Um. Like, whatever, or something. [Insert half-relevant literary quote here.]
Let me preface this by saying that i cry at everything. Every movie makes me cry, from Disney movies to romcoms, and everything in between. I don’t even watch dramas anymore, because i just can’t handle it. The feels. It gets me right there, and i never recover.
I cry pretty often when i read books, too. And i often avoid books that sound like they’re going to make me cry. Which is why i hadn’t read this one until now, when one of my fellow book club members has chosen it as her pick. I readied myself for it; i saved my last serving of Ben & Jerry’s and strategically waited to finish it until my husband would be out of town and i could just spend the evening alone, feeling sad.
But… i didn’t even cry. I think there was one moment early on when i almost did, and toward the end my eyes got a little moist, but no actual tears were shed.
Nor did i laugh, mind you. I mainly did a lot of eye-rolling. I know one of the points of the book was that most people are just ordinary people even if they die young, and glorifying someone who dies doesn’t do all the other schmucks a lot of justice. And so the characters in the book were meant to just be ordinary, flawed people. But i get irritated when “flawed” characters are nothing but annoying. Hazel is an unappreciative, cynical brat, and Gus is smarmy, arrogant liar. And they have these conversations throughout the book that are half uber-teenager, half Gilmore Girls. Zero real people talk like that. I don’t buy it.
And the insufferable author VanHouten that they interact with, he just felt to me like an altogether odd character to have in this book. He’s there so that there’s a story, but it’s a weak one. It’s a short book, and the little adventure they go on is weird, and the twists that happen near the middle are predictable and don’t hit with much impact. And the end isn’t wrapped up very neatly—or maybe it’s too neat. It should’ve gone farther in one direction or the other.
Kids dying of cancer is of course sad, and the philosophizing they do is mildly interesting, but this just wasn’t the great impactful life-affirming story that i was expecting after all the heaps of praise it’s gotten. At the very least, though, it’s a semi-relatable look at life and mortality from the point of view of nonreligious people. So i do appreciate it for that.