This is a bad one, guys.
It doesn’t sound bad on paper: Mr. Psycho gets sick, Sunshine goes to help him, he goes to the hospital. Sure, that’s a waste of a chapter in terms of things actually happening, but it should be rather moving and interesting and all sorts of things you’d expect to associate with a book about children with cancer.
But then you add John Green to the mix and it all goes to hell.
Well, I put it off yesterday, but I guess I have to talk about it at some point. Let’s get this over with.
Last week Sunshine was a total cow and they played video games. Or something. I drink myself into a stupor after every single one of these posts in an attempt to forget what I’ve read. (It doesn’t work.)
I woke up to my phone singing a song by The Hectic Glow. Gus’s favorite.
You know what’s annoying? These people are given exactly one interest that defines their existence, and that’s it. I have pseudo-autistic obsessive tendencies, and even I don’t fixate on things to the level these guys do. I have interests . . . even if my gifs lately haven’t shown it.
But think about it: Hazel likes An Imperial Affliction.
Gus likes that weird army book. They play one video game, listen to one band, the nonexistent Hectic Glow that people are actually really into for some reason and it’s kinda weird and creepy. Sunshine only watches one show, America’s Next Top Model — because despite being deeply intellectual, she’s a teenage girl like everyone else, and therefore likes shallow garbage! So up yours, anyone who enjoys TV competition shows. John Green thinks that’s a major character flaw (also that is a fabulously douchey interview, and the section about symbolism is hilarious because he’s explaining the most obvious stuff like it’s soooo mysterious).
Got off-topic there, sorry. Anyway, it’s like Green couldn’t get the rights to (or come up with) more than a single item of each type of media, so the characters are only given one interest per medium. It’s almost like he’s trying to make them as one-dimensional as possible.
That meant he was calling—or someone was calling from his phone. I glanced at the alarm clock: 2:35 A.M. He’s gone, I thought as everything inside of me collapsed into a singularity.
Thank God for that sentence, or this paragraph might’ve almost been emotionally engaging.
“I’m calling nine-one-one,” I said. “No no no no no, they’ll take me to a hospital.”
Yes, that is how 911 works, Mr. Psycho. But why do you hate hospitals so much, Green? Did a hospital run over your mom?
Though I feel I must give him credit, and show off the only good use of bad grammar he’s accomplished:
“Hazel, listen to me. Do not call nine-one-one or my parents I will never forgive you don’t please just come please just come and fix my goddamned G-tube. I’m just, God, this is the stupidest thing. I don’t want my parents to know I’m gone. Please. I have the medicine with me; I just can’t get it in. Please.”
See? That’s powerful.
All right, let’s try to get through this. She decides to go get him, and we’re treated to the kind of essential, gorgeous details Green is famous for:
I took the BiPAP off and connected myself to an oxygen tank, lifted the tank into my cart, and put on sneakers to go with my pink cotton pajama pants and a Butler basketball T-shirt, which had originally been Gus’s. I grabbed the keys from the kitchen drawer where Mom kept them and wrote a note in case they woke up while I was gone.
Wait, when did you get to the “wearing my boyfriend’s old clothes” stage of the relationship? How long has it been since he relapsed? How long have you two been together? When is anything in relation to anything else? You give us a paragraph of what she’s wearing every day, but we have no idea what the time frame of this novel is. Have they been dating years? Weeks? Days, even?
Maybe he’d been hallucinating, or his martyrdom fantasies had gotten the better of him.
What does that mean? That he martyred himself? Did he go anger a militant (anti)religious group? Did he fail at a political coup? It’s not very generous of you to hear that he’s horribly ill at a gas station and assume it’s his fault for being egotistical and/or stupid.
Listen, I know that Green thinks Gus’ obsessing over making something of himself is dumb (see the aforementioned interview). I do too, to an extent. But it’s something everyone is familiar with, and has a certain level of relatability, so having Sunshine be her typical . . . well, ray of sunshine about it just makes me like her less.
