Another week, another delightful visit to the magical world of John Green.
Last time was quite the doozy, in which I was on topic maybe 20% of the time. Hopefully today things’ll work out a little better, huh?
We open on Sunshine reading some of the book Mr. Psycho recommended:
I stayed up pretty late that night reading The Price of Dawn. (Spoiler alert: The price of dawn is blood.) It wasn’t An Imperial Affliction, but the protagonist, Staff Sergeant Max Mayhem, was vaguely likable despite killing, by my count, no fewer than 118 individuals in 284 pages.
Oh, how I’d kill for the protagonists of this book to be “vaguely likable.” That must be so pleasant. Seriously, though, you don’t have the right to make fun of other books.
Also, either you’re an extremely boring person, or an extremely nitpicky one. You bothered to keep count? Did you really have nothing better to do with your time? How long did that take you, anyway?
This is another fake novel, by the way, because like I said last time, for a book that name-drops all sorts of ridiculous brands, having them actually be interested in real literature would just be too difficult. (Though it looks like this might someday become real, so . . . lucky you guys, I guess. I won’t be reading it.)
Anyway, staying up so late causes her to oversleep the next morning. Her mom remembers suddenly that she cares about her daughter, and comes in to wake her up for class:
“It’s almost ten,” she said.
“Sleep fights cancer,” I said. “I was up late reading.”
Yeah, when I first wake up I’m usually full of all sorts of witty, sarcastic retorts too. Like “nggh” and “Why did I stay up so damn late?” and ”Can I afford to miss another day of class?”
But sure, Sunshine is a ray of sunshine because . . . of course she is. Fine. Mom wants to know about the book:
“Did that boy give it to you?” she asked out of nowhere.
Still don’t want to know his name, huh?
They have some girly gossip about boys, tee hee!, and Sunshine doesn’t blush or stammer or do anything real human beings do when talking about a crush, but continues throwing out “witty” one-liners. I’m forced to conclude that Sunshine is an emotionless robot sent on a revenge murder-quest to destroy Mr. Psycho (which is a book I’d much rather be reading).
But My Little Robot has to get up, because it’s a very special day, according to her mother:
“It’s Thursday, March twenty-ninth!” she basically screamed, a demented smile plastered to her face.
“You are really excited about knowing the date!” I yelled back.
“HAZEL! IT’S YOUR THIRTY-THIRD HALF BIRTHDAY!”
“Ohhhhhh,” I said. My mom was really super into celebration maximization. IT’S ARBOR DAY! LET’S HUG TREES AND EAT CAKE! COLUMBUS BROUGHT SMALLPOX TO THE NATIVES; WE SHALL RECALL THE OCCASION WITH A PICNIC!, etc. “Well, Happy thirty-third Half Birthday to me,” I said.
Because as we all know, teenagers absolutely hate food, the chance to feel important, and their parents paying for stuff. They also hate any excuse to party. Green really has his finger on the pulse of the modern American teen, doesn’t he?
Mom reached up to this shelf above my bed and grabbed Bluie, the blue stuffed bear I’d had since I was, like, one—back when it was socially acceptable to name one’s friends after their hue.
Is it me, or does that come off as weirdly . . . racist? She sounds nostalgic for the time when you could name people after their skin color, which isn’t something normal people do, I don’t think. Either Sunshine-Bot was modeled after an old lady in the Antebellum South (but, you know, one that didn’t make any sense), or she’s beginning to malfunction.
Or it’s just another bafflingly awkward phrase that I think is supposed to be clever.
While we’re at it, why is Mom picking up the teddy bear? She doesn’t do anything with it, just hugs it to herself and then the scene ends. Which is also really weird, now that I think about it.
Is Green trying to suggest that Hazel’s mom is . . . special?
Mom smiled, hugging the bear to her stomach. “Is it still cool to go to the mall?” she asked.
“I take quite a lot of pride in not knowing what’s cool,” I answered.
Ugh, who cares? Sunshine is a rebel and we should all be impressed by her awesomeness.
