Okay. Well...I really, really, REALLY wish I could just shock the hell out of everyone and say that I love this book. You have no idea how badly I've been TRYING TO LIKE THIS BOOK.
I hate this book...
However. Instead of jumping head first into everything I disagree with and shake my head about, I'm going to begin with a few of the positives...because I will say I do have SOME positive things to say so far.
For those of you who told me that Hazel's thoughts and narration remind you of me...you are right. I was actually shocked by certain passages because I thought it sounded so much like me or like something I would say. Although Hazel is a lot more polite to her doctors and staff, and does not swear at them or try to make the med students cry.
She has this dark, kind of twisted sense of looking at people's treatment of her which totally rang true for me. She acknowledges how sorry people feel for her, but she also comes right out and talks about how illness repulses people, which in turn, makes her feel repulsive.
It's something icky that no one addresses. Illness is gross, and seeing it plays psychologically on people's fears about themselves And not just in the whole constipated, throwing-up, there's-a-bag-of-my-piss way. The body is sick. There's shit wreaking havoc--tumors, bacteria, infection, unclean blood...it's disgusting. (Plus, you never know which patients have refused to brush their teeth for the past few weeks...Tons of gross, zero cavities, thank you very much :D
I remember laying in bed at the hospital when anyone other than my family came to visit, half of me pretending I liked the person, the other half wondering what they were actually thinking. Quite likely, they wanted to be anywhere but standing next to my bed surrounded by other sick people.
Illness repulses. It's true. Even if they say it's not... people STILL act like it might be "catchy". I was glad that statement was made for some reason. Maybe because sometimes I feel gross myself (even though I DO brush my teeth regularly now YAY GOOD JOB JESSE!!!!!).
"...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" (Green 100) <--------LOOK AT THAT CITATION! THANKS SCHOOL!!!!
I decided to include this quote because next to it, I have written"YES! YES! FINALLY, YES"
Apparently I was quite taken with this paragraph. And as I recall, this is the section of the book where Hazel Facebook stalks the dead girlfriend of Augustus Gloop--a character who has had the dreadful misfortune of losing a limb to Osteosarcoma and dating not one but TWO cancer chicks! Good for you, Augustus. If only you didn't talk like fucking Socrates.
Err. Sorry. We were talking about a POSITIVE thing. Okay. I liked this section of the book because sometimes it really does feel like the only impressive thing I've done in my life is beat cancer. And I know this is kind of different because she's talking about what people will say after she's passed, but I think it's a pretty relevant topic to anyone who's had cancer as a young adult. You haven't done shit with your life yet, but you didn't die so that's good. Bravo.
And not for nothing, if I were to die tomorrow, I know for a fact that it's the biggest thing I'd be remembered for.
Hazel and Augustus' relationship...is cute actually. I like it, although I hate their dialogue (more on that later). I'm not totally sold on the whole "going to Amsterdam to ask questions about a book" thing. It seems a little silly to me...but hey, what the hell. I like the characters together, and in some ways, they remind me of my ex and I when I was sick. It's an honest depiction of two kids in love dealing with something that's totally beyond anything they can handle or comprehend---which means, of course, it can't end well.
And last on my list of positive things...
I really liked Hazel's little breakdown when she started screaming that she was a grenade. I, too, have felt like a grenade. Not a Jersey Shore grenade, though OBV. A grenade in the sense that my impending death could at any time wreak havoc on the people around me. Well, the people who really care--not just the people who pretend to--(THAT'S RIGHT SENIORS '09! I KNOW YOU ONLY CLAPPED FOR ME AT GRADUATION BECAUSE I WAS THE SICK KID!!!!!)
Hazel's whole meltdown in general was totally on point. Every single fucking cancer patient over the age of 12 has had the epic meltdown. It's completely true. Whether its brought on by the thought of ruining everyone's life, or the fact that you're still on chemo after X amount of months, or your mom gave you Pediasure to make you fat and told you it was a protein shake and you gained 10 pounds (MOM)...the epic meltdown is a token of cancer-dom, and John Green constructed it perfectly in this book. It resonated.
