Cover to Cover: The Fault in Our Stars, Ch 13

So . . . this is interesting.

beetlejuice-ok-then-o

After the last chapter, which took approximately 30 years to talk about and required backup to be airlifted in via flying owls, Green decided to make the rest of his chapters . . . short. Also really boring.

Huh.

Not really sure what to do now . . .
Not really sure what to do now . . .

So I’ve read several chapters ahead, and am kinda struggling to figure out how I’ll turn each into a reasonably-long post. There’s just not that much there there.

I mean . . . what am I supposed to do with this?

Screen Shot 2015-04-26 at 5.15.33 PM
Seriously, what the hell am I looking at?

Why is that its own chapter? Did you have a quota to fill or something, Green? The one before it is a page and like 2 lines; what reason could you possibly have not to combine those?

This book is so bad that even its structure annoys me.

Well, let’s try to find something of value in this festering heap of stupid, anyway. Onward to Chapter 13!

If you remember from last week, our heroes just desecrated a monument to the dead and celebrated by getting nasty in the way all Green heroes do the do: an awkward, unromantic, but still “enjoyable” scene that shows he isn’t going to romanticize it like lesser YA authors. I swear, he’s done this at least twice with sex, and about 1,000 times with everything else.

It's just as interesting and original the 70th time around.
It’s just as interesting and original the 70th time around.

I mean, I’ve based entire fanfics around giving the middle finger to what someone else wrote and the thought “I can do better than that,” but it helps if what you offer is actually better than what you’re responding to.

Oh, well. Maybe we’ll see her mom for about half a second, huh?

The next morning, our last full day in Amsterdam, Mom and Augustus and I walked the half block from the hotel to the Vondelpark, where we found a café in the shadow of the Dutch national film museum.

I was right! Hi, Mom — looking forward to you leaving in a few paragraphs!

Also, Green likes to drop the names of landmarks they’re never going to visit, showing that he did just enough research to realize they exist, but not enough to accurately represent them. But who wants to see the Dutch national film museum when you can drink overpriced coffee in its shadow?

Then again, after what they did to Anne Frank, I'm not sure we should let them anywhere near important monuments. Lord only knows what they'd do to this.
Then again, after what they did to Anne, I’m not sure we should let them anywhere near important monuments. Lord only knows what they’d do to this.

Also it just occurred to me that this 3-day trip has taken me almost two months. I hate this book so much.

we sat in the lacy shade of a huge chestnut tree and recounted for Mom our encounter with the great Peter Van Houten. We made the story funny. You have a choice in this world, I believe, about how to tell sad stories,

“Sad” is a relative term. You could call it sad that the old man whose privacy you invaded didn’t want to play your stupid game of make-believe, or you could call it sad that you invaded an old man’s privacy and hit him in the face with a glass of whiskey.

and we made the funny choice: Augustus, slumped in the café chair, pretended to be the tongue-tied, word-slurring Van Houten who could not so much as push himself out of his chair;

It’s fun to mock the elderly and infirm!

I stood up to play a me all full of bluster and machismo, shouting, “Get up, you fat ugly old man!”

As opposed to your calm, rational self.

Green cut this scene out for time, but you better believe it was hilarious!
Green had to cut this scene out for length, but you better believe it was hilarious!

We told Mom about the Anne Frank House, leaving out the kissing.

So basically you said, “We went to the Anne Frank House and there were lots of stairs.” Because aside from the Abomination — as it shall henceforth be called — there’s nothing else to that scene.

“Did you go back to chez Van Houten afterward?” Mom asked.

Augustus didn’t even give me time to blush. “Nah, we just hung out at a café. Hazel amused me with some Venn diagram humor.” He glanced at me. God, he was sexy.

And subtle. No way your mom’s gonna read anything suspicious into that!

"Who doesn't love Venn diagrams?"
“Who doesn’t love Venn diagrams?”

“Listen, I’m going to go for a walk. Give the two of you time to talk,” she said at Gus, an edge in it. “Then maybe later we can go for a tour on a canal boat.”

Bye, Mom!

Helpful writing tip: if you want to show someone saying something with an edge in their voice, you can use italics instead of blatantly spelling it out. For example, some mothers should try spending time with their dying children instead of letting them run around a foreign city with their stranger-slash-boyfriend, she said pointedly.

See how that second part isn’t necessary? It’s called “context,” Green. Learn how to use it.