So she goes to the mall to hang out with her BFF, Girl-we’ve-had-literally-no-mention-of-before-and-will-probably-have-no-bearing-on-the-plot (Kaitlyn for short). We should just call her “Female Isaac.”
I purchased both Midnight Dawns and Requiem for Mayhem, the first two sequels to The Price of Dawn, and then I walked over to the huge food court and bought a Diet Coke. It was 3:21.
That’s a lot of money to spend on this guy . . . and don’t try to tell me she likes them, because she’s said nothing except how stupid they are. It’d be like if I went out and bought every John Green book because some hot dude was really into them.
By the way, I’ve noticed that this book is full of most boring, unimportant details. I don’t care that she drinks a Diet Coke. I don’t care what time it is. I really don’t care that she “texted Kaitlyn, took a shower, got dressed” before going to school that day. I mean, I assumed that’s what she’d do; most people don’t go to class filthy and naked.
These details aren’t necessary, Green.
it was incredibly difficult to stay awake.
Mom was also in the food court, alone, sitting in a corner where she thought I couldn’t see her, eating a cheesesteak sandwich and reading through some papers.
How she this protective—we learned earlier in the chapter that she sat outside in the car during support group, too—but still lets Sunshine go off with some boy she’d never met? The girl apparently needs a chaperone to hang out with her old friends!
Female Isaac finally shows up and oh God I hate her already:
“Darling,” she said, vaguely British. “How are you?” People didn’t find the accent odd or off-putting. Kaitlyn just happened to be an extremely sophisticated twenty-five-year-old British socialite stuck inside a sixteen-year-old body in Indianapolis. Everyone accepted it. . . .
“I do wish you were at school these days. Some of the boys have become downright edible.”
Nope. There’s no way an American teenage girl wanders around with a ridiculous British accent and no one makes fun of her for it. That is not the world we live in, Green.
I was wondering who’d be friends with someone as unpleasant as Sunshine, but this actually explains a lot. I doubt this Kaitlyn chick has many options for other friends, or boyfriends—
“I’ve been dating Derek Wellington for a bit,” she said, “but I don’t think it will last. He’s such a boy.”
I’m really starting to believe Green’s never interacted with a real human being. I just don’t understand how you can get behavior this consistently and astoundingly wrong.
It’s just . . . it’s not even close. This girl is supposed to be popular! In no universe is the weird, fake-British girl who describes men as “edible” hanging out with the cheerleaders and fashionistas. You’d have to be drunk(er than I am) to find that even remotely plausible.
Yet despite all that, Female Isaac still manages to be a total stereotype, including being obsessed with boys and shoes (why is it always shoes? Why don’t caricatures of girls ever like other accessories, like hats? Or muskets?). And, of course, she’s a shallow bitch:
I thought of telling her that I was seeing a boy, too, or at least that I’d watched a movie with one, just because I knew it would surprise and amaze her that anyone as disheveled and awkward and stunted as me could even briefly win the affections of a boy. But I didn’t really have much to brag about, so I just shrugged.
Why are you friends with her, again? Why are female friends in YA fiction always such awful people? Is it so that we don’t feel bad when our heroine abandons them for some brooding guy? You hate all nice people, so what about this condescending, obnoxious, pretentious girl draws you to her?
She’s dumb as a rock, too. Female-characters-who-aren’t-the-heroine in YA tend to be stupid.
“What in heaven is that?” asked Kaitlyn, gesturing to the book.
You know, all these so-called “feminist” YA books don’t actually help fight stereotypes about women when they include characters who actively perpetuate those stereotypes.
“Oh, it’s sci-fi. I’ve gotten kinda into it. It’s a series.”
“I am alarmed. Shall we shop?”
She talks like Ax. In fact, I’m going to read the rest of this book pretending they’re Andalites disguised as humans. If any of them start freaking out over cinnamon buns, I might cry from joy.
