Posts Tagged ‘Readalong’

The day of the flight to Amsterdam finally arrives and Ma is suitably (and adorably) excited. She wakes up Hazel by shouting “AMSTERDAM!”. I think I like Ma so much, because when she gets to be her own person and not just Hazel’s mom, she is very much like my own mum and my mum is awesome.

Hazel and Ma have been arguing about who gets the most room in their shared suitcase. The whole debate ends with each of them getting half, Hazel points out none of them win this way and the line “So it goes” is used. Is that a common expression in English? Because I have only ever seen it in Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse 5 so I instantly thought of that, but if there is supposed to be a connection I missed it. To me, the two books seem quite dissimilar. Did Green intend to reference Vonnegut or does “So it goes” have some other connotation?

Anyway, back to the book (briefly). Hazel wonders why some foods are inherently breakfast foods and I can totally get behind her in her quest for answers. I was wondering just the same the other day. Growing up in a non-american culture, but having so much cultural input from the U.S. can be strange sometimes. Take pancakes for instance. Pancakes for breakfast are weird!
When I was a child and I heard Americans ate pancakes for breakfast, I first thought it was a joke. When I realized it was very real, I thought the U.S. must be the most amazing place in the world. Dessert for breakfast; It seemed like a dream!
Then I had American pancakes for the first time and the dream burst like a soap bubble on a blade of grass. It was horrible.
I feel very strongly about pancakes and their place is not on the breakfast table.

*Ahem*

Ma and Hazel hop in the car and say goodbye to Pa who is crying. Aw!
When they get to Augie’s house, he is in the middle of a screaming match with his mom. The words “Because it’s my life, mom. It belongs to me.” are heard and I suppose every teenager has said something similar at some point, but this sneaking suspicion I have had for a while comes creeping back.
I think Augie is sick.

All three of them get to the airport where people are staring at the limping boy and the girl with the air tank. This pisses both Augie and Hazel off. I get why, but it really should not.
When you are different, whether by choice or accident, people will take notice. It is what you decide to do with that attention that matters. Do you get angry? Do you use it as a stage? Do you accept that it is human nature to be curious?
Is it unpleasant whenever a small child asks me if I am a boy or a girl, or whenever a car full of young dudes zooms by the bar yelling “FAGGOTS!”, or when I am kicked out of a bar for kissing a girl while straight couples are almost having sex on the dance floor? Sure it is, but if I let myself get angry, I give it more value than it deserves and I refuse to let other people’s curiosity or stupidity steer my life.

I want to note that in this, the tenth chapter of the book, Hazel has started calling Augie by the nickname his parents use; Gus. I will not be following her example and I am sure I have on numerous occasions made my feelings about both names clear. That is all, thank you.

Augie, like an idiot, pulls out a smoke on the plane. A stewardess tells him “nuh-uh”. He makes an attempt at explaining the whole “cigarettes kill, but I won’t let them” thing, but she shuts him down. Stewardess: 1, Stupid metaphor: 0!

The plane takes off and Augie has apparently never flown before. He is excited and cute and I cannot help but recall my own first flight. (I was 11, it was from Copenhagen to Glasgow.)

Augie seems to have two distinct personalities. Hazel even mentions it here. There is the one she calls Augustus; He is the metaphorically smoking, cool acting young man. And there is the one she calls Gus who is easily excited by the joys of life, wondrous and playful like a child.
I wonder which one of the two decided to go to Amsterdam despite being sick?

Hazel and Augie watch movies on the flight, including 300 which is just not very good at all. Not even Lena Headey could save that mess.
The war, gore and bloodshed of 300 inspires a talk of how many people have died during human history. Turns out it is a whole lot and a really weird thing to think about.

