Literary Locations: The Fault in our Stars

I have no doubt that by now you all have picked up on the fact that I am a total nerd.  I’m good with that.  I’m comfortable in my geekness and I enjoy it.  One of the things that never fails to get me excited is to know that pop culture is happening in my immediate area.  Sure, movies, books, and songs are set in areas from all over the place, but let’s be honest – cities like Los Angeles, New York, and Chicago are a lot more commonly used than places like St. Louis, Milwaukee, or Indianapolis.  I’m not delusional.  I know that Indiana is a flyover state and has very little appeal to the rest of the civilized world, which is why my excitement jumps into overdrive anytime connections are made in the mainstream media with my home state.

I’ll always sing Tom Petty’s line about growing up “with them Indiana boys, on an Indiana night” a little bit louder than the rest of the song.  I love seeing Indiana portrayed in movies and TV shows (although the portrayals are usually laughable because the state doesn’t offer tax perks to film here, so it usually ends up being places in L.A., Georgia, or Pennsylvania that get tagged as Indiana).

So anyway, when we do get some legitimate spotlight on our little corner of the country, I can’t contain my excitement, and I inevitably end up going down a rabbit hole of learning everything I can about each situation.  Now I know I’m way late to this party, but I’ve been a John Green fan for quite some time.  His book, “The Fault in our Stars“, being set in Indianapolis and becoming a best-seller was a big deal.  Having the book optioned to be adapted to a major motion picture was an even bigger deal.  Watching that film and knowing that it wasn’t actually filmed in Indiana was a bit of a heartbreaker, but see above.  It’s a lot cheaper for production companies to film in Pennsylvania and pretend it’s Indiana than it is to actually film in Indy.

Taking that into consideration, I wanted to show off the places that are featured in the book, but were misrepresented in the movie for all of the John Green fans who haven’t been to Indianapolis before.  (Don’t get me wrong, the movie actually did a truly great job of trying to keep things accurate, but knowing the differences just isn’t the same.)  Let me be your guide for a virtual “The Fault in our Stars” photo tour of the bookish settings around Indianapolis.

I’ll kick off our tour with a location that I believe is not featured in the book, but a lot of people think it is.  There’s a particular scene that takes place at a support group meeting that’s being held in a church.  The sanctuary is described as being shaped like a cross, with the gathering taking place in the middle of the church, where Jesus’ heart would be located while on the cross.  St. Paul’s Episcopal Church is designed with a similar layout, although not quite to the specifications listed in the book.  It’s also positioned right in the middle of the other landmarks throughout the story.  Additionally feeding my skepticism on this location is the fact that Green refers directly to other locations and landmarks by name.  What would be the reason to change the name of the church, other than to facilitate the cheesy line about being in the literal heart of Jesus?  Adding even more confusion, the scene in the movie was indeed filmed at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, just not the one on Meridian Street in Indianapolis.  However, if I recall correctly, I believe Green is on record speaking about the inspiration for this church coming from college, so no dice on this one.

Now we’ll start checking out some sights that actually are featured in the book (in no particular order).  First up: Newfields.  This might not ring any bells at first glance, but it used to be called the Indianapolis Museum of Art prior to being bought out and privatized.  It’s still open to the public though, of course, like any good museum.  The museum is housed on a good-sized parcel of land, some of which makes up the outdoor nature trail named 100 Acres.  This is where the main characters spent some time having a picnic.  Throughout the trail are numerous outdoor art installations.  Two of those sculptures are specifically mentioned, Free Basket and Funky Bones, and are pictured below.

There’s a basketball court, because Indiana, that has a series of blue and red arches depicting the bouncing path of a basketball. 

Funky Bones is a giant, sprawling skeleton that is irresistible to climb on and attempt to jump from section to section.  The movie actually had the Funky Bones sculpture recreated so it could be included in the film without shooting on location.

Welp, next is a gas station.  There’s nothing special or noteworthy about this location other than it’s specifically mentioned in the book during a rather scary moment for the main characters, Augustus and Hazel.  “Something’s wrong. You gotta help me…The Speedway at Eighty-Six and Ditch.”  If you’ve seen one gas station then you’ve seen them all, but here’s the Speedway at 86th Street and Ditch Road anyway.

Hazel celebrates her half birthday wandering around Castleton Square Mall, eventually winding up at the food court.

There’s nothing too fancy about the mall, although it does have a nice food court with plenty of windows and natural light.  It also contains an indoor play area for small children, which could be a good or bad thing all at the same time, depending on what stage of life you’re in.

It seems like there’s a high number of picnics in this story.  Another one occurred at an iconic relic in the Indy Parks Department.  Holliday Park is mentioned a few times by Hazel, talking about spending time there with her family.  The picnic scene comes in at the Ruins at Holliday Park.  The partial structure gives off the appearance of leftovers of a war-torn society in Ancient Greece.  The Ruins really are a cool sight, but the story behind them IRL is a total letdown.  Essentially, the main components of the ruins came from a skyscraper in New York City that was razed.  The facade was saved and awarded to the city of Indianapolis after a design competition aimed at preserving the columns.  Womp womp.  That backstory could have so much more potential based on appearance alone.

North Central High School.  Nothing special to see here folks.  It’s a normal, run-of-the-mill high school.  But this is where Augustus attends high school and was trying to build his dream of being a basketball player, like any good Hoosier, before his medical condition got the best of him.

In a story centered around death, it only seems fitting that the largest graveyard in Indy (and one of the biggest in the country) plays a part in the book.  Crown Hill Cemetery makes a brief appearance, and is always worthy of checking out.  It’s home to the resting place of three former U.S. Vice Presidents, one President, and a slew of other notable historical figures.  It also houses the highest point of elevation in Marion County, offering a nice view of the downtown skyline.  If you’re looking for some unique activities around the city, they also conduct some odd business that make me shake my head whenever I drive past; like October ghost walks and summertime family fun weekends.

Lastly, Grandview Golf Course (not pictured).  While there is no Grandview Golf Course in Indianapolis, there is a Grandview Drive that runs adjacent to Highland Golf Course.  The teenage snark rings through as Hazel comments about the view not being so grand.  Grandview Drive is a small patch of road, home to a sleepy little neighborhood on Indy’s near northwest side.  Even without being a golf fan, I have to admit Highland is a nice looking course.

I live in the immediate area of most of these places, so it’s not uncommon to drive right by them and pay no attention.  I actually really enjoyed myself when I took a day, driving around to each location and seeing it through a bookworm’s eyes.  For everyone who may never make it to Indianapolis (you should totally try!), I hope you’ve enjoyed this virtual tour.  For those of you who live nearby, I really encourage you to take in some of the sights.  There’s nothing spectacular about most of these locations, but like I mentioned, it’s just really cool to see them through a new lens.

Thank you, that is all.

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