Cover to Cover: The Fault in Our Stars, Ch. 21

It’s time, kids. Put on your Sunday best and grab yourself some professional mourners, because our dear Augustus Waters is dead.

No, really.

Also, there really are such things as professional mourners. Today. What the hell, UK?

Augustus Waters died eight days after his prefuneral, at Memorial, in the ICU, when the cancer, which was made of him, finally stopped his heart, which was also made of him.

That reads like it was put together by someone who only has a vague idea of how words work. But we’ll let that go, because the important part is that our hero is officially worm food. Literally a page after we had that fake funeral.

It’s a little abrupt. I mean, I’m all for it, considering it spares us 8 days of listening to “Augustus was so perfect and wonderful, except he wasn’t because cancer patients aren’t perfect and wonderful which is why you should think this is the deepest book ever, except he is because I need you to fall in love with him so you cry when he dies . . .” So, thank God for small favors.

But still, is this it? I mean, we have about 3,000 pages of “romance,” a couple chapters of cancer, and then thud. I’d say Green was being deliberately cold — you know, this isn’t like those sappy “cancer books” — if I didn’t think this was supposed to be the point where I start crying.

But whatever. We’re only at the first sentence.

We're only at the first sentence.
Sweet Moses, we’re only at the first sentence!

He was with his mom and dad and sisters.

But not you, despite you apparently being the most important person in the entire universe.

I’d known, of course, that he was going. I’d talked to his dad before going to bed, and he told me, “It could be tonight,”

So now I can’t figure out if Mr. Psycho didn’t want her there, the family didn’t want her there, her parents didn’t want her there, or if she didn’t want to be by the side of her supposed true love as he shuffles off this mortal coil. None of those seem particularly realistic, considering how everyone’s treated her like she’s the most specialest snowflake that ever did grace Gus’ life.

But maybe it’s more dramatic for her to hear it over the phone, or something.

when I grabbed the phone from the bedside table and saw Gus’s Mom on the caller ID, everything inside of me collapsed.

Like your lungs?

This book has turned me into a monster.
This book has turned me into a monster.

But hopefully this will allow her to reflect on the time she spent with her boyfriend (it was a whole . . . uh . . . it was at least 12 days!) remember him as he would like to be remembered, and just spend some time fully immersed in thoughts of another.

My parents came in then, looking expectant, and I just nodded and they fell into each other, feeling, I’m sure, the harmonic terror that would in time come for them directly.

Or you could immediately turn this into a rant about how a) you still have cancer and are going to die, so we now need to turn 100% of our pity onto you, and b) no one cares about Gus except you, and your parents are just selfishly thinking about themselves, rather than actually having grown to like a kid you’ve been attached to for the last . . . period of time. That works, too.

But I forgot that Sunshine has exactly enough empathy for 1 person at a time — not counting herself, of course.

There's always room for this.
There’s always room for this.

So when you can only think about yourself, it makes sense to assume that everyone else is as narcissistic and selfish as you are.

Since somehow Sunshine became the official town crier for Gus’ death, she calls Isaac to share the news . . . because apparently his mom decided that Hazel was the only one who deserved to hear firsthand, despite Isaac having known Gus (and his family) for at least a year longer and would be the obvious first choice:

I called Isaac, who cursed life and the universe and God Himself and who said where are the goddamned trophies to break when you need them, and then I realized there was no one else to call, which was the saddest thing.

Yeah, sucks that your boyfriend doesn’t have any other friends. No, wait, you meant it sucks that you don’t have any other friends.

The only person I really wanted to talk to about Augustus Waters’s death was Augustus Waters.

What happened to Kaitlyn? I mean, I know she likes shoes so she’s basically too dumb to function and incapable of compassion —

fuck you

— but you still seem to consider her sort-of a friend . . . or you did, way back in Chapter 6.

What happened to her? Did she die, too?

My parents stayed in my room forever until it was morning and finally Dad said, “Do you want to be alone?” and I nodded and Mom said, “We’ll be right outside the door,” me thinking, I don’t doubt it.


So they sat in your room “forever” . . . except they didn’t, because they left at (I’m assuming) daybreak, which is around 6 a.m., which is not actually forever. That being said, they sat in silence from 3:30 in the morning — when she got the news — and it took 2 1/2 hours for them to ask whether she actually wanted them there? Do you think they had the lights on, or were they sitting in silence and the dark? Didn’t they get kinda bored after the first 20 minutes or so? Did they sit down, or were they standing in the doorway? Weren’t they sleepy? Didn’t any of them have to pee?

And then, since she so obviously feels stifled by them, why didn’t she say anything? Apparently we’re supposed to assume she’s too grief-stricken to speak, but she’s still perfectly capable of running her snide inner monologue about their overprotectiveness, so I’m not buying that one. (All this of course ignores that, as I’ve mentioned before, one might think she’d cut them some slack, having experienced firsthand the pain of losing someone she loves and not being able to spend every second around them, but that got kind of overshadowed by all the wut.)

Who cares? We need to pick up the pace if I wanna finish this thing before midnight. After all, as a wise woman once said:

It was unbearable. The whole thing. Every second worse than the last.

