Howdy, internet! It’s that time again—we’re here to enjoy that brilliant money-making machine, John Green, and his super-mega money-making hit, The Fault in Our Stars (found here).
Last week we enjoyed Sunshine and Mr. Psycho’s first-ever date, in which he waxed philosophical about the pointlessness of sports and drove like a maniac, and I felt my ability to experience joy disappear over that bleak horizon from which all shall go to but none return.
Anyway, they flirt and act “cute” and Gus smiles “with half his mouth” —
— and it’s all enchanting. Until he suddenly brings down the mood by mentioning their friend, Useless-waste-of-space-who-inexplicably-keeps-cropping-up-only-for-no-one-to-care-about-him (Isaac for short):
“I had a weekend between when they scheduled the amputation and when it happened. My own little glimpse of what Isaac is going through.”
I nodded. I liked Augustus Waters. I really, really, really liked him. I liked the way his story ended with someone else.
You like that he cares about other people? You know, something you never do, since all other humans are a waste of time because they aren’t as witty and worldly as Augustus Waters?
In fact, his story isn’t ending with someone else, because you didn’t spare even half a thought to Guy-who’s-going-blind-but-who-cares-because-Sunshine-doesn’t-want-his-junk! Mr. Psycho’s so-called selflessness is just another excuse for Green to expound on how amazing and wonderful and perfect he is, rather than actually causing either of them to think for even a moment about someone other than their awful, awful selves!
And boy, does she expound:
I liked his voice. I liked that he took existentially fraught free throws. I liked 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. And I liked that he had two names. I’ve always liked people with two names, because you get to make up your mind what you call them: Gus or Augustus? Me, I was always just Hazel, univalent Hazel.
I liked his toenails. I liked his nostril hairs. I liked his small intestines. Honey, we get it.
Is this what Green thinks teenage girls are like? Even in my most horny, boy-crazed periods I’ve had the presence of mind not to fall desperately in love with people I’ve known less time than it takes for milk to go bad. Or in this case, in less time than it takes to get the milk home from the grocery store.
Also please, for the love of all that is good and pure in this world, stop trying to be witty, John Green. You’re very, very bad at it. What does making someone’s “skin feel more like skin” even mean? What did her skin feel like before, reptile scales? Did she have some sort of skin condition that he magically cured with his stalking and overall shittery? While we’re at it, how did he become a professor without having graduated high school? What university has these departments, and is it accredited? And if he’s a professor, doesn’t that mean he’s teaching other people how to do these things? Will there soon be an army of young men and women with B.A.s in Slightly Crooked Smiles and minors in Having a Voice That Makes Sunshine’s Debilitating Skin Disease Cure Itself Through the Power of Bad Writing? Have you considered how an influx of these highly-specialized employees will affect the economy? Has Mr. Psycho destroyed our society as we know it?
So many questions. So much confusion that could’ve been avoided.
You might think I’m being a jerk, and . . . well, I am. A bit. It would be a sad state if all works of literature avoided poetic language and wrote in the most direct way possible. The greatest beauty the world has to offer can be found in such imagery, and perhaps I should appreciate Green’s effort to portray some of that vivid elegance in his own work. There is something to be applauded in such an endeavor.
Except that he absolutely sucks at it.
The man has enough money to buy a small island nation, and it’s apparently because countless readers are willing to accept substandard writing, horrible characters, little continuity or internal logic, and labored, clunky descriptions because . . . why? Because they have cancer? Because we still don’t understand that the point to Romeo and Juliet wasn’t “doomed lovers are cool”? Because he has a popular internet show?
The short answer is: yeah, more or less. We haven’t learned from Twilight, and now we have Twilight with cancer instead of vampirism. Fabulous.
Now would probably be a good time to remind everyone that this is just opinion, and no one should feel guilty about their taste in books. If you like John Green and Sunshine and Mr. Psycho, I respect that; if you enjoy this blog’s vitriol despite liking the book, I respect that even more. I love Ke$ha, so it’s not like I’m the High Chieftain of Good Taste and Quality.
However, I am the High Chieftain of The Drunk Librarian, so I’m the one who gets to shout my opinion from the mountaintops. So there.
Well, let’s move on. They talk about his family — not hers, because why would we care about our protagonist? — and finally Mr. Psycho asks Sunshine to tell him about herself. A question of such complexity baffles our intrepid heroine:
I struggled with how to pitch myself to Augustus Waters, which enthusiasms to embrace, and in the silence that followed it occurred to me that I wasn’t very interesting. “I am pretty unextraordinary.”
“I reject that out of hand. Think of something you like. The first thing that comes to mind.”
Did I say “intrepid”? I meant “insipid,” sorry.
We’re given another chance to appreciate both how ordinary our leading lady is and how thoughtful her
stalker boyfriend guy she just met is, girls across the nation swoon, and she tells us about her interests (such as they are):
“What do you read?”
“Everything. From, like, hideous romance to pretentious fiction to poetry. Whatever.”