Mom left a five-euro note under her saucer and then kissed me on the top of the head, whispering, “I love love love you,” which was two more loves than usual.

You don't say?
Never would’ve guessed.

Gus motioned down to the shadows of the branches intersecting and coming apart on the concrete. “Beautiful, huh?”

“Yeah,” I said.

“Such a good metaphor,” he mumbled.

Please don’t do this, Gus. We were having such a nice morning before you started in on all this stupid metaphor nonsense.

But fine, I’ll bite: intersecting branches, could be a metaphor for . . . the connectedness of humanity, the paths our lives take and how they cross with others’, the internet, a box of spaghetti dropped on the ground . . .

Did I get it right?

“The negative image of things blown together and then blown apart,” he said.

Well, of course.

Of course. Why didn’t I think of that?

But we can’t take the time to figure out what that actually means (nothing), because we have drama!

“I could look at this all day, but we should go to the hotel.”

“Do we have time?” I asked.

For you to be sexually unsatisfied again? Women love that.

He smiled sadly. “If only,” he said.

“What’s wrong?” I asked.

He nodded back in the direction of the hotel.

As you can tell, Green’s being subtle:

We walked in silence, Augustus a half step in front of me. I was too scared to ask if I had reason to be scared.

DUN DUN DUN!

But now for something completely different! (No, really. There is literally nothing between the last sentence and the next one. Not even a tiny transition.)

So there is this thing called Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Basically, this guy Abraham Maslow became famous for his theory that certain needs must be met before you can even have other kinds of needs. It looks like this:

And since I can’t find the exact one used in the book, here’s another:

maslows-hierarchy-of-needs

Once your needs for food and water are fulfilled, you move up to the next set of needs, security, and then the next and the next, but the important thing is that, according to Maslow, until your physiological needs are satisfied, you can’t even worry about security or social needs, let alone “self-actualization,” which is when you start to, like, make art and think about morality and quantum physics and stuff.

Once again, Green conveniently makes it unnecessary for readers to think for themselves (or pick up their phones and Google “Maslow”) by spoon-feeding you all of the pertinent information in a nice, simplified form that strips complexity out of the theory. Because teenagers are just too darn smart to be talked down to, right?

Luckily, not only will Sunshine tell you what this means, she’ll tell you what opinion to have about it:

According to Maslow, I was stuck on the second level of the pyramid, unable to feel secure in my health and therefore unable to reach for love and respect and art and whatever else, which is, of course, utter horseshit: The urge to make art or contemplate philosophy does not go away when you are sick. Those urges just become transfigured by illness.

Maslow’s pyramid seemed to imply that I was less human than other people, and most people seemed to agree with him.

shut up

First off, Maslow says that those needs must be reasonably satisfied, not completely. Because you are not in danger of being shot or starving to death, you are able to move past the second layer — or are you?

After all, everything you think about circles around back to your illness and how sorry we should feel for you. In a lot of ways, you are stuck on that second layer, in that you can’t not think about it for more than 5 minutes.

Secondly, that “less than human” thing is just wrong. Maslow’s major contribution was to education, in showing teachers that when a child’s basic needs cannot be met, it is unfair to expect them to perform to the standards of healthy, safe children. It recommends satisfying kids not only with the physical needs, but emotional and security ones as well; until then, you are putting impossible strain on them by demanding academic quality they can’t handle.

It'd be like a teacher expecting Sunshine to write an essay without mentioning how sick she is.
It’d be like a teacher expecting Sunshine to write an essay without mentioning how sick she is.

There are valid reasons for criticizing Maslow, mostly related to his methodology and evidence, not what a special snowflake you are. So stop playing armchair academic and get back to what you’re really good at: whining and being unpleasant.

Which she does, because that section was apparently pointless.

I always thought he could love me because he’d once been sick. Only now did it occur to me that maybe he still was.

Dramatic+cat+2013+gif+animated+gif+from+the+video+dramatic_32903d_4554991
DUN! DUN! DUUUUUN!

This seems really heavy-handed and manipulative of Green, to the point where I’m beginning to wonder if he’s setting us up for a red herring. I mean, there’s no way it’s going to be that Gus’ cancer is back and the supposedly healthy kid is actually going to be the one who dies early in a twist of irony and cruel fate, because that would be obvious; I’ve been predicting that since the moment I met him.