Funny, that’s what I keep saying about this book.

I'm not lying.
I’m not lying.

I just kept thinking about calling him, wondering what would happen, if anyone would answer.

I mean . . . no? Unless you’re talking about calling his home phone, which his family might pick up, but you hate his family for being bankers or whatever, so why would you —

Wait, I’m not being fair. This is grief, it doesn’t have to be rational. I’m not being sympathetic enough. I apologize, Sunshine, and I’ll try to be more understanding.

In the last weeks, we’d been reduced to spending our time together in recollection, but that was not nothing: The pleasure of remembering had been taken from me, because there was no longer anyone to remember with. It felt like losing your corememberer meant losing the memory itself, as if the things we’d done were less real and important than they had been hours before.

No, sorry, I have to say it:


Maybe this book has completely destroyed my ability to have compassion for others, but I don’t care that Sunshine is sad, and overcome with how hard this is (for her, with no thought to anyone else who might be suffering). I don’t care that Mr. Psycho is dead, even though at the very end he was the closest thing we had to a tolerable character. I don’t care that they spent their last days doing nothing but reminiscing, though I’m relieved we were spared it: “Do you remember watching 300? Do you remember how I pressured you to love me despite you explicitly telling me not to? Remember metaphorically teabagging Anne Frank and her family while insisting that her ghost is thrilled about it? Man, good times. Insert pithy remark about fate and oblivion here.”

Anyway, Sunshine is in pain and it’s the worst pain anyone has ever felt — and seriously, tell me if this doesn’t remind you a little bit of Twilight:

When you go into the ER, one of the first things they ask you to do is to rate your pain on a scale of one to ten, and from there they decide which drugs to use and how quickly to use them. I’d been asked this question hundreds of times over the years, and I remember once early on when I couldn’t get my breath and it felt like my chest was on fire, flames licking the inside of my ribs fighting for a way to burn out of my body, my parents took me to the ER. A nurse asked me about the pain, and I couldn’t even speak, so I held up nine fingers.

Later, after they’d given me something, the nurse came in and she was kind of stroking my hand while she took my blood pressure and she said, “You know how I know you’re a fighter? You called a ten a nine.”

But that wasn’t quite right. I called it a nine because I was saving my ten. And here it was, the great and terrible ten, slamming me again and again as I lay still and alone in my bed staring at the ceiling, the waves tossing me against the rocks then pulling me back out to sea so they could launch me again into the jagged face of the cliff, leaving me floating faceup on the water, undrowned.

In Sunshine’s defense, months don’t pass. At least, I don’t think they do; I have no idea how time works in this novel.

She calls him and angsts over his voicemail, and then checks his Facebook:

The most recent one said:

I love you, bro. See you on the other side. . . .

Written by someone I’d never heard of. In fact, almost all the wall posts, which arrived nearly as fast as I could read them, were written by people I’d never met and whom he’d never spoken about, people who were extolling his various virtues now that he was dead, even though I knew for a fact they hadn’t seen him in months and had made no effort to visit him.



I kept reading.

I miss you already, bro.

I love you, Augustus. God bless and keep you.

You’ll live forever in our hearts, big man. (That particularly galled me, because it implied the immortality of those left behind: You will live forever in my memory, because I will live forever! I AM YOUR GOD NOW, DEAD BOY! I OWN YOU! Thinking you won’t die is yet another side effect of dying.)

Calm down, crazy lady.
Calm down, crazy lady. What is that even supposed to mean?

You were always such a great friend I’m sorry I didn’t see more of you after you left school, bro. I bet you’re already playing ball in heaven.

I imagined the Augustus Waters analysis of that comment: If I am playing basketball in heaven, does that imply a physical location of a heaven containing physical basketballs? Who makes the basketballs in question? Are there less fortunate souls in heaven who work in a celestial basketball factory so that I can play? Or did an omnipotent God create the basketballs out of the vacuum of space? Is this heaven in some kind of unobservable universe where the laws of physics don’t apply, and if so, why in the hell would I be playing basketball when I could be flying or reading or looking at beautiful people or something else I actually enjoy? It’s almost as if the way you imagine my dead self says more about you than it says about either the person I was or the whatever I am now.


Gee, what a swell guy. I wonder why he didn’t have more close friends.

Okay, come on, we’re almost done.

His parents called around noon to say the funeral would be in five days, on Saturday. I pictured a church packed with people who thought he liked basketball, and I wanted to puke, but I knew I had to go, since I was speaking and everything. When I hung up, I went back to reading his wall:

Just heard that Gus Waters died after a lengthy battle with cancer. Rest in peace, buddy.

I knew these people were genuinely sad, and that I wasn’t really mad at them. I was mad at the universe. Even so, it infuriated me: You get all these friends just when you don’t need friends anymore.

Sunshine, what if Kaitlyn had died? I mean, I know that’s impossible because the only cause of death in this universe is cancer, but really think about it: what if she’d been hit by a bus?

Either you haven’t been ignoring her for ages, which means you got way too into a boy you barely know, or you’ve been with him forever and have thus been ignoring her forever. Does that mean you don’t get the right to mourn her death, or express your sentiments on her wall?

