I learned a new term this week: “ugly cry.”
I was among a handful of grownups at an early screening of “The Fault in Our Stars” Thursday night (scheduled for the sensible hour of 9:30 p.m.).
I started crying less than a third of the way into the movie. (Spoiler alert: The movie gets sad.)
Given my decades of experience at sad movies, I managed to stifle most of my sniffles and dab my eyes discreetly with a handkerchief.
But the throng of teenaged girls in the audience ... they sobbed. They choked up. Mascara ran. Tissues were shared with strangers.
We cried, then we laughed about how much we were crying, then we started crying in earnest. (Spoiler alert: The movie gets sadder.)
“The Fault in Our Stars” was a book first, a hugely popular book that may end up as a defining work for this generation of teens, like that other book about a something in the something.
It’s a star-crossed romance about two teenagers with cancer, but it’s also much more. Fans just call it “TFIOS.”
The book’s author, John Green, is a Big Deal — like, a 1.5-million-Facebook-followers Big Deal. With his brother, Hank, he runs a YouTube empire of funny, educational, rapid-fire videos. He is the generalissimo of an online community dubbed the “Nerdfighters,” teens and adults who are proud to be smart and compassionate and engaged.
Plus John Green went to Indian Springs boarding school in Birmingham, which is cool.
I’ve been telling my husband for months that John Green is a Big Deal, but he didn’t really get it until last week, when The New Yorker published a big profile titled “The Teen Whisperer.” After reading it, my husband said he’s filled with optimism for the future.
“The Fault in Our Stars” was published in January 2012. My daughter read it a few months later. It wasn’t a Big Deal back then. It was just a book at the library with a quirky cover. My daughter had no idea what was inside.
Even though she loved the book, I never thought to read it. It wasn’t my book.
“Sometimes, you read a book and it fills you with this weird evangelical zeal, and you become convinced that the shattered world will never be put back together unless and until all living humans read the book. And then there are books ... which you can’t tell people about, books so special and rare and yours that advertising your affection feels like a betrayal.” (That’s from “The Fault in Our Stars.” It’s about boyfriends and girlfriends, but it’s also about authors and readers.)
A few months ago, after my daughter had checked out “The Fault in Our Stars” for the fourth time, she asked if I would like to read it when she was done.