An Okay book. And what it meant to some Okay people – By Jenny Aspinall and Sarah Hansen


About 3 months ago during one of many conversations on FB Colleen Hoover and Sarah Hansen both told me I HAD to read a book called The Fault In Our Stars by John Green.  I said sure, but then I read the synopsis and said no way!

Cancer is too raw for me. I lost someone very dear to me in December and have a friend who is fighting cancer as we speak.  I just felt the subject matter in the books was something I couldn’t deal with at this time.

However, I received a lot of private messages from people telling me their stories and why they read it and how they found it inspiring.  Two of those people were Melissa Brown and Sarah Hansen and their words and stories really resonated with me.

After a long discussion with Sarah she told me of her personal experience with cancer and said this book might actually be a good way to deal with my grief and also help me to help my friend Mairead with her struggle.  I told Sarah I would read the book,  however,  I asked if she would also tell her story about what she was dealing with at the time and why this book means so much to her and she agreed.

Then it hit me.  What was my problem? Hell, I only had to read a book and possibly cry my heart out for a few days, whereas my beautiful, courageous friend (and many like her) had to actually deal with the reality of living with cancer on a daily basis.  I decided it was time (as Colleen would say) to man up and read it.

Where to start?  John Green’s writing is nothing short of phenomenal.  I am still reeling today from how amazingly talented this author is.  This book was the most emotional, wonderful, heartbreaking, inspiring and beautifully sad books I’ve ever read.  To say I connected with these characters is an understatement.  I KNEW these characters.  They became my friends and when they hurt, I hurt.  Deep in my heart and my soul, oh boy, I hurt.  I sobbed throughout the book, and at one point, through lack of breath thought I would be sick.  That’s how much this book got to me.  Yes, this book did rip out my heart, but I got so much out of it as well.

I’m not going to talk about the book as such because Gitte has already reviewed it for Totallybooked, but what I would like to do is tell you a bit about the woman behind the reason I finally succumbed to reading this story.

My friend Mairead is a rare gem in life.  She is one of those beautiful souls that if you are lucky enough to cross paths with in your lifetime, you know you have been truly blessed.

I’ve known her for 3 years.  Whenever I see her, which is regularly, she has always a smile on her face.  No exception.  When Mairead says “hello my lovely how are you today”.  She isn’t asking you in a flippant way.  She looks deep into your eyes and asks “how ARE YOU today”.  She means it.  She cares and she wants to know that everything is okay in your world even though everything is far from okay in hers.

Mairead was diagnosed with Breast Cancer in November 2011 at the young age of 31..  We both cried buckets when she told me the news, but this wonderful selfless woman actually comforted me at the time.  She was more worried about ME and how I was going to handle this.  She didn’t want to make me sad.  That’s her all over.

She bravely fought through the most horrible, rigorous treatment, yet still that beautiful big smile of hers was there, in place, to make everyone’s day just that much brighter.

The only time I ever saw her really down was when she was losing her hair.  That broke my heart because I could see it broke hers.  As Mairead uses humour to deal with life’s struggles, I decided to do the same and said to her “ahhh cheer up, and just think of the money you’ll save on waxing” – we looked at each other and doubled over laughing.  She felt better when she got her wig that she nicknamed “Matilda” or “Effing Matilda” as she becomes known in the heat of summer when she drives Mairead crazy LOL

In March 2012, Mairead had to have a double mastectomy.  I went to see her in hospital hours after the operation and there she was, propped up in bed looking a million dollars with that trademark smile, sans Matilda, looking gorgeous!  I asked her how she was feeling and she said “to be honest I’m feeling a little flat”.  I started banging on about how she’ll feel better in a few days blah blah – she stopped me and said “I’m messing with you, you fecking eejit…I meant my boobs are gone and I’m feeling flat”. I slapped her and we had a good laugh.  See! That’s Mairead in a nutshell.

When she received news that she was in remission we cried with happiness! It was brilliant – she was able to travel to Ireland to see her family and she was on top of the world. We all were.

Unfortunately, that happiness was short lived. On the 13th of this month Mairead had to come and break the most devastating news of all to me.  Not only had the cancer returned but they also found it in her stomach and lungs.  My heart broke and as much as I tried to stay strong for her I couldn’t manage it and broke down.  Once again, this selfless, wonderful woman comforted me!

I will see her fight this insidious disease.  On her bad days, I’ll remind her how wonderful and special she is to me and everyone around her and why we need her to stay strong and beat this!  I will tell her constantly why I need her in my life because without her, the brightness would go out of my world.

This beautiful little pixie inspires me daily.  She’s courageous, giving, warm, and humorous and possesses the purest soul of anyone you could ever meet.  A world without this amazing woman would indeed be a sad place, so I know she will beat this! She HAS to beat this!

