I started to get excited about this when I read it.
Augustus Waters drove horrifically.
I thought, you know, maybe, just maybe, Augustus could have a flaw. A teeny-eeny little yellow bikini flaw? Luckily, my wish was granted. Augustus sucks at driving. Sucks so much that our Hazel is bouncing up and down in her seat like a rag-doll on a rollercoaster. If only this were a mystery, and Augustus the killer; luring girls into his car to see V For Vendetta with his smile and hot-ness and then killing them in automotive accidents.
Nope, Augustus is just a really, really shitty driver. Fortunately, he has one flaw so far. Unfortunately, this really has to do jack all with his character, because unless Hazel and Augustus are going to enter the next monster truck race, go on a road trip around the U.S.A, or never get out of the car until the end of the book it doesn’t matter whether or not he’s a good, great, horrible, or average driver. And even though Hazel is being basically thrown around the car, she doesn’t seem to care. She’s not impressed, but the least dissent she shows to Auggie is by making “snarky” jokes, which she does already. So . . . basically this is a waste of a page.
Moving on, Auggie and Hazel talk about how he only passed his test because of a Cancer Perk (thank you, unneeded capitalization), i.e. something that people with cancer get that other people don’t – passing drivers tests, autographs, trips to Disney, etc. and then they start talking about cancer.
Hazel talks about how she got pulled out of school, what happened when she got surgery, some melodramatic stuff about letting go, blah, blah. That’s really one of the things about this book that makes it hard for me to connect with the characters: their over-dramatization of everything. I get it, having cancer is hard. Yes, you face death, and have to overcome obstacles. But the way that these trials are described sounds . . . fake. Kind of like someone who hasn’t had cancer describing how cancer is. It’s . . . pumped up.
I was looking pretty dead – my hands and feet ballooned; my skin cracked; my lips were perpetually blue. They’ve got this drug that makes you not feel so completely terrified about the fact that you can’t breathe, and I had a lot of it flowing into me through a PICC line, and more than a dozen other drugs beside . . . I finally ended up in the ICU with pneumonia, and my mom knelt by the side . . . and my dad just kept telling me he loved me in this voice that was not breaking so much as already broken
As I said before, cancer is a very emotional thing. It would be a very depressing time, especially when one thought that they had no hope. Just the way that Hazel talks about this. It seems lifeless. A few weeks ago, there was an audio-diary on This American Life about a woman waiting to get her results about Huntington’s disease, which I recommend you check out . (It’s Act Two) Though I have no history of Huntington’s or know anyone with the disease, I still found it to be very emotionally moving.
The diary was very sad, it definitely had a very dark tone to it. But there were other varied emotions in there. The woman joking with her sisters about being in a nursing home, reminiscing about their mother. There was happiness, hope, and sadness, which really made it seem human, and relatable. But Hazel is this depressed about everything. There’s no little bits of humor, there’s no hopefulness. It all sounds very stunted and un-realistic. I feel kind of bad for her, but only because I “should”. The “should” feeling is not a feeling a book should aspire to inspire.
And Hazel has reason to be hopeful, if not the least bit happy.
The drug was Phalanxifor, this molecule designed to attach itself to cancer cells and slow their growth. It didn’t work in about 70 percent of people. But it worked in me. The tumors shrank.
Yes, Hazel has, quite literally a miracle drug that’s shrinking her tumors, helping her quality of life, and hey, guess what, only works in about 30% of people! And I understand, she still has cancer, and yes, she still has to wear her breathing tubes, but still. I might understand her depressed attitude if she was near-death, but at this point, she should at least feel something more than complete apathy towards life. I wouldn’t even mind her apathy, if it was written in an engaging way. Something that made me feel helpless too. But instead all I’m hearing is “life sucks, yeah, it sucks, ugh”.
Hazel continues whining about cancer until Augustus asks her about school. She tells him she has her GED and is now in college. He tells her she’s sophisticated. Oh, please, Green, I can’t take it with all this witty banter!
They get to his house, which surprisingly, is not filled with the meaningless body parts of former lovers, but rather, filled with meaningless quotes on plaques, illustrations, and pillows.