“Just before you went into the ICU, I started to feel this ache in my hip.”

Well, I’ve been wrong before.

“No,” I said. Panic rolled in, pulled me under.

He nodded. “So I went in for a PET scan.” He stopped. He yanked the cigarette out of his mouth and clenched his teeth.

Holy drama, Batman! Do we have to draw it out this much?

He flashed his crooked smile, then said, “I lit up like a Christmas tree, Hazel Grace. The lining of my chest, my left hip, my liver, everywhere.”

Everywhere. That word hung in the air awhile. We both knew what it meant.

OH MY GOODNESS WHAT A SHOCK!

I've been saving this gif for weeks.
I’ve been saving this gif for weeks.

It’d almost be well-written if it wasn’t so clichéd and predictable. Though . . . wait, have you not been going in for regular check-ups? How did this come as a surprise? Were there really no warning signs?

Now for the elephant in the room: Mr. Psycho, in true psycho fashion, has been lying to Sunshine for . . . days or so about his health. She can’t be happy that he kept such a huge secret from her, especially since she took so much care to make sure he wouldn’t be hurt by her dying.

“I’m sorry I didn’t tell you,” he said, his voice calm. “Your mom must know. The way she looked at me. My mom must’ve just told her or something. I should’ve told you. It was stupid. Selfish.”

Yes, it was.

I couldn’t be mad at him for even a moment, and only now that I loved a grenade did I understand the foolishness of trying to save others from my own impending fragmentation: I couldn’t unlove Augustus Waters. And I didn’t want to.

esxcuseme

How long have you been together, again?

Anyway, sure, he only deceived you while knowing that you were terrified of breaking his heart, showing that he has no qualms about breaking yours. Because all that matters is that he got laid.

What a great guy, that Gus.

After a while, I pulled him over to the bed and we lay there together as he told me they’d started palliative chemo, but he gave it up to go to Amsterdam, even though his parents were furious. They’d tried to stop him right up until that morning, when I heard him screaming that his body belonged to him. “We could have rescheduled,” I said.

“No, we couldn’t have,” he answered. “Anyway, it wasn’t working. I could tell it wasn’t working, you know?”

It just occurred to me that this is a bit dark, considering the circumstances. Oh well.
It just occurred to me that this is a bit dark, considering the circumstances. Oops.

Because you know better than highly-trained medical professionals. You can just feel whether it’s working or not.

They’re just lucky that their Magical Plot Cancer didn’t prevent them from having fun on their deathcation. (Also, did he lie to the Genies, or are they cool with killing kids to grant their wish? Either seems phenomenally irresponsible on someone’s end.)

I nodded. “It’s just bullshit, the whole thing,” I said.

“They’ll try something else when I get home. They’ve always got a new idea.”

“Yeah,” I said, having been the experimental pincushion myself.

Ugh, those doctors, caring about their patients and doing everything they can to save them. What jerks, right?

79e9d02295359b29f3db7f3cd68d9f08739bafec4297155f72090fd71fea2689

Besides, even if that stuff doesn’t work on you, the process could teach them valuable information that could save someone else’s life. For all of Gus’ talk about changing the world and making a difference, he’s throwing away the biggest chance he has to make it a better place.

“I kind of conned you into believing you were falling in love with a healthy person,” he said.

You sure did. You are a bad person.

I shrugged. “I’d have done the same to you.”

So you’re both bad people. Lovely.

Somehow it always seems to come back to this.
Somehow it always seems to come back to this.

But Gus has more genius to impart:

“If you go to the Rijksmuseum, which I really wanted to do—but who are we kidding, neither of us can walk through a museum. But anyway, I looked at the collection online before we left. If you were to go, and hopefully someday you will, you would see a lot of paintings of dead people. You’d see Jesus on the cross, and you’d see a dude getting stabbed in the neck, and you’d see people dying at sea and in battle and a parade of martyrs. But Not. One. Single. Cancer. Kid. Nobody biting it from the plague or smallpox or yellow fever or whatever, because there is no glory in illness. There is no meaning to it. There is no honor in dying of.”

And seriously, am I supposed to believe you looked at all 511,031+ objects on display? I find that a little difficult to believe.

Especially since I searched “plague” in the Rijksmuseum’s search engine and found 215 results. The first of them was called “The Sick Child.”