Mairead allowed me to hell her story because – as she says,…..”if my story helps one person, then I want it told”

So, there’s my reason for “manning up” and reading this book.  I think you’ll agree, a pretty inspiring reason.

My final thoughts on FIOS:    Did I love this book? Yes!   Did this book devastate me? Yes.   Did it inspire me? Absolutely!  Would I recommend it? In a heartbeat.

Thank you for reading and please, at some point in your day, take a minute and say a prayer for my beautiful Mairead.

Please see link below for the Breast Cancer Foundation.  Every cent to fund research for this disease.


John Green entered my life when I was probably at my lowest point.

The Fault in Our Stars was not the first book I read of his, it was Looking for Alaska.  As I turned the final page, I knew without a doubt this man had changed my life.

Immediately, I looked for another novel by him.  What I found was not just a book.  It was a life altering event.  The Fault in Our Stars is not something you read, it is something that you experience.  I knew it would be sad.  I knew I would cry.  And I was okay with that.

My sister had recently received a stem cell transplant and was in remission from Acute Myelogenous Leukemia.  A book about cancer was something that would hit far too close to home for me.  Then I met Hazel Grace Lancaster and Augustus Waters.  Oh, Augustus.

The fictional love of my life.  It is with hesitation that I write this review, I’m not kidding.  I don’t even know how to form thoughts about TFiOS.  My chest feels heavy, I can’t breathe very well, and my eyes are glazing over with the tears I still cry daily for these characters.  Nothing I could ever say will do this story justice, and I am scared to let it down.  To disappoint Hazel and Gus.

To not choose words with enough caution to truly prove to you that this is quite possibly the greatest piece of literature of all time.

Augustus Waters and Hazel Lancaster have cancer.  While they may both be in remission, the bottom line is that once you have cancer, you always have cancer.  I know my morbid thoughts are selfish in nature, but really remission is just a game.

A game of hide and seek, waiting to see where it will show up next.

The moment Gus looks at Hazel, your heart will beat differently.

That will not change, throughout the book or for the rest of your life.  I am not going to give any details of their story here.

I cannot describe the love between them, the life they experience together, however short it may be. I can say it is more of a life

and filled with more goodness and love than most peoples.   Sometimes,

I swear I see Hazel strolling by, oxygen tank in tow.

Gus isn’t far behind, showing a slight limp.  And they are always smiling, smiling because no matter what, they feel happiness.

Death doesn’t have to be a sad thing, as John has shown.  Sure, you will find yourself sobbing to the point of no return.

If you are like me, it will start on page one.  I am crying now, as I type this.  “Pain demands to be felt.”  It is your choice how you feel that pain.  You can take it and wallow in it, or you can live from it.  Augustus and Hazel live from it, always.

John has brought so much into my life, with his characters, with his vlogs, his entire existence.  Most importantly for me,  I think, is the friendships I have made because of this book.  To my Hazel, I could not, even for a moment imagine my life without you in it anymore, to say you have become a best friend to me is putting it lightly.  Okay?

I am going to say to all of you what  I say to everyone about TFiOS.Just read it.  I promise you will love it.  I promise it will change you, for the better.  Do not be scared, you need this book.  It is something that is missing from your life, and you don’t even know it yet.  Yes, it is $11.  It will be the best $11 you have ever spent.  Trust me.

“You don’t get to choose if you get hurt in this world….but you do have some say in who hurts you.”  Choose Hazel and Augustus.  It will hurt in the most important, painful, beautiful, gut wrenching way.  And be so worth it.

So, earlier this summer as I stood before this man, the man that has changed my life, my existence, my soul; I could not form a coherent thought.  A few incomprehendable words tumbled out, but as he signed my book, he looked up and made eye contact.  And I responded in the only way I knew I could. With a slight nod of my head, I met his gaze and simply said, “okay.”


Filed under Guest Reviewers, Interesting, John Green, Our Reviewers, Reviews by Jenny

43 responses to “An Okay book. And what it meant to some Okay people – By Jenny Aspinall and Sarah Hansen

  1. Rach

    Sobbing as I write this, thank you for sharing ladies ❤

  2. sali

    absolutely WONDERFUL POST !!!! Im sure ever1! has been effected in some way by cancer & for u girls to share this with us brings out ur heart & sole in ur blog !!! so to my wonderful , amazing & caring friends Jenny & Sarah i say THANKU 4 this post !!!! & to all those special ppl out there who have lived every day effected by the big C I say STAY STRONG ,IM SENDING U ALL A BIG HUG & AN AUSSIE PASH COZ UR AMAZING !!!

