s extended stories.  

Josh: In the Little Mermaid, the hunk falls in love with and marries a girl based on feelings he developed when she couldn’t talk to him!  That might be the most superficial happy ending I can think of.  What happens next, now that she can talk?  What do they talk about?  How long before the quirkiness of correcting her calling something a thingamabob turns to annoyance?

Josh: It might sound cliche, but every end to one story is really just the beginning of the next, so maybe rather than calling them ‘Happy Endings’ we should call them ‘Happy Transitions’.  Maybe the happiness lasts, maybe it doesn’t, but it’s never the end of the story.

Josh: Except for the Fault in Our Stars, ‘cause everybody dies.  The End.

Aubrey: (Please excuse my rant and capitalization. I have very strong opinions, and was enjoying this debate a lot.) IT IS STILL NOT HAPPY TO ME. JUST BECAUSE HAZEL MAY BE HAPPIER, YOU KNOW ‘CAUSE SHE IS DEAD AND POSSIBLY NOT BURNING IN HELL DOESN’T MEAN I, AS A READER, AM HAPPY. THE READERS DETERMINE A “HAPPY ENDING” AND EVEN THOUGH I AGREE WITH YOU THAT HAZEL MIGHT BE HAPPIER DEAD SINCE SHE DOESN’T HAVE TO DEAL WITH NO ONE ELSE LIVING UP TO AUGUSTUS FLIPPIN’ WATERS, I, AS A READER DO NOT… the end.

Aubrey: Life ends in the middle of a sentence. This is a big part of An Imperial Affliction and a theme of TFIOS. Along with this is what happens to the people that surround a person in their life? When a person dies, the rest of the world doesn’t die with them (unless it’s the end of the world). The same can be said about books. When a book ends, the story doesn’t. Whatever happens to the rest of the characters? It’s human nature to want to continue the lives of the characters in our minds (and sometimes demand the answers from the authors), but do the authors really know? Does a story still belong to the author after it is published, or by that point does the reader have as much of a say as the author?

Josh: This brings up an interesting point I hadn’t considered.  Is the idea of a happy ending based on the happiness of the characters, or of us, the reader?

Aubrey: I believe that once a story leaves the author’s hands and enters the reader’s, it becomes the reader’s story. Readers have been known to interpret or take things way differently than the author ever intended, and the author can do absolutely nothing about it. A lot of authors have even admitted to their readers taking books to places they had never thought about.

Josh: I LOVE the way you put that, and to be honest it wasn’t something I had considered originally, even though now it seems so obvious.  One of my favorite things about writing stories that other people actually read is hearing how they interpret the story in a way I had never intended.  Sometimes it’s due to me not conveying what I needed very well, but other times it’s the reader laying claim to the story and filling in my gaps with their own ideas and imaginations.  I noticed this recently when, as coincidence would have it, Aubrey read a portion of the book I’m writing and relayed to me how she was really starting to hate one of my characters, yet I had never anticipated he would be seen as a ‘bad guy’.  It changed the entire view I had for that character from that point on.

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This discussion was so much fun (even though it took us over a month). I had a blast putting it together. Thanks, Josh, for joining me. What do you think? Did TFIOS have a happy ending? Which ending do you think would have been happiest? Is a story completely up to the author, or do the readers take it over when it is published? Let me know in the comments.

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8 thoughts on “(Spoiler) Discussion Sunday // Did TFIOS Have A “Happy Ending”? What is a Happy Ending? Is A Story The Author’s or Reader’s Story?

  1. GAH, this is hard, guys! I can see why it took so long, I mean, the question is tough and depends on all kinds of things. So, if there IS some kind of afterlife, Hazel would probably be better of dying. Unless she could have some kind of miraculous full remission of the cancer, which didn’t seem likely. She was so consumed with the hopeless feelings, the trauma of what her death was doing to her parents, etc., that I don’t think she could have continued as anything BUT miserable and haunted. And yes, Isaac would be devastated, but there’s no WAY they’d ever be anything more than friends. And since he was really the healthiest of all of them, he’d be likely to move on, and keep his friends in his heart and be a better person for knowing them.

    I guess… was there even a “good” way for this book to end? After Augustus died, Hazel was never going to jump right back into life anyway. She was a mess physically, and emotionally, and I highly doubt that she’d have even had the desire to keep fighting at that point. But say the reverse had happened- if Hazel died and Augustus lived. I feel like that would have been a far crueler ending. Because for Hazel to know he was going to move on from her when she died, I think it would have crushed her soul.

