Cover to Cover: The Fault in Our Stars Ch. 6

Ugh.

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I didn’t do a post last week, because I was returning to college after a break that was nowhere near long enough. I figured I could add all the extra hilarity this week, but now I’m sick. I am full of mucus, and all I have to comfort myself are 30 glasses of orange juice and John Green.

Lovely.

No, no, I’m fine.
No, no, I’m fine. Really.

But we’re not here to comfort me in my misery; we’re here to make it worse! So let’s get going, shall we?

Honestly, this chapter is a first in that I almost didn’t hate it, but at the same time hated it more than all the rest. I know some previous chapters were almost tolerable (primarily because Mr. Psycho wasn’t there), and I’d be lying if I said the lack of Gus didn’t make this much more enjoyable than the previous chapters, but it’s somewhat less rage-inducing than last time, and is occasionally not-bad. At one point it’s even . . . good.

I know. I couldn’t believe it either.
I know. I couldn’t believe it either.

But don’t worry, because there’s a whole lotta sucking going on on Green’s end, and I’m not going to ignore that. Besides, we left off with an extra-special level of stupid, and it can only get worse from here:

Mom was folding my laundry while watching this TV show called The View when I got home. I told her that the tulips and the Dutch artist and everything were all because Augustus was using his Wish to take me to Amsterdam. “That’s too much,” she said, shaking her head. “We can’t accept that from a virtual stranger.”

Wait, I’m confused, because that didn’t sound totally moronic. What happened to the overprotective and simultaneously negligent woman we’ve come to know and mock? Can she have grown up?

“He’s not a stranger. He’s easily my second best friend.”

Well, at least the sanity isn’t contagious. Thank goodness.

tumblr_mkdvnbqkfW1rkz645o1_400
Dodged a bullet there.

But really, who hasn’t fallen immediately in love with someone you’ve known for a few days, and abandoned all your other emotional connections in order to be with them? Honestly, the number of times I’ve gone off to another country with some guy after hanging out 3 times . . . it’s practically a cliché at this point.

 Dr. Maria said I couldn’t go to Amsterdam without an adult intimately familiar with my case, which more or less meant either Mom or Dr. Maria herself.

Seriously? That’s all the medical prep required? What if something goes wrong that the mom isn’t prepared to handle, considering she isn’t actually a medical technician? I know Amsterdam has hospitals, but you’d have to find one that speaks primarily English, can access her files in a short enough time — but really, is there such thing as “short enough time” your lungs stop working? — and is familiar enough with her type of cancer to know what to do in said short amount of time. We don’t know how common whatever she has is.

I’m not saying Sunshine shouldn’t ever go on vacation, but maaaaaaybe not as a minor who doesn’t yet know how to take care of herself and deal with these questions. The fact that they don’t occur to her shows how not ready she is to take this kind of trip.

But let’s be honest: she has Magical Plot Cancer. Nothing’s going to go wrong unless the plot demands it, in which case whatever’s required will magically appear for maximum drama and minimum consequences. Though that still leaves one teeny-tiny issue . . .

SHE DOESN’T KNOW MR. PSYCHO! IT’S WEIRD TO GO ON INTERNATIONAL TRIPS WITH BOYS YOU DON’T KNOW!

How am I the only one who has a problem with this?
How am I the only one who has a problem with this?

“So you’ll come,” I said. “The Genies will pay for it. The Genies are loaded.”

Man, these Genies sure are accommodating to fork over a bunch of money so that someone totally unrelated to the Wish can bring her mom and all sorts of medical supplies to Amsterdam free of charge. Apparently you can bring a fleet of people along for the ride once you’ve lost a leg; why not just invite the entire school to go with you? Apparently that’s totally fine!

Well, Mom gets on board —

“It seems perfectly safe.”
“I make excellent decisions.”

— so with that all tied up, we can jump back into what’s way more important than that pesky cancer thing:

I ended up just lying in bed and replaying the whole picnic with Augustus. I couldn’t stop thinking about the little moment when I’d tensed up as he touched me.

Relationship drama!

To be fair, at least Green is trying to be introspective here. And he comes impressively close to self-awareness for a second:

Augustus was amazing, but he’d overdone everything at the picnic, right down to the sandwiches that were metaphorically resonant but tasted terrible and the memorized soliloquy that prevented conversation. It all felt Romantic, but not romantic.

Yes, Mr. Psycho is like that . . . because he’s always been like that. While it’s nice that Sunshine’s noticed his flaws, his behavior at the picnic is no different than it has been the entire book.

So close, yet so far.

In the end, however, she just can’t figure it out and calls Kaitlyn.

Remember her?

I’m so glad she’s back in our lives. What would we do without someone who has a PhD in girly things? You might think this would call for empathy and a keen insight into emotional problems, but instead we get a 10-year-old’s fanfiction of The Devil Wears Prada:

“I have a boy problem,” I said.

“DELICIOUS,” Kaitlyn responded.

See the gif above.