Good Friends Are Hard to Find and Impossible to Forget read an illustration above the coatrack. True Love is Born from Hard Times promised a needle-pointed pillow . . . “My parents call them Encouragements,” he explained. “They’re everywhere.”
Augustus’ house might as well be a metaphor for this book. Filled with sayings and messasges that are supposed to have some new, original thought or meaning in them, but are really just over-used clichés that everyone knows. Also, I don’t think we need to capitalize that E. If the grammar in your book starts following that of 18th century documents, then it may be time to edit. (See here )
Anyway, Hazel meets the parents, who are unimpressed with Auggie’s latest conquest.
The fact that Augustus made me feel special did not necessarily indicate that I was special. Maybe he brought home a different girl every night to show her movies and feel her up.
Sounds legit, Hazel, sounds legit. If this were real life, Augustus and Hazel would watch a movie, they’d text or something for a couple of weeks, hook up, and then not talk to each other. Then we could hear Hazel’s story sans Augustus and everyone would be much happier.
Unfortunately, that’s not what happens. Hazel and Augustus’ parents talk about dinner and Hazel mentions she’s a vegetarian. Augustus asks if it’s because “animals are just too cute”, which although I’m not a vegetarian, can’t help find just a little bit demeaning.
Most people who don’t eat meat, at least in my experience, do it: a. as a way of supporting animal rights (i.e. not eating meat to protest the huge factory farms), b. for religious reasons, or c. for health reasons. What might be the even bigger sin, however, is when Hazel responds with “I want to minimize the number of deaths I’m responsible for.” And I just know Green put this in here to make it dramatic and tragic because ooh la la, Hazel’s gonna die and look how she cares about animals isn’t she precious? Maybe Augustus’ comment wasn’t so out of line after all.
After dinner, Augustus tells his parents that they’re going to watch V for Vendetta in the basement. Auggie’s dad says no. Augustus does not like this answer. Thou doth protesteth too much, Augustus. Turns out that the basement is Augustus’ bedroom. Well that explains that.
Auggie’s dad says they have to watch the movie in the living room but he can show Hazel his basement/bedroom. Apparently it’s filled with trophies because Augustus was an A-plus-plus basketball player, but he doesn’t play anymore. Is it because he had cancer? No. Disapproval of his parents? No. Any other reasonable explanation? No. I’ll let Augustus describe it to you.
I couldn’t figure out why I was methodically tossing a spherical object through a toroidal object. It seemed like the stupidest thing I could possibly be doing.
Well if, that’s how you feel. But honestly, this could be applied to anything. “I started wondering why I was methodically moving my arms and legs to propel myself forward to a building where I would be taught in the art of knowing past events, using imaginary things we call “numbers”, speaking in different sounds, and the dreaded P.E.”
Yes, some things in our society are weird, but they mostly harken back to our biological instincts: going to the gym to look better for a potential mate, or even something like buying new clothes (as nice clothes can be an indicator for wealth and therefore a stable environment).
Honestly, Gus’ plea of irrelevance sounds like something someone who didn’t like basketball would say (or someone going through a mock-existential crisis). Then we get into hurdlers.
I started thinking about [hurdlers] running their hurdle races, and jumping over these totally arbitrary objects that had been set in their path. And I wondered if hurdlers ever though, you know, This would go faster if we just got rid of the hurdles.”
They say there are no stupid questions, but this just might be one. Hurdling races are to measure a person’s competency at running and jumping over objects in their way. We like to see and show off at how good we are at different things. If someone wanted to show their ability to run straight distances, they’d be running a race without hurdles. Hurdles are put there so that one can show their ability at running with obstacles in the way. It’s like asking someone who makes homemade jam if they know that it’d be a lot easier to just buy it from the store. Well, obviously, but that’s not the fucking point.
Also, Augustus calls his basketball crisis “the existentially fraught free throws”. How beautiful. You know the story of “The Boy Who Cried Wolf”? Green, if you ever decide to re-title TFIOS, a good choice would be The Boy Who Cried What Does it all Mean?