  3. Mairead

    How weird when you start reading about another person battle .and suddenly your like oh thats me and I’m going through this horrible battle against cancer .well if one positive thing has come out of this I have become stronger as a person and with friendsl like jenny I can only come out stronger as I must fight this battle as I love my family and friends too much to give up . So thank you jenny for taking the time to write this special piece and I love you very very much .xxxxx

  4. Thank you for those wonderful and personal thoughts, Jenny and Sarah. I’ve had this book on my TBR list for almost a year, but haven’t had the courage to read it due to the personal nature with my own family experiences in the subject matter. I will now “man up,” get the courage to find page 1, and I will read. XOXO Stay strong!

  5. Katja Millay

    I bought TFiOS in January when my father was in the final stages of prostate cancer. He passed away in March and the book sat, festering on my bookshelf for months until I finally had the courage to pick it up just recently. And I cried and it hurt and I sobbed and it sucked but I will never regret a word of it. Thank you for sharing your stories and helping others to discover this book. There is a catharsis in it that can’t be underestimated.

  6. Crysti

     I love you ladies! I wish I were abl to get the words to come out of my brain to express how I felt……scratch that….how I FEEL about this book as beautifully as you have.  I text my friend when I finished reading TFiOS and told her it physically hurt to breath.  I felt like a ton of bricks hit me in the chest and I was okay with that. Not many books will change your life.  However, Hazel, August and John Green will do just that with TFiOS. My friend said she couldn’t read this if it caused me physical pain.  I only replied “you have to”…..and she did. I’ve lost several people from cancer. Most recently, my husband’s sister after an almost 9 year fight against breast cancer.  I wasn’t lucky enough to get to know her very well as she passed away a few months after we were married. However, I did get to experience her strength. She wanted to keep fighting when the doctors didn’t.  Don’t think me a horrible person for saying this, but I didn’t think of her or her fight as I was reading this. It was only Hazel and Augustus until I finished. It was only later when I was thinking of how I felt about the book that I remembered how strong my SIL was and how strong every person diagnosed with cancer HAS to become. If you havent read this, don’t pass up the chance to read a touching story of love and life just because it is sad.  It is as beautiful as it is sad. I will pray for Mairead often. Okay! 

  7. My Gran passed away,whilst holding my hand, on April 30th, 19 days after being told she had Lung and secondary Liver cancer. I’m sat in tears just now after reading your reviews. This book is on my TBR list, like you Jenny I feel its too close to home for my to read it. I will take the plunge one day though. Beautiful and heartfelt reviews/stories from both Jenny and Sarah, Thank you both.

    • Oh Emma! Sending you the biggest hugs. You’ve got to do it in your own time. I know the time was right for me and it did help me grieve for my brother also – I lost him in December and didn’t realise until I read this book that I had actually grieved for him. This let all that out so in that way, it was good for me.
      When you do finally read it I hope you get out of it what I did.
      Thanks for sharing with us
      Jen x

  8. Thank you both for such a beautiful, touching and honest post. I too have been avoiding this book, too scared that it will open up emotions I’d rather suppress. I will absolutely be rooting for Mairead’s health to stay strong, and for her will to remain positive. It’s unimaginable how hard that must be.

    Thank you also for taking a moment to not only share your raw and personal experiences, but to put a little perspective back into life.

    • Hi Dina
      As I said above, I had been repressing grief for my brother who passed away in December. This book definitely helped me deal with that.
      It also gave me inspiration to help inspire Mairead to fight on which I know she will.
      Jen xx

  9. Melissa Brown

    That was such a beautiful, beautiful blog post…..and I am once, again, sobbing. ❤ u both!

  10. Emmy

    Wow, this was such a heart-wrenching, beautiful, sobbing blog! I will keep both these beautiful women fighting for their lives, in my prayers… I have seen this book and thought the same thing… it was too much of a touchy subject to read, though you won me over and this will defiantly be the next book I read.

  11. What a great post, thanks for sharing your beautiful stories. I read this book last week and this just reopened the flood gates….fanfreakingtastic book and writing!

  12. Laura

    What a beautiful Blog. Tears streaming down my face. Thank you Jenny and thanks To Mairead for sharing it with us.

  13. Jan L.

    Reading with streaming heartfealt tears pouring down, I’m still hesitant to begin this book. I keep waiting for the right “time”, knowing and understanding in my heart, there will probably never be one. I lost my wonderful father to cancer almost 30 years ago, and it’s still difficult to think of that time, when everything ceases, yet life continues. However, your words of encouragment, and knowing I am NOT the minority, has inspired me to “man-up” (thanks Colleen) and take the first step and download it to my Kindle. The next step will be to open and begin reading it. I will… I know I will. In my heart, I know in the end, I will be richer for it. Thank you!

  14. quite possibly the most touching, beautiful blog post i’ve ever read. i love you both.

