I know, I’m late. Mea culpa, my babies.
In my defense, I was a little busy graduating.
And then there was moving back home and enjoying my entire week of summer vacation, most of which was spent unpacking and preparing for grad school. Which starts tomorrow.
In the midst of all of that, do you guys really think I wanted to spend my tiny sliver of freedom hanging out with John Green? I finally had time to read for pleasure, and you better believe I’ve been absorbing Terry Pratchett (drive-by review: good, but I’m used to better from him) and David Wong (drive-by: so intelligent and so, so funny) and C.S. Lewis (I’ll never agree with him on everything, but it’s a fascinating concept well-executed) until my eyes won’t recognize words anymore.
When I wasn’t playing video games, of course; I’m really enjoying Minecraft as usual, but Portal‘s a whole lot of fun and I wish I’d bought it sooner. I’m eyeing Outlast, too, but I think my lack of hand-eye coordination would be a serious detriment. Besides, owning a Mac means there are a lot fewer games available, which sucks because Grand Theft Auto V looks really —
Okay, fine. I’ll talk about The Fault in Our Stars.
Last . . . a couple weeks ago, our heroes threw eggs at an undeserving young woman’s car, and this chapter starts by immediately addressing the consequences of such criminal behavior:
A few days later, at Gus’s house
I’ll just assume Green cut the “parents having to pay fines for their children’s vandalism and being furious that they left without a note” scenes for brevity’s sake. After all, we wouldn’t want this book to be bloated or self-indulgent, would we?
Anyway, their families sit down to dinner, presumably in order to get to know one another.
Hmmm, that sentence seems a little . . . concise and not agonizing to read? Let’s see if we can fix that with unnecessary “cuteisms” and information that has no relevance to anything:
his parents and my parents and Gus and me all squeezed around the dining room table, eating stuffed peppers on a tablecloth that had, according to Gus’s dad, last seen use in the previous century.
There we go. I knew I could count on you, Johnny.
It inexplicably enters script form, I’m going to guess because the editor told him to stop using the word “said” twenty times a scene and he misunderstood the assignment, and it’s just as smooth and natural as you’d expect:
My dad: “Emily, this risotto . . .”
My mom: “It’s just delicious.”
Gus’s mom: “Oh, thanks. I’d be happy to give you the recipe.”
Gus, swallowing a bite: “You know, the primary taste I’m getting is not-Oranjee.”
Me: “Good observation, Gus. This food, while delicious, does not taste like Oranjee.”
Like soft butter, isn’t it?
But Gus and Sunshine take this moment to be terrible, because who doesn’t insult their parents’ (or their boyfriend’s parents’) cooking to their faces?
Luckily, I’m not the only one to think this is annoying:
My mom: “Hazel.”
And Mom is immediately steamrollered over by the Unstoppable Quirk Machine that is our breeding pair, and after this one word of warning does not try to stop, berate, or apologize for her daughter insulting their host’s cooking.
Gus: “It tastes like . . .”
Gus: “Yes, precisely. It tastes like food, excellently prepared. But it does not taste, how do I put this delicately . . . ?”
You don’t. Please stop talking.
Me: “It does not taste like God Himself cooked heaven into a series of five dishes which were then served to you accompanied by several luminous balls of fermented, bubbly plasma while actual and literal flower petals floated down all around your canal-side dinner table.”
Gus: “Nicely phrased.”
No one comes up with this on the fly, I’d like to point out. “Luminous balls of fermented, bubbly plasma”?
Not only does not one speak like this, but I wouldn’t want to live in a world where this kind of flowery, overwrought wording was commonplace. Could you imagine how much longer everything would take if we had to wait for spunky teenagers to wax poetic about literally everything? Nothing would get done.
Gus’s father: “Our children are weird.”
My dad: “Nicely phrased.”
I have a nicer phrase, but it’s not exactly appropriate for the dinner table.
And once again we see how much better this book would’ve been if it had starred the parents, who are actually somewhat sympathetic and entertaining.
But seriously, imagine it, and keep Sunshine and Mr. Psycho’s stupid, whirlwind romance in; how fascinating would it be to read about two sets of parents who know more about life and love than these kids will ever learn, watching them promise forever and not knowing whether to foster or discourage a relationship that can only end in tragedy? The small talk between these pairs that hides what they’re thinking at all times: at some point, this will all come crashing down on them, and they can do nothing but wait and be there for whichever lucky child survives longest. Maybe they feel resentment at the significant other for taking away some of this precious time they could be spending with their child, but that emotion wars with the fact that they know this is the closest thing these kids will ever get to true love, no matter how shallow and silly it seems from the outside.
But . . . what do we get instead?
