Okay, this is a little late; I was applying for grad school, so my weekend looked a lot like this:
I was also procrastinating because this chapter, despite its jaw-droppingly stupid ending, just isn’t that interesting. And me being bored is still boring. But hey, I’m paid
(not really) to be funny (not really), so we’ll just work with what we’ve got, hmm? Strap in!
Last week, we enjoyed watching My Former Favorite Character Who Took a Sharp Nosedive in Likability and General Not-Being-a-Douchebag (Isaac for short) have a gigantic freakout because his girlfriend dumped him. It was very emotional, and surely our heroes will still be overwhelmed with pity and concern for his well-being.
I did not speak to Augustus again for about a week. I had called him on the Night of the Broken Trophies, so per tradition it was his turn to call. But he didn’t. Now, it wasn’t as if I held my phone in my sweaty hand all day, staring at it while wearing my Special Yellow Dress, patiently waiting for my gentleman caller to live up to his sobriquet. I went about my life: I met Kaitlyn and her (cute but frankly not Augustinian) boyfriend for coffee one afternoon; I ingested my recommended daily allowance of Phalanxifor; I attended classes three mornings that week at MCC; and every night, I sat down to dinner with my mom and dad.
And of course you called Isaac to make sure he was okay? I mean, I think the guy’s a borderline-creepy moron who doesn’t understand how love works, but apparently you don’t, so if you care about him at all, wouldn’t you want to maybe follow up on that whole insane breakdown thing? Maybe make sure he hasn’t killed himself? Distract him from the fact that he’ll soon have as many functional eyes as girlfriends?
But fine. She’s a True Feminist, she Doesn’t Need No Man, etc. etc. Aside from the fact that she compares all other men to Mr. Psycho, of course. And the fact that she doesn’t feel like she can call a guy twice in a row, because that’s not the proper thing to do. But she’s independent, really!
Mom and Dad talked about this earthquake that had just happened in Papua New Guinea. They met in the Peace Corps in Papua New Guinea, and so whenever anything happened there, even something terrible, it was like all of a sudden they were not large sedentary creatures, but the young and idealistic and self-sufficient and rugged people they had once been.
“Large sedentary creatures”? Unless our dearest Sunshine is being raised by cows, that’s a pretty awful thing to say.
I know plenty of people have issues with their parents, especially teenagers. Parents can be annoying, and kids can be immature brats, so it makes sense that there might be some tension here. But Sunshine’s disdain of these people who love her and provide for her and basically do everything they can to keep her alive is just . . . nasty. And they haven’t done anything to deserve it! She seems to hate them for the unforgivable sin of being old, despite the fact that their lives sound infinitely more interesting than this story.
Parents of a child with cancer? Interesting.
Peace Corps members hanging out in Papua New Guinea and having all sorts of wacky adventures? Interesting.
But no, we don’t get to hear about the parents’ awesome past or how they feel giving it all up for their sick daughter, nor do we learn about the devastating earthquake, because those things would require Sunshine to care about other people for more than 10 seconds. Instead, Mr. Psycho calls and Magic Plot Cancer rears its ugly head, forcing her to leave the potentially-entertaining characters behind:
I ate faster than I’d ever eaten, transmitting items from my plate into my mouth with a speed and ferocity that left me quite out of breath, which of course made me worry that my lungs were again swimming in a rising pool of fluid. I banished the thought as best I could. I had a PET scan scheduled in a couple weeks. If something was wrong, I’d find out soon enough. Nothing to be gained by worrying between now and then.
And yet still I worried. I liked being a person. I wanted to keep at it. Worry is yet another side effect of dying.
Magic Plot Cancer! Only shows up when it’s important to the plot! Never inconveniences the romance/adventure except for plot purposes! Takes the place of character development! Protects the author from criticism, because what jerk makes fun of someone with cancer?
Finally I finished and said, “Can I be excused?” and they hardly even paused from their conversation about the strengths and weaknesses of Guinean infrastructure.
Finally! Our heroine gets a chance to talk with her beloved! And oh, has the week been long without him!
“Hazel Grace,” he said.
“Hi,” I said. “How are you?”
“Grand,” he said. “I have been wanting to call you on a nearly minutely basis, but I have been waiting until I could form a coherent thought in re An Imperial Affliction.” (He said “in re.” He really did. That boy.)
You know, it’s funny — I said the exact same thing when I read this. But somehow I think our facial expressions were a little different . . .
They flirt, and actually the dialogue isn’t that bad. Almost normal, in fact, or at least approaching human speech. It was such a relief, in fact, that it allowed me to notice something that’s always been overshadowed by Green’s mutilation of colloquial conversation: the man can’t stop explaining the obvious. Here, I’ll bold it to make it even easier to spot:
“I think it’s, like. Reading it, I just kept feeling like, like.”
“Like?” I asked, teasing him.
Your teasing him clued us in to the fact that you were teasing him, thanks.