Augie then makes Hazel recite a poem and she chooses the first stanza of a J. Alfred Prufrock poem. (I’m not even going to pretend I recognized the poem or even that I know who Prufrock is. Google ftw!) The part Hazel recites sounds like a love poem, but when I found and read the whole thing online, it seemed to be about being young, becoming old and finally dying. Cheerful!
At least Augie seems to thinks so, because he tells Hazel he is in love with her. The world is a horrible place and life ends in death, but he is in love with her.
Hazel’s only reply is “Augustus”, letting us know that this is one of his grand gestures and she would rather have heard Gus saying those words.

Will Hazel say those three little words? Will Gus? Will I ever get over my childhood pancake-related trauma? Chapter 11 might bring us the answers next week. (Probably not to the last question though.)

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With a scream of pain Hazel wakes her parents and they rush her to the hospital. Calm down, do not panic, I mean, we are only a third of the way through the book. I would be surprised if the protagonist died already.
And I am right, it was fluid build-up in Hazel’s lungs that  caused the ragnarokian headache. Once she has been drained and hung up to dry for a bit, she is just fine.

A nurse lets Hazel know that Augie has been hanging around the waiting room, but all Hazel has the strength to ask, is whether he has seen her in her sick state. She seems satisfied that he has not. (Yeah she’s so over him!)
The two do however see each other briefly when Hazel is discharged. There is only time for a minimal amount of sarcasm and the handing over of another message from Van Houten. This time it is in old-school letter form.

The letter is addressed to Augie and it seems he has been complaining to Woody about how Hazel has decided to diminish her impact on Augie’s life. In response Woody tells Augie that he cannot change Hazel’s mind by force and that it would be wrong for him to try. Naturally Woody uses two Shakespeare quotes and a bunch of fancy words to get that message across, but all the same that is basically the message.

Hazel lets her parents know that she is intent on getting to Amsterdam and Woody. Even this whole lung-fluid ordeal cannot hold her back, but first she will have to get the A-OK from Doc Maria.

Will Doc Maria let Hazel go to Amsterdam? Will Woody beat his own high score of three Shakespeare references in one letter? Will Hazel’s fluid issue be a forewarning of a terrible flood in the Netherlands? On Wednesday we will know more!

Hazel tells her mom about the whole Amsterdam trip Augie has planned, but Ma needs a bit of convincing. She’s not immediately enthusiastic about her 16½ year old daughter flying off to Europe with some boy she has only met once. Hazel’s mom seems pretty reasonable to be honest.
After consulting Hazel’s doc, it is decided that Ma will join the teenagers in their travels. Significantly lowering the chances of any STDs or foetuses contracted on this Amsterdam trip. Hazel’s dad is to be left home alone to eat pizza and masturbate furiously. (Oh shut up, it is totally implied).

Hazel mopes about how she pussied out when Augie went to caress her face at their Dutch picnic. It seems like she found the whole thing a bit too scripted and unnatural. She decides to act her age and gender and calls up her BFF Kaitlyn to talk about boy problems.
Kaitlyn actually gives sound advice. (Colour me surprised!) She also knows exactly who the boy, whose identity Hazel deliberately keeps vague, is. All she needs are these three facts:

  1. He is a basket ball player
  2. He goes to North Central (which is a really weird name. How can something be north and central at the same time?)
  3. Hazel met him at Sucky Cancer Youth Group Therapy

Kaitlyn’s take on the situation is, that maybe Hazel is not as into Augie as she thinks. Maybe when she flinched at his touch, her subconscious was warning her that they might not be compatible.
Then, like everyone who has ever asked for advice, Hazel promptly ignores it and comes to her own conclusion: that she is afraid of hurting Augie.

Hazel looks up Augie’s dead ex-gf on Facebook. (I would do the same. I’m nosy as fuck!) She reads comments from her friends and lurks through her pictures. Turns out Hazel and Dead Ex look quite a lot alike. Augie, dude, come on…not cool, man, not cool!
Hazel gets all bent out of shape over a recent post from one of Dead Ex’s friends.

“We all miss you so much. It just never ends. It feels like we were all wounded in your battle, Caroline. I miss you. I love you.”