It seemed like forever ago, like we’d had this brief but still infinite forever. Some infinities are bigger than other infinities.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. A week passes and apparently nothing interesting happens — what, no description of Support Group? No crimes to commit? No thrilling video games to play? — and Gus goes to the ER for heart . . . something. We don’t really get to hear what happened, but we do get a dramatic monologue from Sunshine about how terrible hospitals are (again)!
I drove over to Memorial the next morning and visited him on the fourth floor. I hadn’t been to Memorial since visiting Isaac. It didn’t have any of the cloyingly bright primary color–painted walls or the framed paintings of dogs driving cars that one found at Children’s, but the absolute sterility of the place made me nostalgic for the happy-kid bullshit at Children’s. Memorial was so functional. It was a storage facility. A prematorium.
Ugh, I hate when hospitals are functional. Why can’t they be made of cotton candy held together by rusty nails and Hot Topic t-shirts? That’d add so much personality!
I seriously don’t understand Green’s weird hatred of Western medicine. It’s not really anti-intellectualism, because Lord knows these kids are snobs, but do sick people really feel this way about the hospital? Every time I’ve had to go, I haven’t really cared what it looked like so long as the doctors are competent and not pure evil. (Also, “prematorium” is not a cute invention. Stop making up words.)
Things go from bad to worse for our poor heroine, however, because she’s not allowed in to see her true love.
“Can I see him?”
She put her arm around me and squeezed my shoulder. It felt weird. “You know we love you, Hazel, but right now we just need to be a family. Gus agrees with that. Okay?”
“Okay,” I said.
“I’ll tell him you visited.”
“Okay,” I said. “I’m just gonna read here for a while, I think.”
For the record, this is the only reasonable decision a mother has made this entire novel, but of course Sunshine needs to sit in the waiting room and mope until Gus’ parents feel guilty enough to let her in, because she is a bad person.
I understood, but I still missed him, still thought maybe I was missing my last chance to see him, to say good-bye or whatever. The waiting room was all brown carpet and brown overstuffed cloth chairs. I sat in a love seat for a while, my oxygen cart tucked by my feet. I’d worn my Chuck Taylors and my Ceci n’est pas une pipe shirt, the exact outfit I’d been wearing two weeks before on the Late Afternoon of the Venn Diagram, and he wouldn’t see it. I started scrolling through the pictures on my phone, a backward flip-book of the last few months, beginning with him and Isaac outside of Monica’s house and ending with the first picture I’d taken of him, on the drive to Funky Bones. It seemed like forever ago, like we’d had this brief but still infinite forever. Some infinities are bigger than other infinities.
I feel like I should have something more intelligent to say, about how this is all so agonizingly melodramatic and it’s kinda creepy that she wore her sex outfit to the hospital (where he’s visiting with his family), but . . . who cares? You know it’s stupid, I know it’s stupid, and there are not enough drag queen gifs to properly express my frustration.
Well, I’m sure eventually she’ll guilt/annoy/creep out the Waters family enough that they’ll let her into his hospital room, where she can sit awkwardly next to him and they can exchange witticisms about the world and how much it sucks compared to them.
At the very least she can see him at his weakest, which might shatter her image of him as impossibly perfect in every way and force her to face the reality that he will die, and soon. She’ll have to —
Two weeks later, I wheeled Gus across the art park toward Funky Bones with one entire bottle of very expensive champagne and my oxygen tank in his lap.
They have a picnic. It’s deep. Whatever.
The champagne had been donated by one of Gus’s doctors—Gus being the kind of person who inspires doctors to give their best bottles of champagne to children.
Add one to the list of people they have convinced into jeopardizing their jobs, because they’re just so perfect!
I’d love to have overheard the conversation between that doctor and his significant other: “What do you mean you gave it away to one of your patients? I bought that for our anniversary! What kind of hussy was — did you say a teenage boy?” A phone call to Chris Hansen later, and we’d have another casualty in the wake of the Mr. Psycho and Sunshine train(wreck).
I pointed at the little kids goading each other to jump from rib cage to shoulder and Gus answered just loud enough for me to hear over the din, “Last time, I imagined myself as the kid. This time, the skeleton.”
We drank from paper Winnie-the-Pooh cups.
I have no idea why this is important enough to warrant its own paragraph, but I’m sure it’s deep and symbolic or something like that. The chapter ends.
Phew, that was an ordeal. It was literally only a page long, but we all know that Green can shove a lot of mediocrity into a tiny space, and I’m worn out. If I fall asleep during my first day of (3.5-hour-long! 😦 ) classes tomorrow, I blame this stupid chapter.
Wish me luck, and I’ll see you next week!