“Like it was a gift?” he said askingly.
Interestingly enough, question marks typically denote questions. (“Askingly,” for all you budding young writers out there, isn’t a word. And if God is good, it never will be.)
“Oh,” I said quietly.
As opposed to all those times you scream “Oh” from the mountaintops? the inebriated blogger quipped askingly.
Listen, adverbs aren’t evil in and of themselves. While a very wise and wonderful man said that the road to hell is paved with adverbs (and while I’ve got you here, go read On Writing if you haven’t yet. Regardless of your opinion on King’s work in general, it’s a masterful book), another intelligent, talented, and dare I say beautiful woman has a tendency to use them a lot, and never seems to have the heart to delete them in the editing process. So while King is
absolutely correct, I can’t come down too hard on Green for that, even if this makes Twilight’s use of adverbs look reserved and moderate.
But come on! Askingly? How am I not supposed to make fun of that?! I write fanfiction and I’ve never come across an adverb that
embarrassingly awful except maybe in parodies! 12-year-old girls drooling over Harry Potter don’t say “askingly,” because at least they have a spellcheck that’ll tell them it isn’t a real word!
We’re 2 pages into this chapter, guys. And this book is so popular.
We find out that Mr. Psycho, in true stalker fashion, found Peter Van Houten’s email address and asked him about An Imperial Affliction. Luckily for him, though, this author apparently is fine with being stalked by teenage boys, despite showing no indication towards corresponding with anyone, ever:
“‘Dear Mr. Waters,’” he answered. “‘I am writing to thank you for your electronic correspondence, received via Ms. Vliegenthart this sixth of April, from the United States of America, insofar as geography can be said to exist in our triumphantly digitized contemporaneity.’”
I honestly have no idea how to respond to this. But it finally explains why Sunshine and Mr. Psycho talk the way they do. Apparently it’s a sickness in this world.
In many, many, many more words, the email essentially tells Mr. Psycho to shut up and go away, but Sunshine is too busy being amazed that he responded to note what a dick her favorite author is.
“Wow,” I said. “Are you making this up?”
“Hazel Grace, could I, with my meager intellectual capacities, make up a letter from Peter Van Houten featuring phrases like ‘our triumphantly digitized contemporaneity’?”
“You could not,” I allowed.
She’s kidding, right? Green must be joking about this. There is no way that these two people, who sound exactly the same, are sitting here agreeing that a third person who talks just they do sounds nothing like them. That’s a massive problem with this book: instead of sounding like individuals with their own personalities and interests, all the main characters are identical, down to word choice, inflection . . . everything. It doesn’t help that they all have the same priggish personality, of course, but it’s really sad that I honestly can’t tell who said what without the dialogue tags to explain everything.
So she emails Van Houten as well in the hopes of getting a better reply. Then, because she’s apparently forgotten her “no calling Mr. Psycho twice in a row” rule, calls him back and they chat about poetry and books, which inevitably leads to the normal and not at all sudden question:
Gus asked, “When was the last good kiss you had?”
“Years ago,” I said finally. “You?”
“I had a few good kisses with my ex-girlfriend, Caroline Mathers.”
Because we all describe our exes using first and last names. It just sounds so natural! Isn’t that right, Prince Adam, also known as He-Man, Master of the Universe?
Though Caroline probably won’t care how he refers to her, seeing as she’s gone the way of Isaac’s sight:
“Caroline is no longer suffering from personhood.”
Geez, and I thought my way of describing it was harsh.
“I’m sorry,” I said. I’d known plenty of dead people, of course. But I’d never dated one. I couldn’t even imagine it, really.
“Not your fault, Hazel Grace. We’re all just side effects, right?”
“‘Barnacles on the container ship of consciousness,’” I said, quoting AIA.
It’s okay, though, because ten seconds later they’re being all giggly and flirty. Consistency, what’s that?
“Okay,” I said.
“Okay,” he said.
I giggled and said, “Okay.” And then the line was quiet but not dead. I almost felt like he was there in my room with me, but in a way it was better, like I was not in my room and he was not in his, but instead we were together in some invisible and tenuous third space that could only be visited on the phone.
“Okay,” he said after forever. “Maybe okay will be our always.”
“Okay,” I said.
Tee hee, tee hee. Isn’t it romantic? I’m so overwhelmed with the romance I could just cry.
But really, do you want to have an “always”? It didn’t exactly work out for Isaac and his lady love. Don’t you guys want to aim a little higher?
Well, later that week she goes off to visit Isaac in the hospital, since his eyes are gone and now they finally decide to care about it. We’re not even halfway through, but that’s all I and the word count can handle, so next week we’ll get to spend some fun times in the hospital. It promises to be a laugh riot.
Wait, though! Didn’t I promise you a hilariously stupid ending wrought from the worst contrivances imaginable?
Sure did! But you’re not getting it until next time! Instead have that spider gif again: