Wichitans eagerly await film version of ‘The Fault in Our Stars’

06/04/2014 4:53 PM

08/06/2014 11:46 AM

They have read the book. (And cried.)

They have watched the movie trailers. (And cried some more.)

They have monitored the blogs, checked and rechecked the website, sampled the soundtrack and kept up with the author’s insanely popular Twitter page and Instagram feed.

And beginning this week, fans of John Green’s unstoppable force of a novel, “The Fault in Our Stars,” finally will see the beloved story and characters on the big screen.

Stock up on tissues. And as Green says: Bring on the feels.

“I don’t read a lot of love stories just because they aren’t really my thing,” said Katie Hayes, 15, a sophomore at Bishop Carroll High School in Wichita. “But this one was different.

“I thought it was beautiful.”

The latest book-to-movie craze, which opens Thursday in Wichita with 9 p.m. sneak-peek shows at the Warren Theatre, isn’t your average teen movie fodder. It’s not about wizards, vampires, superheroes or battles to the death in dystopian landscapes.

This is a heart-wrenching story about Hazel Grace Lancaster and Augustus Waters, two teenagers with cancer who meet, fall in love and learn to appreciate their time together.

“Some infinities,” Hazel says, “are bigger than other infinities.”

Sniff.

Local fans of the novel say they liked it because they connected to the story and characters.

“I read a lot but I’ve never really read a book like this, about people who are sick,” said Abby Ottaway, 13, a student at the Independent School.

“It was really sad, but it was hopeful and inspirational, too,” she said.

Unlike most modern teen heroes, who run around battling werewolves or shooting arrows, Hazel Grace gets chemo treatments, wears a cannula and drags around a green oxygen tank that she’s named Philip. Augustus has a prosthetic leg, a souvenir from his rare form of bone cancer.

Sarah Bagby, owner of Watermark Books in Wichita, says “any phenomenon starts with a good story,” and this one is no different. The quick-witted characters resonate with teens and even adults, she said, because readers can sympathize with their struggles.

In addition, Green is a master of social media marketing. VlogBrothers – a YouTube channel he hosts with his brother, Hank – has more than 2 million subscribers. His Twitter page ( @realjohngreen) has nearly 2.5 million followers.

He also is a regular contributor to the Mental Floss channel on YouTube, and his video Crash Courses have helped countless students through the AP U.S. History exam.

The trailer for “The Fault in Our Stars” – dubbed “TFIOS” by loyal fans – is the most liked in YouTube’s history, with more than 20 million views to date.

And besides all that, Bagby says, Green is a solid writer.

“He gets at the emotional resonance … and I don’t think he dumbs anything down,” said Bagby, who leads the KMUW Literary Feast Book Club at Watermark. The club read “The Fault in Our Stars” shortly after it was released in 2012. “Between those two things, you can’t help but identify.”

“It’s marketed as a young adult novel, but it really speaks to all ages,” she said. “That was as good as any books we read that year.”

This summer, banking in part on the popularity of the movie, Watermark is hosting a John Green Book Club for middle-grade and older readers. Members will discuss “The Fault in Our Stars” June 12 and will move on to other Green works, including “Paper Towns,” “Looking for Alaska” and “An Abundance of Katherines.”

Brooke Talbott, 16, a junior at East High School in Wichita, said she read the novel over spring break and liked it “because it’s not your average love story.” This summer she plans to read more of Green’s books.

But first, the movie, which she and her friends have been talking and tweeting about for months.

Opening weekend should be fun “because of the atmosphere,” Talbott said. “The movie theater will be filled with teenage girls crying.”

Hayes, who treasures her autographed copy of “The Fault in Our Stars,” says she hopes the film lives up to expectations.

“I feel like everyone’s just going to be kind of nervous because these are characters that they love,” she said. “I hope that it’s extremely close to the book and that they did all the characters justice.”

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