They shop for shoes. I’m sparing you the paragraphs upon paragraphs of shoe shopping because I love you. It’s so stereotypical it’s physically painful, and I want to ban malls from being in crappy YA fiction ever again because they invariably end up as shorthand for “this person is so superficial ha ha ha! Shopping! Consumer culture!”
Eventually Sunshine just sits outside and watches Female Isaac shop while reading her book—instead of, you know, actually talking to the friend she hasn’t seen in a while. I don’t know about you guys, but when my friends and I are home from college we spend the entire time talking about . . . well, everything. These guys suck at being friends.
Female Isaac buys her shoes, Sunshine decides she’s done with this nonsense, and they go their separate ways, having exchanged nothing of value.
I liked Kaitlyn, too. I really did. But three years removed from proper full-time schoolic exposure to my peers, I felt a certain unbridgeable distance between us. I think my school friends wanted to help me through my cancer, but they eventually found out that they couldn’t. For one thing, there was no through.
So I excused myself on the grounds of pain and fatigue, as I often had over the years when seeing Kaitlyn or any of my other friends. In truth, it always hurt. It always hurt not to breathe like a normal person, incessantly reminding your lungs to be lungs, forcing yourself to accept as unsolvable the clawing scraping inside-out ache of underoxygenation. So I wasn’t lying, exactly. I was just choosing among truths.
I don’t have anything to say here; this is pretty good and is one of the few times Sunshine doesn’t act like she’s better than everyone else. I’m throwing this in here to prove that I don’t hate everything about this book. Just most things.
To while away the time until her totally-stifling-Mom-who-never-lets-her-go-anywhere-alone-except-to-a-creepy-stranger’s-house comes back, she reads more of Gus’s book:
It featured a sentence-to-corpse ratio of nearly 1:1, and I tore through it without ever looking up. I liked Staff Sergeant Max Mayhem, even though he didn’t have much in the way of a technical personality.
I’d find this really annoying and hypocritical—because it is—but I just realized that there’s been barely any mention of Mr. Psycho and his perfection the entire chapter! Hooorayyy!
Okay, almost done. Must power through and then play lots of Minecraft.
She meets a little girl named Jackie, who’s interested in her oxygen and comfortable asking about it, which Sunshine finds refreshing.
Jackie asked, “Would they help me breathe, too?”
“I dunno. Let’s try.” I took it off and let Jackie stick the cannula in her nose and breathe. “Tickles,” she said.
That’s disgusting. Why are parents never around to stop bad decisions in this book? And how does an almost-adult Hazel not realize that it’s probably a bad idea to take medical equipment out of a bodily orifice and put it into the bodily orifice of a complete stranger, one who is probably too young to understand proper hygiene?
Jackie handed the tubes back to me. I gave them a quick swipe with my T-shirt, laced the tubes behind my ears, and put the nubbins back in place.
Oh, good. Now they’re totally clean.
The kid’s mother magically appears to take her away, and Hazel thinks about how nice it would be to talk to someone who doesn’t feel uncomfortable about her illness:
The other thing about Kaitlyn, I guess, was that it could never again feel natural to talk to her. Any attempts to feign normal social interactions were just depressing because it was so glaringly obvious that everyone I spoke to for the rest of my life would feel awkward and self-conscious around me, except maybe kids like Jackie who just didn’t know any better.
That’s another good bit of character development . . . or at least it would be, if it wasn’t so obviously pointing with huge neon signs to the one adult who treats her like a normal person.
What about the internet? If she doesn’t find any friendship or comfort from the support group, why not search online? I’ve made tons of friends with people I’ve never met in person, and if I had cancer they’d never have to know. It’s not the same as having face-to-face interactions, I’ll warrant, but it would take the edge off her loneliness. At the very least, I’d be interested in reading whether she tried it and what her experiences were.
But then again, it’s all irrelevant, because this is clearly just building up to the fact that only Mr. Psycho understands her, and he’s the only one she can be herself around, blah blah blah.
But who cares? That’s for another week. Right now I’m going to go build a house.