Unfortunately for us, Hazel finds Augustus’ pointless, meaningless questions very sexy.
I like that he was a tenured professor in the Department of Slightly Crooked Smiles with a dual appointment in the Department of Having a Voice That Made My Skin Feel More Like Skin.
May I direct you again to this ? Really, truly, honestly, when has anybody in their right mind thought like this unless they were a. Parodying themselves or b. A ten-year-old girl in a Disney movie. Maybe, maybe, you’d think, oh, “I like his/her smile” or “their voice is really sexy” or something, but come on, Green.
Moving on. Augustus asks Hazel what her interests are, and laments the fact that some people, “become their disease,” which is pretty much the only cogent point that this book has made so far. There are people that are a. milking their disease for attention to the point where they forget anything else about themselves or b. so sick and miserable that they can’t think about anything else. Generally, most people like this fall into the latter category. Which is sad, but I can’t help thinking that Gus means this as a jab to people in both situations.
I usually don’t nitpick over stuff like this, but this just made my blood boil. Hazel wonders how she should “pitch herself” to Augustus Waters. Of course, you want to make good impressions on people, but I don’t think at any point any man or woman looking for a boyfriend/girlfriend should be pitching themselves to someone. You’re not the Shark Steam Mop and a blonde woman isn’t shilling you on the Home Shopping Network. If someone doesn’t like you without you doing a Broadway show of how wonderful you are, then the relationship isn’t going to work out anyway. I don’t think anyone should be treating themselves as a product they have to sell.
Hazel says she likes to read. Augustus asks for clarification.
Everything. From, like, hideous romance to pretentious fiction to poetry. Whatever.
Well, if you took out poetry you’d pretty much sum up this book. Augustus nearly orgasms at the fact that Hazel is the only teenager who likes to read poetry rather than write it. I should hope that Augustus’ views do not reflect Green’s. I’m young, I write poetry. Is it good? Not by a long shot. But, and that’s a very big but, that doesn’t mean that I don’t read poetry. I love reading poetry. We’ve started our main poetry unit in English and it’s one of my favorite things so far. Are there angsty teens spilling out the lamentations of their lost love? Yes. But for every one of those, you’ll find someone who really enjoys reading, and maybe writing poetry. We’re not exactly an exotic breed.
Augustus asks what’s Hazel’s favorite book. She tells the reader that it’s An Imperial Affliction, but she doesn’t want to tell Augustus because that’ll take away it’s special-ness and it’s betrayal. Which, I kind of, but don’t really understand. Most people don’t have a problem recommending books to people, but usually if you ask them what sort of music they like, they sort of shy away from the question, because some people tend to think music represents, or should represent who you are as a person.
Hazel kind of relates this to her book, saying that the author understood her, blah, blah, blah. If you are afraid to tell someone what your favorite book, movie, song, etc. is because you feel it represents you then most likely it’s because you’re afraid that the other person won’t like it. And if they don’t like the book, movie, song then they don’t like you. And all that means is that you’ve put too much of yourself into that thing.
Augustus isn’t impressed and Hazel is a little bit crushed. He asks her to read the novel form of his favorite video game. I would expect him to ask Hazel to read Great Expectations or something. I didn’t think people with “existentially fraught free throws” like such common things as video games.
Long story short, they watch V for Vendetta, and Hazel debunks an “encouragement” (which I refuse to capitalize) that says “Without Pain, How Could We Know Joy”, stating that the existence of broccoli doesn’t affect the taste of chocolate.
On one hand, bravo for standing up to stupidity, but on the other hand, why weren’t you saying stuff like this when we were talking about “existentially fraught free throws” or hurdlers? (Spoiler: the answer is probably Augustus’ hot-ness).
They drive home, think about kissing, don’t kiss, and Augustus reveals that he’s written his phone number in the book he gave her. How sweet.
On the next edition of The Boy Who Cried What Does it all Mean ? – a fake British accent, toe-phobia, a little girl, and a cannula. Hopefully this time it’ll be within less than 5 months.