Actually, I’d buy that. So far this novel has been over-saturated with romance and pretentious as all hell. Not surprised in the slightest that she also loves poetry, given all that.
But at the same time it’s so vague. What kind of poetry? What fiction? Drop some titles of books that actually exist so we can get to know you a little! This is nonspecific enough to make any girl able to imagine she’s Sunshine. Hazel is nothing but a blank slate, peppered with resentment, hormones, and elitism. Augustus is equally interest-less, filled only with the qualities that every girl (apparently) dreams of. In short, they’re both perfect Fantasy Fodder, with a bonus helping of cancer for added emotional manipulation.
. . . I’m starting to think Green is an evil genius.
Her favorite book is An Imperial Affliction. You’ve probably never heard of it.
Actually, you’ve definitely never heard of it, because it doesn’t exist. God forbid she like A Song of Ice and Fire or Jane Austen or Animorphs —
— but something that none of the readers can connect to, even a little bit. If you were already alienated by her attitude, this doesn’t help endear you to her. Besides, take a look at how she describes this work of art:
My favorite book, by a wide margin, was An Imperial Affliction, but I didn’t like to tell people about it. 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 like An Imperial Affliction, which you can’t tell people about, books so special and rare and yours that advertising your affection feels like a betrayal.
It wasn’t even that the book was so good or anything; it was just that the author, Peter Van Houten, seemed to understand me in weird and impossible ways. An Imperial Affliction was my book, in the way my body was my body and my thoughts were my thoughts.
Even so, I told Augustus. “My favorite book is probably An Imperial Affliction,” I said.
I don’t understand this point of view, because when I love something I literally cannot shut up about it.
I think that’s the way most nerds tend to be: our adoration is full-hearted and obsessive, like a little kid’s, and we get excited by the very thought of the beloved thing regardless of what it is or how socially acceptable it is to love it (Exhibit A: bronies). We want to share it with everyone, not necessarily because it’ll change the world but because we want to give that kind of joy to others, to the point where people would pay their life savings to make me stop talking about Animorphs, for the love of God, it’s been almost 20 years and nobody cares about it anymore!
Honestly, I started this blog just so I could share my love of books — because even snark like this comes from a place of love, not for the book but for literature in general — but I digress. Maybe some people are really private and could relate to Sunshine’s reticence; what do I know?
I reserve the right to be annoyed that Augustus was so special she was willing to share her deep, dark secrets with him after only a few hours, though. Cheesy.
Besides, what have we learned about this book? What’s it about? It seems to have no plot, no characters of note . . . no personality at all, in fact. Just like Sunshine, which is probably why she loves it so much. It’s as blank as she is.
Goodness, this has been the blog of rants, hasn’t it? Lots of tangential rambling. Anyway, onward! They watch the movie:
As the credits rolled, he said, “Pretty great, huh?”
“Pretty great,” I agreed, although it wasn’t, really. It was kind of a boy movie. I don’t know why boys expect us to like boy movies. We don’t expect them to like girl movies.
This is the book everyone loves? Did no one notice this blatant sexism tossed in the middle? I mean . . . no. If the movie sucks, it sucks because it’s stupid. 300 isn’t a bad movie because it’s “just for boys”; it’s a bad movie because it’s poorly written and way longer than it needed to be. Likewise, Twilight isn’t some magical film that only those with the right chromosomes can appreciate, and implying that we have to like our gender-specific media is limiting and, frankly, insulting.
I know, I know, it’s literally impossible for Mr. Psycho to like something stupid (except our heroine, zing!), but don’t give me this “girls can’t like boy movies” nonsense. If you’re female and liked V for Vendetta, John Green would like to tell you that you’re wrong. Sorry.
Okay, this has gone on long enough . . . not like that’s my fault because I kept getting distracted or anything.
He drives her home (finally), she thinks about kissing him but they don’t, because they certainly wouldn’t want to be hasty.
“May I see you again?” he asked. There was an endearing nervousness in his voice.
I smiled. “Sure.”
“Tomorrow?” he asked.
“Patience, grasshopper,” I counseled. “You don’t want to seem overeager.”
“Right, that’s why I said tomorrow,” he said. “I want to see you again tonight. But I’m willing to wait all night and much of tomorrow.” I rolled my eyes. “I’m serious,” he said.
Oooooookay. That’s creepy.
At least she finally had a reasonable reaction. Thirty-third time’s the charm, right?
“You don’t even know me,” I said. I grabbed the book from the center console. “How about I call you when I finish this?”
“But you don’t even have my phone number,” he said.
Does it matter? You know her full name, address, the fact that she doesn’t go to school full-time. . . . It’s the internet age. He can show up at her house whenever he wants — and knowing him, he probably will. If he waits outside long enough, he might even be able to see which window leads to her bedroom.
But we don’t have to think too hard about that, because it turns out he wrote it in the book he’s loaning her! How cute. How charming. How happy I am that it’s finally over.
We’re a 12th of the way through the book! Too late to turn back now! Yaaaaaaay! Til next time!