Anyway, Kaitlyn is so popular (because people always respond well to fake British accents) that she manages to figure out Mr. Psycho’s identity without Sunshine telling her. The results are . . . special.

“Athletic?”

“Yeah, he used to play basketball for North Central.”

Kaitlyn, focusing on what’s important. (Also, you lose muscle about 3 months after you quit working out, so there’s no way Mr. Psycho still has a basketball player’s body. Try again.)

“Oh, my God. I’ve seen him at parties. The things I would do to that boy. I mean, not now that I know you’re interested in him. But, oh, sweet holy Lord, I would ride that one-legged pony all the way around the corral.”

Charming.

We get it: Mr. Psycho is hot. He’s the hottest of all the hot. Thou shalt not have anyone hotter than Mr. Psycho. Weirdly, girls don’t need long descriptions of how sexy the male character is to find him attractive. (At least I don’t. I’m going to claim representation of all women here because . . . well, I’m the Grand Poobah here at The Drunk Librarian, so you can’t stop me.) A captivating personality and some minor physical description is more than enough —

Sometimes you don’t even need personality.
Sometimes you don’t even need personality.

— and the more you harp on his sexiness the more desperate it sounds, and the more my interest in him shrivels up and dies.

“In the event you do hook up with him, I expect lascivious details.”

Protip: The primary reason girls share hookup stories is because they’re horrifying, hilarious, or both. Occasionally someone will clear up a question their friend was afraid to Google, but Kaitlyn is way too interested in Sunshine and Mr. Psycho’s potential sex for it to be anything but creepy and gross. Stop that this instant.

It turns out Kaitlyn’s drooling over Sunshine’s crush wasn’t terribly helpful, so she decides to Facebook-stalk Mr. Psycho’s dead ex, Caroline. I can’t make fun, because I’d absolutely do the same thing.

The physical similarities were striking: same steroidally round face, same nose, same approximate overall body shape.

That’s disturbing.
That’s disturbing.

My healthy self looked very little like her healthy self. But our cancer selves might’ve been sisters. No wonder he’d stared at me the first time he saw me.

Remember when I’d just thought he was staring at her because he’s a generic YA romantic hero, which automatically requires him to be 12 different sorts of creepy? Weren’t those good times?

Seriously, that’s way worse than I’d originally figured when I was complaining about him being a serial killer. He is hitting on her because she looks like his dead girlfriend. I have to assume that he’s kept Caroline’s brain in a jar and is planning on stuffing it in Sunshine’s body, like some sort of backwards Frankenstein’s monster.

I can’t help it; I just really want this book to turn into a Buffy episode.

Sunshine is overwhelmed, not by Mr. Psycho’s . . . well, psychosis, but by something one of Caroline’s friends posted on her wall shortly after her death:

We all miss you so much. It just never ends. It feels like we were all wounded in your battle, Caroline. I miss you. I love you.

I have to admit, that’s pretty moving. And it leads into another rather powerful moment at the dinner table with her parents:

“I’m like a grenade, Mom. I’m a grenade and at some point I’m going to blow up and I would like to minimize the casualties, okay?”

My dad tilted his head a little to the side, like a scolded puppy.

“I’m a grenade,” I said again. “I just want to stay away from people and read books and think and be with you guys because there’s nothing I can do about hurting you; you’re too invested, so just please let me do that, okay? I’m not depressed. I don’t need to get out more. And I can’t be a regular teenager, because I’m a grenade.”

Ignoring the fact that it should all be one paragraph, that’s a decent bit of writing, and a good actress could probably make that a real tearjerker of a scene. Unfortunately, because I don’t care about Sunshine in the slightest, it has far less of an impact on me, but I have to begrudgingly give props for a well-written — if still unrealistic — speech from a girl who feels lost.

However, it’s a little ruined by this exchange, which came a few lines earlier:

“And how’s your friend Isaac?”

“Blind,” I said.

For someone who thinks having cancer “wounds” the people around you, she’s remarkably blasé about her own loved ones’ suffering. Apparently Isaac just isn’t important enough to wound her. Maybe if he were hotter.

We can only care about character who sparkle.
We can only care about characters who sparkle.

She goes to her room, and we get another gut-punch when her parents have a conversation they don’t know Sunshine can hear:

My dad saying, “It kills me,” and my mom saying, “That’s exactly what she doesn’t need to hear,” and my dad saying, “I’m sorry but—” and my mom saying, “Are you not grateful?” And him saying, “God, of course I’m grateful.”

Wow. It makes me so angry that this book isn’t about the parents, who are so much more interesting and sympathetic than any of our mains. Their love for their daughter, the financial burdens, the strain this puts on their relationship with one another . . . that’d make a better, more compelling, and more heartbreaking book than this garbage.

But I’m sure Green would find a way to screw that up, too, so I guess I should be happy he didn’t tarnish what could’ve been a phenomenal character study. Instead we get to read more about Caroline.

Maybe I was supposed to hate Caroline Mathers or something because she’d been with Augustus, but I didn’t.

Congratulations on being a semi-decent human being.

