So, I read The Fault in Our Stars by John Green on Tuesday night, in big gulping doses. And it made me laugh and cry and I loved Hazel and Gus and their parents.
But it was also deeply weird. TFIOS, you see, is set in Indianapolis. And I live in Indianapolis. Even more than that, it’s set in my part of Indianapolis. I drive by the IMA and Crown Hill all the time. I hate going to Castleton, but I do sometimes. I’ve probably bought gas at the Speedway on 86th.
And so it was fun to find all the places I know–the Ruins at Holliday Park! Indy is not exactly a city that gets featured in books often. For that matter, the Midwest is not a region that gets featured in books much. And for all the making fun of the lack of culture and so on, Hazel and Gus live here.
At the same time, as I read I realized that Hazel’s Indianapolis is not mine. I don’t know exactly where she and Gus are supposed to live (pretty nearly, with Hazel, but not precisely). And if I went Crown Hill today (which I won’t, because it’s CRAZY COLD out there), I would find presidents and vice-presidents and Civil War graves, but I wouldn’t see [redacted]’s grave. In fact, Hazel’s Indianapolis is an Indianapolis that never was, an alternate version of reality, as it were.
Of course this is true, when you think about it, of all cities and settings. If a place is ficitionalized, it is made alternate, at once highlighted and flattened. I love thinking about setting and characters in books, and how they interact–it’s one of my very favorite Reading Things. But, partly because I read so much sf/f, I had never considered quite how this works with real places. It took finding my own city, made familiar and strange, to do that.
(This obviously is not a review. I liked the book a lot and thought Green navigated some tricky waters (NOT A PUN) very well.)