The-Sick-Child-c.-1660

When I tried to find this picture on Google, there were so many paintings called “The Sick Child” that I couldn’t find it.

"The Sick Child," by Edvard Munch
“The Sick Child,” by Edvard Munch
"The Sick Child," by J. Bond Fransisco
“The Sick Child,” by J. Bond Francisco

At Rijksmuseum, there are 214 results for “ill,” 34 results for “illness,” 463 for “sick,” and even 28 for “infected.”

"The Sick Child," by Carl Wilhelmson
“The Sick Child,” by Carl Wilhelmson

You are a liar, Augustus Waters. And you are lazy, John Green.

"The Sick Child," by Henri Alphonse Laurent-Desrousseaux
“The Sick Child,” by Henri Alphonse Laurent-Desrousseaux

Abraham Maslow, I present to you Augustus Waters, whose existential curiosity dwarfed that of his well-fed, well-loved, healthy brethren.

Every single one of them. Eat it, Neil deGrasse Tyson!

"The Sick Child." Site doesn't name author.
“The Sick Child.” Site doesn’t name author.

Also, he is well-fed. And well-loved. And compared to the millions of people dying of malaria each year, relatively healthy. Cancer sucks; I’d never say it doesn’t. But I’m pretty sure Maslow’s pointing more towards people who are vomiting and coughing their lungs out and constantly feel like they’re dying. Not applicable to this just yet.

"Sick Child," by Richard Canals
“Sick Child,” by Richard Canals

While the mass of men went on leading thoroughly unexamined lives of monstrous consumption, Augustus Waters examined the collection of the Rijksmuseum from afar.

As do hundreds of other people each day. That’s why it’s online, you dumbass.

"The Sick Child," by Eugène Carrière
“The Sick Child,” by Eugène Carrière

Stop trying to beat it into our heads that he’s better than everyone else when it obviously isn’t true.

"The Sick Child," by Ferdinand Marolin
“The Sick Child,” by Ferdinand Marolin

I think I’ve made my point.

“I don’t think you’re dying,” I said. “I think you’ve just got a touch of cancer.”

He smiled. Gallows humor.

GEE, I NEVER WOULD’VE GUESSED. THANKS FOR SPELLING THAT OUT FOR US.

Whatever. This chapter is dumb, this rant is too long, apparently I don’t need to worry about having enough material. Goodnight, folks!

Okay, one more.
Okay, one more.
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6 thoughts on “Cover to Cover: The Fault in Our Stars, Ch 13

  1. Been reading all of your comments on this book, but I decided to comment today. As someone who took a couple of semesters of Psychology in college, I find Green’s explanation of Maslow both juvenile and insulting. I’m hating the two main characters as much as you are. One thing that still irks me is how people in the medical profession are viewed as incompetent. I love science and reading about new discoveries being made in the field of medicine. I did a paper in my senior year of high school on stem cells and the research I read was fascinating and exciting. I just want to punch these two awful people in the face. I know I was an asshole at times during my teenage years, but I never would have kissed someone at a place of reverence and respect or say nasty things about people who were trying to help me. I salute you, brave soldier, for getting through this dreck.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much! I’m glad you’re enjoying them, and I appreciate that someone else was irritated at the Maslow section. I’ve only taken a semester of Intro Psych, so I genuinely don’t know how well-respected Maslow is in the field anymore, but that was the most reductive interpretation of his work and just a cheap way for Green to a) name-drop things he knows and b) over-explain them to prove how much better than everyone else these kids are.

      The hating on doctors is absolutely BAFFLING. I understand not believing they’ll be able to save you (I doubt I’d be super hopeful if I was terminally ill), but acting like they’re awful for trying?! No teenager is as terrible as these kids are—not even CLOSE.

      Thanks again for the comment; it made my day! 🙂

      Like

      • You are most welcome! I have another bone to pick with this chapter. If I were in the Netherlands, I would jump at the chance to go to the art museum and I would never make a snotty remark about how it isn’t worth visiting because there might not be a painting that reflects exactly what I’m going through in my life. I love Dutch art, how the artists played with the light they had to make their paintings look more like photographs. It’s beautiful work and I could just spend all day walking through the museum and getting lost in a world of color and beauty.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Agreed! And there must be ways to get around if you can’t walk. Most big tourist traps have wheelchairs and accessible ramps and stuff. But they’re too good for everything so, it’s okay.

          Like

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