    I just want you both to know that I am sobbing. And that you did an amazing job with this post!! OH- and that I 100% agree about interpretation being up to the readers once a book is out in the wild. Yes, an author can tell people what he or she was thinking, but that doesn’t change anything! GREAT post!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you! Wow. YESSS! I hadn’t really thought about what would have happened if it had been reversed. Hazel always said she was a grenade, but if that reality actually came, I don’t think she would handle it well. I agree that Hazel would probably have a very difficult time ever regaining her life again, but I like to hope that she would have at least tried. I adore all of your input! It made me think about some things I hadn’t thought of before. Thanks for stopping by, Shannon!

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  2. Awesome discussion, guys! Although I don’t think that Hazel dying earlier would be better, honestly. I think it’s possible to continue living without romantic love. So I imagine that despite how hard it was, Hazel lives a good long while (or at least that’s what I tell myself).

    But I definitely think that whether an ending is “happy” or not is an individual thing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you! I think that she personally would have a very difficult time jumping back into the “living” part. There is a big difference between “living” and “surviving”. She was pretty antisocial before Augustus and I think that after him she would probably crawl into a hole and want to die because he was the one thing that had caused her to get out of her hole in the first place (that and minimal support group stuff for her mother). I agree that it is possible to continue living without romantic love, but I feel like Hazel would feel so defeated and so much more like a grenade than normal that she would be (even more) afraid to hurt anyone and would live in that fear. I don’t know. It’s a lot to think about, and it’s kinda fun (*as I sob in the background*) to speculate how the character’s lives turn out after the book. That is, after all, a key theme in TFIOS. Thanks for stopping by, Emily! 🙂

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  3. This was awesome discussion! I’ve never thought about stories this way and it opened my eyes! It’s funny that as a reader I accept the ending as an ultimate ending of the story with nothing new happening to the characters. But as a writer I can feel the life after the story ends. Does it makes sense? I hope it does. 😀 Maybe it’s because as a writer I am more involved and know everything about my characters and I acknowledge the life after the story.

    As far as TFIOS is concerned, I believe Hazel would be able to move on. I mean, let’s forget about the cancer thing and imagine her as a normal healthy girl who lost her first love to cancer or he died in car crash or something else. Would that mean she is unable to move on because she experienced only the infatuation? Or is it just the presence of her cancer that prevents her from moving on? Because I think she’d have as much problems to move on if she’d be healthy as she had in the original story. And if she was healthy, there would not be a death option for her. She’d be obligated to move on because then her life would be just plain misery. That is why I think Hazel would be able to move on and fall in love again, maybe not so strongly as with August but now she knows that love exists and that she is able to experience it. Yes, it would be difficult for her to get back into life without August but just like suicide would not be a happy ending for healthy Hazel, dying of cancer is not a happy ending for Hazel from the book. August opened her eyes in many ways and changed her view on life and I think this would help her to deal with his death. So, no I don’t think her dying of cancer short after Augustus would be happier ending. But then, it’s my personal view. And I think you hand excellent point with Isaac and Hazel helping each. I don’t necessarily think they would end up together but I can see the two of them helping each other to get over Augustus’ death and to get back into life.

    Talking about happy ending, I think it’s solely on the reader if the ending is happy or not. Maybe the writer loves the main male character and the heorin ends up with him rather than his brother who is just as awesome. This may be happy ending for someone, but it may not be for someone else who loves the outcast brother more. I hope you see where I’m going with this. For me, happy ending is based on which character I like and how the story ends and even that is rather personal.

    I’d like to thank you for this discussion. You two had really good points and it made me think a lot about the ending of TFIOS and endings in general. I love this kind of blog posts so thank you 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m glad you got to look at TFIOS (and possibly future books) in a new way. Isn’t it fun and infuriating at the same time to imagine what happens after?

      I don’t think the moving on part has much to do with her actual cancer, but more to do with her personality (which has a little to do with cancer, but let’s forget that for a moment.) I think that because she is so scared to ever hurt anyone, and then the time she finally lets someone in, they die, might cause her to have more problems going back into the normal world. Do you remember everything it took for her to start going to support group? Do you remember how she had maybe one friend that she barely ever talked to and her mom was her best friend?

      I totally agree. I think it is completely up to the reader.

      Thank you so much and thanks for stopping by! These posts are so much fun to make!

      Like

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