I read The Fault in Our Stars recently (quite enjoyed it, very well written, would recommend) and something that struck me about it was that it was actually quite funny.
I found that a little bit odd, because I wasn’t really expecting that. From what I’d heard about it, I was expecting it to err a little bit more towards the bleak and depressing. (When I mentioned to my friends that I’d read it, the first question was “Is it as depressing as it looks?”)
But it’s not. I mean, yes, there is obviously an ever pervasive sense of… tragedy, I suppose, with regards to their situations, but it’s rarely at the forefront of things. Which I suppose is part of the point – dealing with cancer isn’t a collection of moments, it’s a long process of dealing with cancer. Despite that though, it’s honestly really funny. A lot of the humour is in the dialogue, where there’s a lot of jokes, and a lot of witty banter.
I suppose what it comes down to really is something Joss Whedon once said. “Make it dark, make it grim, but for the love of god, tell a joke.” And he’s right, really. For one thing it can make it a bit more palatable (I’m not sure the book would be quite so popular if it was dark and grim the whole time; stories should be enjoyable on some levels at least), but I think it also works as a juxtaposition, and can make things more tragic. To say “Look at these happy, funny teenagers, and how they’re cut down in the prime of their life” seems a little bit more sad, to me, than “These people are in a miserable place and will only get worse”. Contrast provides emphasis.