I couldn’t see her very clearly amid all the tributes, but there didn’t seem to be much to hate—she seemed to be mostly a professional sick person, like me, which made me worry that when I died they’d have nothing to say about me except that I fought heroically, as if the only thing I’d ever done was Have Cancer.

To be fair, “you were a hateful little shit” isn’t something you post on dead people’s Facebook walls, but that doesn’t mean people won’t remember it.

I guess her brain cancer was of the variety that makes you not you before it makes you not alive.

Okay, be calm, be calm, you’re the Grand Poobah, keep it together . . .

I HATE GREEN I HATE GREEN I HATE HIM SO SO SO MUCH HOW DID THIS EVER GET PUBLISHED?!

When he’s not writing like a 12-year-old with a thesaurus, he’s writing like a 6-year-old without one! It’s so jarring and unpleasant that someone who (incorrectly, it turns out) throws around words like “hamartia” also spouts nonsense like “unhungry” and whatever that ridiculous word-salad up there was supposed to be.

“Caroline’s brain cancer altered her personality.” “She was unable to communicate with people on her own.” “It stole her self before her life.”

That last one is laughably stupid, but it’s still better than that nonsense Green came up with! This is the most bipolar, tonally-dissonant character “quirk” I’ve ever read, and every time she does this weird “I’m not going to use proper grammar because it makes me sound cool and edgy, tee hee!” . . . thing, I die a little inside.

So of course I tensed up when he touched me. To be with him was to hurt him—inevitably. And that’s what I’d felt as he reached for me: I’d felt as though I were committing an act of violence against him, because I was.

Oh of course. It couldn’t be that been isolated from human contact for your entire life, due to both your cancer and your awful personality, and therefore have no real way of experiencing intimacy with another person, causing you to fear taking that first step into the unknown with someone you don’t yet fully trust not to reject you (or murder you). Obviously you can foresee that you’re going to die before him and don’t want to kiss him because you’ll hurt him, allowing him to reassure you that he can take it and sweep you up into his arms without any real emotional scars or growth on anyone’s end. Fabulous!

She has to text Mr. Psycho to tell him this, and he takes it surprisingly well:

Hi, so okay, I don’t know if you’ll understand this but I can’t kiss you or anything. Not that you’d necessarily want to, but I can’t.

When I try to look at you like that, all I see is what I’m going to put you through. Maybe that doesn’t make sense to you.

Anyway, sorry.

He responded a few minutes later.

Okay.

kiss
Well, that was painless. Maybe he’s seen the movie. Or maybe he knows that he’s in a hackneyed, predictable plot that wouldn’t be smart or ballsy enough not to go through with the obvious romance, so he has nothing to worry about.

Well, after sitting through that emotional dearth of a conversation, we’re rewarded with some more genuine sweetness in the form of her parents:

“You are not a grenade, not to us. Thinking about you dying makes us sad, Hazel, but you are not a grenade. You are amazing. You can’t know, sweetie, because you’ve never had a baby become a brilliant young reader with a side interest in horrible television shows, but the joy you bring us is so much greater than the sadness we feel about your illness.”

Even if I hate Sunshine, her parents’ love for her is just beautiful. It should absolutely receive more attention than the dumb romance, but if everything got the attention it deserved, Megamind would be more popular than The Incredibles.

Oh yeah. I went there.

Anyway, she falls asleep without telling them she loves them (kinda weird, and undermines their obvious devotion to her, but whatever), and wakes up with “an apocalyptic pain fingering out from the unreachable center of my head.”

Despite being a surprisingly interesting way to describe a headache, I’m going to have to roll my eyes at this one. Because obviously she’s dying of brain cancer. It’s tragic that she’ll die so young — such a surprise after her constantly referencing how close to death she is — and without ever going to Amsterdam to have her favorite author rhapsodize about how perfect she is. What an amazing cliffhanger that leaves me wondering if it’s time for the Magical Plot Cancer to consume her so soon — which it’s surely going to do, instead of out-of-nowhere nabbing Mr. Psycho for a few cheap tears. (Spoilers. But come on, you’d already guessed that was going to happen.)

I’m at the edge of my seat, folks, and I’m sure you are, too. But you’ll just have to wait for Chapter 7, because I’m outta here!

Time to drink my phlegm away! Only then can I start drinking to forget this chapter.
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2 thoughts on “Cover to Cover: The Fault in Our Stars Ch. 6

    • I’m just gonna copy this from my Facebook page:

      John Green (and some dictionaries, to be fair) translate it as “a fatal flaw,” popularized in Aristotle’s Poetics as the key impetus for tragedy. But the Ancient Greek was actually means a mistake or error of some kind, coming from an archery term that means “to miss the mark.” It was incorrectly popularized as a character defect, however, and only rather recently (I believe) the other view has begun to take hold . In any case, my favorite professor thinks it’s an error, not a flaw, and I’d follow him to the ends of the earth, but I guess it’s petty to blame Green for getting that one wrong when so many intelligent people do. But I’m nothing if not petty. 🙂

      Like

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