Also, I’ve noticed Sunshine echoes all of Green’s personal ideas and beliefs (except for enjoying the profoundly girly America’s Next Top Model, because girly shows suck). I’m just saying.
going too fast partly to reach him and partly in the hopes a cop would pull me over and give me an excuse to tell someone that my dying boyfriend was stuck outside of a gas station with a malfunctioning G-tube. But no cop showed up to make my decision for me.
Make what decision? Whether to call the hospital or not? I think the answer will be evident once you see him, and if you’re gonna take his tantrum seriously enough to not call him an ambulance if he’s on death’s doorstep, that’d be even stupider than I’m willing to believe you’re capable of.
Let’s be honest, she just wants to tell someone about how terribly hard her life is, even and especially at the expense of her boyfriend.
Also, have you noticed that her cancer completely stopped bothering her, now that we’re supposed to feel bad for her being the healthy girlfriend of a dying guy? It’s like Green totally forgot she’s sick, too, and shouldn’t be as symptom-free as she is.
Hey, who needs consistency when you have an army of “nerdfighters” at your beck and call?
Well, she finally gets there, thanks to the power of jumpcuts (or whatever their literary equivalent is):
There were only two cars in the lot. I pulled up next to his. I opened the door. The interior lights came on.
THESE ARE UNNECESSARY DETAILS.
Augustus sat in the driver’s seat, covered in his own vomit, his hands pressed to his belly where the G-tube went in. “Hi,” he mumbled.
“Oh, God, Augustus, we have to get you to a hospital.”
“Please just look at it.”
I gagged from the smell but bent forward to inspect the place above his belly button where they’d surgically installed the tube. The skin of his abdomen was warm and bright red.
Now, a necessary detail would be explaining how his magic tube isn’t covered in puke, because I just can’t picture it. I mean, maybe the shirt protected it, but . . . I dunno, if you’re going to tell us that a car’s light turns on when you opened the door, you could spend a sentence explaining that. Is his shirt scotchgard-ed or something? To be fair, we should probably feel pretty bad for him. He’s covered in vomit, after all. I don’t know if you’ve ever been covered in vomit —
— but it’s not a very good time. Poor kid.
“Gus, I think something’s infected. I can’t fix this. Why are you here? Why aren’t you at home?” He puked, without even the energy to turn his mouth away from his lap.
So now that tube’s got vomit on it, right? Is vomit what infected it in the first place? There are so many questions and no answers, but credit where it’s due, this is a good scene so far.
“I’m sorry,” I told him. Nine-one-one, what is your emergency? “Hi, I’m at the Speedway at Eighty-sixth and Ditch, and I need an ambulance. The great love of my life has a malfunctioning G-tube.”
It was horrible. I could hardly look at him. The Augustus Waters of the crooked smiles and unsmoked cigarettes was gone, replaced by this desperate humiliated creature sitting there beneath me.
Ew. You know, Green tries so hard not to romanticize Gus that he kinda goes too far in the other direction, to the point where it seems Hazel doesn’t even see him as human. I mean, what the hell? He threw up; he didn’t turn into a mosquito or something. I think she owes Monica an apology for a lot more than just egging her car; she was Girlfriend of the Year in comparison.
Mr. Psycho has his daily freakout about how he’s not special and whatnot, but there’s something kinda . . . off about it:
“Where is my chance to be somebody’s Peter Van Houten?” He hit the steering wheel weakly, the car honking as he cried. He leaned his head back, looking up. “I hate myself I hate myself I hate this I hate this I disgust myself I hate it I hate it I hate it just let me fucking die.”
According to the conventions of the genre, Augustus Waters kept his sense of humor till the end, did not for a moment waiver in his courage, and his spirit soared like an indomitable eagle until the world itself could not contain his joyous soul. But this was the truth, a pitiful boy who desperately wanted not to be pitiful, screaming and crying, poisoned by an infected G-tube that kept him alive, but not alive enough.