She tries to suppress the feeling, that the exact same post could so easily be splashed across her own Facebook page by someone like Kaitlyn.

At dinner Hazel cannot get the post out of her head. She feels like a time bomb and when her parents press her on why she seems absent, she lets them know.

“I’m like. Like. I’m like a grenade, Mom. I’m a grenade and at some point I’m going to blow up and I would like to minimize the casualties, okay?”

Hurting as few people as possible might seem noble to Hazel, but here is the thing: Life will out!
Not just biological life, like how roots can grow through solid rock to find water, but also our lives. They demand to be led, to be experienced. So even if we, when we die, we leave behind us a crater of despair, we must not let that stop us from living our lives.
In short: Life is a gift, do not dare squander it out of fear!

Hazel, unfortunately, is adamant that she will leave as tiny a crater in her wake as possible. So she texts Augie that they cannot do kissies because she will only end up hurting him.
Has that ever deterred anyone? The last time a girl used that line on me, I jumped in head first anyway. And yeah I ended up getting hurt, just like she promised me, but when you have a crush, you have a crush. End of story.
And Augie is no different from me. He deflects the text like a pro; with humour.

Hazel’s parents come to speak with her and they are great. They say all the right things, like how Hazel is no grenade to them, she’s amazing, every moment is a blessing. All that jazz.
They leave her to get some sleep and she does until she wakes up with an insane pain in her membrain.

Has hazel contracted Dead Ex’s brain cancer? Will Ma and Pa ever get more personality than “Perfect parents”? Will Augie give up on Hazel and find another girl that looks like his dead ex-gf? We’ll have to wait till Wednesday to find out.

P.S. I think there was a reference I didn’t understand. Hazel’s dad calls her twitterpated and she mentions she’s not a bunny. What’s the connection there? Apart from breeding like rabbits, is there another saying about bunnies falling head over heels for they fellow rabbit kin? What am I missing?

Augie hasn’t called in a week and Hazel believes it is his turn, because she called him last time. Dude, this is precisely why I am single. I do not understand all those weird rules of flirting. I do not get the point of them either, if I want to talk to someone, I will call them up. Easy as that. Hell, I pulled my last girlfriend with the incredibly romantic line “I want you and I get what I want!”. That actually sounds pretty rapey now that I think about it…

Anyway Hazels’ life goes on: friends, school, dinners with ma and pa (who is apparently still around. I was kind of hoping for a stereotypical dead-beat dad.).
It is during one such dinner that Augie finally calls. He and Hazel talk about AIA and how they both assume Anna died and that was why the book ended so suddenly. Because that is what death does. It snuffs out life at a moment’s notice and does not bother wrapping everything up nicely.

After Hazel’s many failed attempts at contacting Van Houten, the author of AIA, Augie has gone and managed to make contact on his first try. Either Hazel is just useless or she really was not trying that hard.
Augie has received an email from Van Houten in which he uses a lot of really fancy words to say “Nope, I haven’t written anything else, nor will I, but thanks for your nice email.” My guess is, that Van Houten is supposed to seem like some crazy intellectual or maybe Green just wanted to show off his mad Scrabble skills?

By the way, my Dutch is basically non-existent, but I am pretty sure houten means wood or tree. Fictional author named Wood, actual author named Green. Coincidence? Quite possibly. Now back to the story!

Hazel gets the email address from Augie and spends a couple of hours writing another letter asking for answers to what happened to everyone except the protagonist. Again she asks about the damn hamster!
I really hope Woody writes back saying “Anna didn’t die, maybe you should cheer the fuck up kid!”

Augie and Hazel do the “talk till late at night” thing that is so incredible when you have a crush. Augie mentions his ex-gf Caroline, she is dead, presumably from cancer. Jeez! These kids just cannot catch a fucking break!