Oh, who am I kidding? You wouldn’t do that anyway. You’d find a way to make it about yourself, and how lucky she was to at least live without crappy lungs. If you even removed your face from Mr. Psycho’s ass long enough to find out at all, of course.

I wrote a reply to his comment:

We live in a universe devoted to the creation, and eradication, of awareness. Augustus Waters did not die after a lengthy battle with cancer. He died after a lengthy battle with human consciousness, a victim—as you will be—of the universe’s need to make and unmake all that is possible.

are you fucking kidding me?

I’m sorry that your boyfriend died, and that other people care, but not as much as you care. This is all extremely hard on you, which totally gives you the right to shit on other people’s kindness with your wretched brand of nihilism, and to do so in as public a way as possible.

If we’re lucky, maybe she’ll scream at some well-intentioned mourners at the funeral.

I also don’t understand how she doesn’t realize that it’s so easy to lose touch with people! I have to work to keep hanging out with my friends (and they have to, as well; I didn’t see either of our heroes making any effort to try and hold on to their old friendships, instead just expecting people to line up for a chance to experience some of their disdain and crappy metaphors). Things happen, life gets in the way, and it doesn’t mean they don’t care enough.

But we all know that you’re not really outraged on Mr. Psycho’s behalf, but because you know the same thing will happen when you die, so please, get over yourself.

I posted it and waited for someone to reply, refreshing over and over again. Nothing. My comment got lost in the blizzard of new posts.

Anyone thinking for a second that she cares about Gus as more than an extension of her own ego, please read the above-quoted line a few hundred times. This is about her; it has always been about her.

Everyone was going to miss him so much. Everyone was praying for his family.

Yeah, because that’s who these Facebook posts are for. Even people who believe in the afterlife don’t write on the deceased’s wall because they expect that person to be sitting at a heavenly computer desk reading Facebook.

It’s to show the family how loved their son was, and how much he will be missed. It reminds them how lucky they were to have him in their lives and to show support for their bravery — because when a comment talks about how brave Gus was, it’s also about how brave his family was to suffer along with him.

It doesn’t help you mourn? Well, fine. It’s not supposed to. I know you think everything must always be about you, but please try not to be such a hateful twat.

I remembered Van Houten’s letter: Writing does not resurrect. It buries.

You mean, it buried your comment, so that people can’t read it and applaud your brilliance. It’s not burying anything about Mr. Psycho, because it’s actually celebrating him with every new “burying” post.

I almost want you to die in this book so I can write a eulogy, because it was a very healing experience that helped me realize how I feel about Augustus Waters. But then again, I feel like all of my thoughts about you can be summed up in the following gif:

no one cares

See you next time!


7 thoughts on “Cover to Cover: The Fault in Our Stars, Ch. 21

  1. “I posted it and waited for someone to reply, refreshing over and over again. Nothing. My comment got lost in the blizzard of new posts.”

    I Nelson laughed when I first read that. It was refreshing that after a book of adults who don’t dole out consequences or did shit for her that would bring very bad repercussions unto themselves, she finally isn’t rewarded for her shitty behavior. It’s about fucking time.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Wow. She’s a horrible bitch. I don’t feel any pity for her at all. I get it that people grieve and mourn in different ways, but that doesn’t give anyone the right to yell at others who are sharing in that grief.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. See, I have a friend. This friend LOVES John Green. Adores all his books, all his films. And that’s fine because, you know, people are allowed to be wrong in this world.
    But she recently wrote that she can’t stand reading Kurt Vonnegut, because she can feel him being clever at her, AND THIS WAS A LEVEL OF WRONGNESS I COULD NOT TAKE.

    So I just typed back ‘NOW YOU SEE WHY I HATE JOHN GREEN’ and left it at that.

    Liked by 1 person

    • 1) “people are allowed to be wrong in this world” made me literally laugh out loud. 🙂

      2) Who doesn’t like Vonnegut? He’s actually one of the most approachable, user-friendly “literary” authors I can think of! Uses colloquial English, doesn’t deliberately try to be cryptic, tends to have a very charming writing style and narrative voice (most of this is coming from Breakfast of Champions, which I loved) . . . I’m shocked that anyone could find him annoying. Wow.

      3) Did she respond to that?!

      ETA: 4) Thank you for commenting! Can’t believe I forgot to add that part. 😛


      • Alas, no, she did not reply to it, which saddened me deeply. I’m sure it would have been enlightening.

        To be fair, Vonnegut does have times of ‘too damn clever for own good’. In this case I believe she was attempting to read ‘The Cat’s Cradle’ which I know nothing about, but if she’d been giving a similar complaint re: Slaughterhouse V I would have asked a) if she knew what an interesting narratological structure looked like and b) if she possessed a functional heart.

        Liked by 1 person

        • I feel like at the very least, though, you can say Vonnegut’s earned his cleverness. I don’t think people will be studying John Green in literature classes 20-50 years from now. (Please God, I hope not.) But I’m a shameless fangirl, so I might not have the clearest point of view for this one.


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