Two, it’s odd that he can manage such a long string of words, plus hitting the steering wheel hard enough to make it honk and apparently screaming. Ten seconds ago he couldn’t turn his head six inches to the left to keep from painting himself in 50 shades of vomit . . .
Three, it’s a little rich that you’re pretending Mr. Psycho isn’t a saint, considering he was basically one miracle away from being Jesus last chapter. I’d kill for something to be consistent in this book.
Oh, wait. Something is consistent: the fact that John Green is a terrible person and a worse writer.
Instead of having a real, moving moment between an incredibly vulnerable boy and his girlfriend, he just had to derail the scene to talk about how this totally isn’t like those other books about cancer out there, because they’re so unrealistic and this one is far superior, and we should all just take a moment to enjoy the amazingness that is John Green’s Glorious Writing Ability.
People might think I’m being too harsh on the guy. I mean, he’s just a man trying to make a living and write a moving story, right? He just wants to create characters we fall in love with, and have experiences that we relate to. Even if he sucks at it, that’s a noble cause, right?
Well . . . except for the fact that I don’t think he’s trying to do that at all. This was the moment I realized that the point of this book isn’t to tell a good story, but to stroke Green’s ego. Every time there’s a powerful moment — or a moment trying to be powerful — it’s shortly followed by Sunshine reminding the readers that she, or Mr. Psycho, or Isaac, or An Imperial Affliction, or the plot in general aren’t like everyone/thing else, but are better in some way. Every. Damn. Time.
Nothing in this book is genuine. Everything that seems to be is just an opportunity for him to boast about how talented he is. And I think that gives me a right to call him a massive douchenozzle with an ego the size of Mount Roosevelt. Ugh, we’re over the word count, but there’s a little bit of this chapter left to go.
“Gus,” I said. “Stay with me.”
“Read me something,” he said as the goddamned ambulance roared right past us.
So while I waited for them to turn around and find us, I recited the only poem I could bring to mind, “The Red Wheelbarrow” by William Carlos Williams.
so much depends
upon a red wheel barrow
glazed with rain water
beside the white
How many poems has this bitch memorized? Am I the only one who doesn’t spend my spare time committing random classic poetry to memory? I mean, this isn’t exactly a difficult one to remember, but it’s like the third one she’s been able to recite off the top of her head.
This is what happens when your only hobbies are one book, one TV show, and hating everyone who isn’t you.
Williams was a doctor. It seemed to me like a doctor’s poem.
The poem was over, but the ambulance was still driving away from us, so I kept writing it.
* * *
No. Don’t do it. Please don’t add a verse to a renowned poem for the sake of making yourself look awesome.
Please don’t do this to me, Green. I’ll even forgive the nonsensical scene break if you just don’t “improve” this poem.
And so much depends, I told Augustus, upon a blue sky cut open by the branches of the trees above. So much depends upon the transparent G-tube erupting from the gut of the blue-lipped boy. So much depends upon this observer of the universe.
You did it. You ruined a beautiful poem for no reason except because you can. And we’re supposed to cry and applaud and tell you how amazing you are, Sunshine — no, let’s be honest here: how amazing you are, John Green — for coming up with that
mediocre gorgeous prose all by yourself, spur of the moment, and had it totally relate to the situation and to past situations (did you notice it references Amsterdam? Isn’t that genius?), in order to make a grand statement about the universe.
Because you’re just so awesome, John Green.
Half conscious, he glanced over at me and mumbled, “And you say you don’t write poetry.”
So he’s barely conscious, apparently barely human, but still capable of witty one-liners?
If you can squeeze past Green’s enormous ego to reach the front door, I invite you to take your leave, hug someone close to you, drink your body weight in hard liquor,* and come back next week for another exciting installment in my personal nightmare. Love you guys. Bye!
*Please don’t do this. It’s bad for you.