(Warning: this post will be a bit longer than usual but will not include any spoilers. However, I will be mentioning sex between teenagers, so my normal G rating on a blog post is gonna bump up to PG. Proceed.)
I cried through the last few chapters of the book by John Green.
I cried the back third of the movie. Like, ugly cry.
And when it ended, I walked out of the theater and began to turn over in my mind what to tell you.
. . . . .
In the few weeks that I have been talking about this book, the red carpet event, and the movie, I have had a small (but vocal) group of readers expressing their concern that someone like ME (I’m assuming they mean “teen Christian author”) can support a movie like THAT (I’m assuming they mean the part where two unmarried teenagers have sex). At least, that’s what the emails were mostly focused on. They have not all been unkind, more just concerned. And I understand. I really do.
And so I’ve wrestled. I loved the book. I loved the movie. But would I tell teenagers to see it? Or moreover, would I be willing to “stand” in front of a bunch of parents and say this movie deserves your time and money?
In every story, there are going to be moral decisions made that you will not agree with. Sometimes, you can press on and it not affect you. And then, at other times, the decisions made cause you to want to walk away from the story all together. When you feel a check on your insides, listen to it. It is your personal decision.
I watch Parenthood. Julia kissed a man that wasn’t her husband. I don’t agree with that. But I still watch it because I find there is so much redemption in the lives of the Braverman family.
I watched a few episodes of Sons of Anarchy. The violence and sex were too much for me. I quit it. The good didn’t outweigh the brutal in my mind.
That doesn’t mean you should watch Parenthood or stay away from Sons of Anarchy. I’m just telling you that was MY experience and the check on MY insides.
In The Fault In Our Stars, there are a few decisions made by teenagers that I do not agree with or believe are the most healthy and life-giving choices. And truthfully? I found the one short sex scene absolutely earned the PG-13 rating because it’s surprisingly racy, especially for an experience between two high schoolers.
But one sex scene does not a movie make. There is so much more to this story, to the complexity of the characters, to the wrestling through pain and laughter and family and cancer and grief almost to an unbearable degree.
. . . . .
I would not suggest middle schoolers see this film without an adult. Truth be told, if I had high school son or daughter, I’d sit right there next to them in the theater, just like Mark Matlock from Youth Specialties.
But that isn’t my stance simply because of the sex (though, again, what is appropriate for you or your child to see is TOTALLY your decision). I think you need to see it with your kid because you need to talk about it. And you need to listen.
The love in this movie is real to how teenagers love.
The pain in this movie is real to how teenagers hurt.
TRUST ME. PLEASE. Teens are my people. I write for them, I think about them, I talk to them, in some form or fashion EVERY DAY. This story, the book and the movie, is real for them. And you need to see it. And you need to talk about two cancer-stricken kids having sex because they love each other. And you need to talk about how real loss is and how deep love and pain go and what happens when things go wrong.
Don’t stay away from this movie because you are scared of the conversations that will come of it. Whether you see it or not, I’m willing to bet the teenagers (and adults) around you will. And I’m scared that some of us are going to stay away because we “don’t believe in pre-marital sex even if the kids do have cancer” (that’s a quote from an email) and what’s going to happen is the teenagers around you are going to internalize what they see and feel in that movie theater and make decisions alone without wrestling through their thoughts with a wise adult.
We can see the movie with them. We can have open and honest discussions around our personal beliefs, and we can hug them and cry with them and feel with them ALL THE FEELS that will come when you watch The Fault In Our Stars.
The movie is really great. The book is better.
Both are worth your time.
. . . . .
Your thoughts and discussion, spoken with respect and kindness, are welcome here- whether you agree or not. Feel free to discuss this book or film in comments (without spoilers please), but I do reserve the right to delete meanness because it’s Friday and ain’t nobody got time for that.