I had a little loveeeee now I'm back for moreeeee.
I'm listening to Spice Girls.
Okay. My first problem with this book so far:
Where the fuck did Hazel find this perfect support group?
I just find it hard to believe that there just happened to be this perfect support group for cancer kids from age 12-18 that meets EVERY WEEK right where she lives. It's too convenient. It's also pretty convenient that THIS MANY people attend...because, well, they're teenagers. I know my parents wouldn't have made me go, and I certainly wouldn't go willingly because I wasn't mentally healthy enough to take on the troubles of all of these other cancer kids plus my own, plus the other kids on my ward.
And really? They list the dead at the end of every meeting? That's pretty bleak...
I also had a huge problem with the following passage from Chapter 1:
Once we got around the circle, Patrick always asked if anyone wanted to share. And then began the circle jerk of support: everyone talking about fighting and battling and winning and shrinking and scanning. To be fair to Patrick, he let us talk about dying, too. But most of them weren't dying. Most would live into adulthood as Patrick had.
(Which meant there was quite a lot of competitiveness about it, with everybody wanting to beat not only cancer itself, but also the other people in the room. Like, I realize that this is irrational, but when they tell you that you have, say, a 20 percent chance of living five years, the math kicks in and you figure that's one in five...so you look around and think, as any healthy person would: I gotta outlast four of these bastards.)
Underneath this passage, I have written Never, never, never. Not cool.
This passage made me tear up over my queso (I was reading at Moe's). It also, being on page 5, made me nearly give up on the book before it had even really begun.
This is just so, so wrong, and I don't say this to sound like Mother Theresa because we all know from this blog that when it comes to cancer, I'm like the spawn of Satan. When I looked around that cancer ward from day to day...I never once...NEVER ONCE had any INKLING of competition. There was only sadness for EVERYONE there.
And when my friend Heather died...
Whoa, Nelly, let me tell you I wished it was me. And that goes for everyone who followed: Robin, Amber, Trystan, Caitlin, Ashley...I'm actually getting emotional as I type this. Because I still wish we all could have made it. It's not fair. It makes me sad that anyone, any person, any author would think that cancer patients feel like they're competing against each other...because we were a team. Everyone was on the same team. And as soon as we lost one, the survivor's guilt greeted us like a freaking bat outta hell. There was never a thought such as "I gotta outlast four of these bastards."
Even as a joke, it's not funny. This actually offended me. And while I knew this book was going to be difficult for me, I didn't think there would be aspects that ACTUALLY made me--no pun intended--sick.
Augustus is a little ridiculous for me. He is the stereotypical wise-after-cancer paragon of wisdom, even though he's really just a horny sixteen year-old. He speaks like he's 40 years old, and his interaction with Hazel feels like Gandhi and the Dalai Lama out for coffee. They just sound like they're way too old, which could be one of two things: 1) the author just makes these characters sound too mature because he's not sure how teenagers talk or 2) his characters are "worldly-wise" fountains of knowledge because they've had cancer.
I tend to think it's the second option because I know John Green writes essentially for teens. And if it is the second option...just, no.
I'm gonna wrap this up because frankly, I need a little break from this lit.
John Green's dialogue between characters at this perfect little teen cancer support group sounds like someone said, "Hmmm...what do I think two kids with cancer would talk about? They probably talk about this...." To me, it feels awkward.
On a personal note, I have been struggling a little bit with the book. To his credit, Green writes Hazel's parents very well. They remind me of my parents, and so reading about their suffering is very difficult. As I mentioned, the part about everyone competing with each other made me emotional because I was so strongly in disagreement...and I'd be lying if reading about people's odds in this book didn't make me start googling shit about my own cancer--something that's never good for anyone. Google is not a cancer patient's ally.
But for the most part, I'm enjoying the whole "experiment" of it. I don't like the book so far, and let's be honest: we all know I'm totally biased. But hey. I still haven't given up hope that in the end, I'll be glad I read it.
PS. If I read "That's the thing about pain...it demands to be felt" one more time, I may just have to close the book.