Speaking of catching breaks; Isaac is seemingly cancer-free. Now that he has no eyes left for there to be cancer in. Yay? Hazel goes to visit him at the hospital after his eye-removal ceremony. He is more broken up about the heartless bitch formerly known as his numb-boobed ex-gf. I get it. Heartbreak must be much more palpable than being blind all of a sudden. It seems a very human response to me.

A reply from Woody ticks into Hazel’s inbox and it is slightly less prose-heavy than his first email. He explains that he can give her the answers she craves only in person, so she would have to go to Amsterdam. My first thought was “well that’s not too far away” then “oh wait, she’s in the U.S., nevermind”.

The next bit is all about how Hazel’s family is financially ruined because of her treatment. I will spare you the snarky comments about free healthcare we’ve all heard a million times.

A few days later, Augie shows up to take Hazel on a picnic. He does the whole “meeting the parents” horror show (and does is extremely well I might add) and they are off.
Off on a magical Dutch-themed picnic, with the sole purpose of Augie declaring his intention of using his wish foundation wish on taking them both to Amsterdam to meet Woody. I have a gnawing sense they won’t make it.

Will their plane crash? Will they try the marijuanas and OD? Will Augie’s prosthetic leg get caught in the luggage belt and drag him under? We will see!

Finally we learn some stuff about the Van Houten book. I thought it would be some type of self-help book, because with a title like “An Imperial Affliction”, it sounds a lot like a Ted Talk. No dice. It is a novel about a girl named Anna who gets cancer.
Hazel is quite upset that the book ends in the middle of a sentence at the climax of the plot (understandable, seriously, who does that?). For that reason she has written many letters to the author to ask about the fate of all the characters, except one. She’s inquired about everyone from the protagonist’s mum to her hamster, but not about Anna. She just assumes Anna dies and so asking about her is a moot point.

I have not mentioned this yet, but it is clear that Hazel expects to die fairly soon. Now I do not know a whole lot about cancer (thank heavens), so it is hard for me to know whether she is being realistic or negative. Even so, how she just assumes Anna is dead, really hammers the point home.
Hazel does not think she will make it to the end of her own story (aka this book).

After hitting the movies with her mom, Hazel gets some texts from Augie. It seems he has finished “An Imperial Affliction” and is craving the same answers as her. He too comes to the conclusion that Anna has died which is interesting since he, at least outwardly, seems much more positive about life with and after cancer.

Hazel calls him up wanting so badly to discuss her favourite book with the guy she likes. (I totally get it Hazel, I want my crush to read my favourite book too, aww.) Ahem, where was I? Oh right! Augie doesn’t have time for book club meetings because Isaac is with him and he is having a doozy of a mental breakdown.
Augie asks Hazel to come over and in the car on the way to his house, she thinks about her dad. I think this is only the second time she has mentioned him, I wonder if he is still in the picture.

In Augie’s crusty basement man-cave the boys are playing vidya. Isaac is bawling and completely unresponsive. It turns out the low sensitivity in his gf’s boobs has spread to her heart. In other words: she dumped him because he is going blind and I think I speak for everyone ever when I say: Bitch!

As the boys lose the game, Isaac freaks out and starts hammering a pillow against the wall. Augie lets him trash his basket ball trophies instead, hoping being able to actually destroy something will end his rampage.
We get a nice little description of the basket ball players from the trophies being smashed apart. Just like Hazel, Augie and Isaac, their bodies are ruined.

Will Hazel’s dad ever show up? How will Augie’s parents react to the great trophy smashing of 2012? Is Anna really dead? I dunno. Let’s find out!

Hazel Makes quick work of Augie’s gory book, sleeps in and is awakened by her mom who announces that it is Hazel’s 33rd half birthday. It is a bit strange, but I guess I get it. I mean her mom has been living with the fact that her daughter might die for a long time. Makes sense she would want to cram as many birthdays in there as she could.