  15. Kristie Wittenberg

    I am bawling again… I know how you feel. I lost my little brother (31) to an unknown illness that caused his organs to rott from the inside out. He got sick in 2005 and ended up with a 6 organ transplant. He was in and out of the hospital. In March of 2011 he passed away from H1N1. He left behind two beautiful boys.. A few months after his passing, my father was diagnosed with squimish(SP?) cell cancer, His throat was stage 2 and his glads were stage 4. He did the radiation and chemo and has been cancer free for a few months now. The on May 24th of this year, my mother who was only 55, fell ill with stomach pains. She was a two time cancer survivor (the 2nd bout was breast cancer). She was diagnosed with Pancreatic Cancer, the doctors only gave her a few days to a couple months. She passed away on June 13th. My mother and my brother and even my father, heck anyone who deals with cancer is the STRONGEST freaking people I know. It has been soooo very devistating. I do have to say that when I read Colleen Hoover’s slammed series, it helped me, I also just read Lacey Weatherford’s Chasing Nikki and was so deeply touched by her story. Like you, I am hesitant to read this book.. I just wanted to know you and your loved ones aren’t alone. There aren’t words to make you feel better. I also think when people say “time heals”, it really doesn’t. You learn to live with the loss, life keeps you busy and you just have to take things one day at a time and enjoy whatever time you have left. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your friend.

    • Kristie what an amazing post! Thank you so much for sharing what I can see are very painful experiences.
      You are so right. People dealing with cancer really are hero’s – I don’t know how they do it and their strength is an inspiration.
      You are so right. Time doesn’t heal. I lost my brother in December and it feels like yesterday I received that horrible phone call. You do find coping but it definitely doesn’t get easier.
      You have dealt with so much but your attitude is amazing and you are also an inspiration.
      I can’t thank you enough for sharing this with us because I know it’s painful to do.
      I will also check out Chasing Nikki so thanks for mentioning that.
      This book is a very difficult read, but if you do ever get around to reading it I know you will find it inspiring and rewarding.
      Jen xxxx

  16. That’s such a beautiful post from the both of you. I think it’s admirable and encouraging you are sharing your own grief with all of your readers and experiences. I’ve had this book on my to read list for a while and think I am going to bump it up to first. I’ve always held back because of my own personal experiences with cancer. Mum has been diagnosed with breast cancer three times – the third being only early this year. The first time was in her right breast and it was stage four breast cancer and they managed to remove it all. Six months later, she was diagnosed again – they picked it up quickly. The third time it was found in her left breast. It’s a scary thing experiencing cancer, but sadly, it’s a common disease who is not discriminatory as to who it will choose.

    thank you for sharing your story and encouraging people to read this. I know I will be. It made me both smile and cry

    • Thanks Nina. To hear others stories is such an inspiration. It’s been sad and yet rewarding to read all our fellow readers stories. It is painful to remember the sad times and their battle, but people, like yourself have opened up and it has blown me away. I am thinking of your Mum and send you the biggest hugs ever!
      Cancer affects everyone at one time or another and I just hope they find a cure for it.
      Thank you for sharing and I know you will find the book both difficult and rewarding.
      Jen xxx

  17. You have convinced me. This was the sweetest post ever.

  18. Megan Ward

    Thanks so much for this heartfelt and touching post. I had similar hesitations about reading TFIS, but after reading this it’s gone to the top of my list.

  19. Trisha R.

    For me this post is so heartbreaking to read. I have tears running down my face. I never had a close friend or close family member that had cancer. So I really don’t know you are going through or anyone else but I can feel for you and reading this made me connect in a way I can somewhat understand what you, your friend and other people are going through.

    Heard so many stories of friends who had their friends fighting cancer. Years ago a close family friend knew this women who was fighting breast cancer unfortunately the women didn’t survive, she fought very hard for small, young kids who needed their mother, Her husband and her family and friends for all of them. It was really sad to hear that cancer eventually won. I never met this women nor her family but when I heard. I hurt. So bad. I cried for her. Prayed for her family and prayed to God that wherever she may be whether its heaven or with you please bless and take care of her. She had the last horrible, gut-wrenching last moments, last months. I pray for all those who are fighting cancer or who have fought cancer. They certainly did had the worst times here. Filled with pain by the cancer and what the cancer took away from us.

    Hearing about your friend Jen I felt like I knew her. Like she is my friend and I really hope that Mairead beats cancer and it not her. It certainly wouldn’t be a great place if we loose such great women like your friend. I will pray you, Mairead and everyone.

    • Trisha, I have tears reading your message. Thank you so, so much for your wishes for Mairead and I will definitely pass them on to her.
      Cancer is indeed a cruel disease and I hope they find a cure soon because it affects so many people directly or indirectly.
      Thank you for taking the time to post this response, it really did touch me and means a lot
      Jen xx

  20. This was a beautiful book, and a beautiful review. Thank you for sharing such a personal experience.

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