Hazel makes plans to go to the mall with her friend Kaitlyn. Kaitlyn pretends to be British for some reason and uses the word “Awesomesauce” in her texts. I am unsure if this is Green trying to be young and with it or if he’s taking the piss. Also they agree to meet at 3.32 which is oddly specific. Why not just 3.30ish? Is this a cultural thing? Will 3.32 become significant later? Am I reading too much into this?
You can’t just leave random numbers around and expect me not to take notice! That’s like leaving a nice rock of crack, a pipe and a lighter out on the coffee-table when you know your junkie friend is coming over.

Anyway Hazel and Kaitlyn meet up at 3.32 and go shoe shopping, because that’s what teenage girls do, right? After a while Hazel bails, using the excuse of illness to get some alone-time. No mom (who’s hiding out in the food-court), no friends, no Augie. Just her, alone with some books. It sounds delightful!

While Hazel is blazing through the even gorier sequel to Augie’s book, a young girl asks her about the oxygen supply going via cannula into Hazel’s nose. We are treated to this sweet little and surprisingly non-sarcastic moment between the two. As Community’s Shirley would say: “That’s nice!”

A short chapter this time, but a chapter none the less.

Will Hazel’s mom get a life? Will Hazel finish all 37 gory books in the main series before page 100? Will her oxygen tank suddenly explode leaving 9 dead and 5 wounded at the local mall? Let’s stick with it and find out!

Augie apparently drives like my grandma. My grandma Ruthie comes from a very strict religious background where there was no drinking, dancing, playing cards or having fun. If you were a woman you stayed home, took care of the kids, gutted fish and in no way did you drive a car. So she didn’t get her license until my grandpa died and she had no choice. She was 55 years old at the time (not that she would ever make any excuses, she is fucking bad-ass!). Augie’s excuse is a prosthetic leg. I guess we all have things to overcome.

As they drive along (haphazardly) Hazel explains her entire medical history. I won’t bore you with it (and I may have only skimmed it myself), but I think it suffices to say she was dying, then got a drug that shrunk her tumours and bought her some time.

They make it to Augie’s house in one piece (technically two pieces and an oxygen tank). It turns out his home is also The International Museum of Motivational Quotes. I bet his dad has worked 25 years at some crappy office job and brings home a new motivational poster every week. Oh yeah, they call them “Encouragements” which just sounds so creepy (and slightly cult-ish).

But behold! All of a sudden something amazing happens! Augie’s parents call him Gus and I pee a little. Remember my little tirade about his name in the last post? Well it seems like cleaning the customer restroom at Metro Convenience “The one stop shop for your needs!” is his destiny.

Poor Augie gets immensely cock-blocked by his own father, who insist he and Hazel watch their movie upstairs and not in his crusty basement man-cave. Sexy-times: 0, Hygiene: 1. You go, dad!

The pair do however dip into the basement (not a euphemism) to look at all of Augie’s basket ball trophies. He gets all existential about how silly sports are and I finally find myself able to relate to this character. I completely agree. It does seem strange to make grown men run down a track and then put hurdles in their way. Is it some form of punishment?

But enough about Augie. No seriously, I thought Hazel was the protagonist, am I wrong? The story is told through Hazel, but so far I know much more about Augie than her. Well we will know more in a moment, because now Augie demands Hazel tells him about her fetishes (no really). Instead she decides to talk about how she loves reading and she mentions her favourite book. It’s the mysterious Van Houten book from the quote at the beginning. It is called “An Imperial Affliction” and it is apparently the knees of some bees. (I’m totes hip with the fresh lingo dudebros!)

Then there is some hand holding, some movie watching and some talking in a parked car, coincidentally my favourite conversation-location. There is something about the non-permanent state of sitting in a car together that just makes for great conversation. Augie puts this magic to good use and gets Hazel to promise to call him when she has finished his favourite book (which is based on some video game).

Will Augie die in a car crash on his way home? Will Hazel hate his book? Will Augie’s mom sow Hazel her very own “Encouragement” pillow? Join me next time for the third chapter in this thrilling tale!