No stars here, just the number of tissues I used when watching it. I actually thought it would be more. I thought the movie would skew sentimental, hit the hard stuff harder. And yet I completely enjoyed it, even despite my reservations about the actor playing Gus. Spoilers below, but you’ve probably at least already read the book.
Here are the tissue packets Penguin gave out at BEA. The book cover is on the flip side. I brought two extra packets of tissues to the theater, but never even finished this one.
I’ll be honest: I’ve been wanting to punch Ansel Elgort’s face for a while, ever since the first time I saw the movie trailer. I carried an unnatural rage with me, one that would flare at the sight of his smarmy, smarmy smile. As much as I looked at Shailene Woodley and thought happily, “It’s Hazel!” (happy through my tears, of course), I loathed Elgort as Gus. Every repetition of the trailer had me convinced that I would absolutely hate an otherwise amazing adaptation, that Elgort would ruin it for me. I’d love to see him in something else, I really would. But Gus? Gus, the kid I saw as being jock-turned-rebel, with none of the signs of rebellion on him? A week before the movie came out, after talking to some of the teens at BEA about why they liked the casting, I realized it was a generational thing. Teenage rebels, to me, look a certain way, because rebels looked a certain way when I was a teenager. Now the lines are blurred. The jocks are the geeks. Alternative is corporate. Elgort’s bland preppiness is the opposite of how I see Gus, but I gave it a pass because I am an old lady. I told myself I would give him a shot. But that smarm!
It wasn’t the first moment I saw him when I fully let go of my Gus expectations and let Elgort do his thing. When Hazel bumps into him on the way to support group, the rage flared. Smarm! And then he sat in group and stared at her. And smiled. And adored her. Smarmily. In the way teenage boys do when they think there’s mutual interest. In the way that some teenage boys do naturally, like they own the world. And this kid, Augustus Waters, got a pass for being smarmy–not just from me but eventually from Hazel’s parents too. Because he’s a kid, and we know he’s a kid. And because he had cancer.
You can’t divorce these kids from the cancer. It’s easier with Gus, because he’s preppy and he’s in remission and because he appears able-bodied at first. Then he limps a bit. Or a look passes over the face of an adult in his presence. These kids are only normal to each other. Isaac’s loss of vision, Gus’s lost leg, Hazel’s breathing apparatus is seen as a part of the whole, but only by them. Everyone else pities them, is afraid for them, is afraid for themselves.
Elgort became Gus for me not when he smarmed at Hazel, but when the smarm became something more. As Hazel returns his glances, as she accepts his flirting. He smarms, and it’s part act. He doesn’t quite smoke. This is also an act, although he calls it a metaphor. Adults know better. When Gus drops the act behind the smarm, and smarms because he’s getting what he wants, he’s just being Gus. And I let go.
Hazel’s appalled at his cigarette, and I wanted to cheer, because I’m sick of the media’s perception that every high schooler “experiments.” It’s absolutely selfish on my part, because I want to see more teens like the one I was: straight-edge, to some degree, and smart, and desperate for change. Hazel, Gus, and Isaac are smart. They don’t smoke–why would they? it’s a quicker death sentence for them, likely–and when they Hazel and Gus have champagne they enjoy it but they don’t binge drink. They’re pretending to be adults, except that they are adults, albeit young ones. The change they’re desperate for isn’t the blinders falling off the eyes of the conformists (oh, teenage me), but life on their own terms. They’re lucky in that they have parents who are, to different degrees, willing to let them have it. There’s a sense that Gus’s parents have given up trying to “handle” him, but Hazel’s are thrilled at any experience their daughter can have. Did you see Laura Dern’s face during the scene where Hazel and Gus try to pretend they didn’t have sex?
Most of my tears were spent on Laura Dern and Sam Trammell as Hazel’s parents. They are the parents I see myself and my husband as; the kind who cheer their child’s milestones, no matter how adult they are. There’s a time where a parent can stick their heads in the sand or they can smirk to each other as they, too, pretend their teens aren’t sexually active, or at least heading in that direction. While one could argue that they are being permissive because they believe Hazel is going to die, I’d like to believe that this is how they’d be anyway, because everyone has to grow up sometime. And Gus is a great guy, cigarette and smarm notwithstanding. My heart broke into a million pieces at Mike Lancaster’s sign at the airport and, again, it was all about me, because my husband would totally do that.
As a parent, especially the parents of a teenager, you can’t separate who you are from reading this book and viewing this movie. The adults cry in a very different way than the teens, I think. They cry for the life lost, because we can imagine it so much better than a teenager can. They cry for the parents. They cry for the death of first love more than the loss of the love himself.
The Fault in Our Stars feels like a movie, not a book adaptation, and it’s strong for it, and maybe a little breezier too. Without as much access to Hazel’s head, we can go along and be charmed rather than devastated, so long as the movie lets us. The movie lets us do so much more than I expected. The words that seem deep and heavy on the page come off childish when spoken by actual children. And this is okay. In fact, this is wonderful. Let them believe they are deep and heavy. Let them believe in change, and hope, and life. Let them be without bills, and health insurance worries, and job hunting.
So the movie won me over after all, even if I wasn’t the sobbing mess I hoped I’d be, or the angry smarm-hater I was sure I’d end up. Maybe because I’d never seen them in anything before, the young actors won me over, and I even stopped thinking “Sam!” every time the True Blood guy was on the screen. A good time was had. And I did keep the BEA poster. Sorry, teens at my old library. I want it. I stood in line for it. If I couldn’t have stood the smarm, you’d have one more book-to-movie poster. Now you’ll have to wait for the inevitable READ posters.
I wonder if author John Green will be able to write teenagers when his children are older. I know there’s something about raising a teenager that makes you pull away from wanting to write teens (because I’m there right now), that makes you think, “I’d be a phony just to try. It’s been so long. Things have changed.” Green’s teenagers, however, have never exactly been real teens. They are teens the way Kevin Smith’s characters in Clerks are real people. Everyone is very smart and usually knows exactly what to say. But I love that and obviously the teens that make up a huge chunk of Green’s readership do too.
These are only the things I am keeping or giving to close friends. Everything else has either already been donated to one of the local libraries or is in my trunk waiting to be donated to the library where I used to work in NJ.
Excerpts only (except the Stan Lee one, which is so thick I just put it into the regular pile). A little sad that I didn’t get the full copy of Let’s Get Lost, but this one was signed.
Image, which has proven itself over and over again as a comic book publisher, had all first issues out of some of their popular titles. This isn’t all they had, but these were the ones I grabbed. Some of my favorite authors have titles with Image: Rucka, Brubaker, Vaughan, Kirkman. Some of these, like Saga and The Walking Dead, I’ve already read, but others I’ve been hoping to get my hands on, like Sex Criminals and Alex + Ada.
The books! I got one for my bff, one for his mother, one for a friend who’d just praised an author and I happen to see her new book there, a handful of Kimani titles and a memoir (?) for Mahasin in the Morning, and I do believe the rest are for meeeee! I’ve already read Landline (of course), Afterworlds (whoa, trippy), and the new R.L. Stine Fear Street book (um…). Will be reviewing them soon.
I have a book club read to get to next, and then back to this beautiful pile! I’m thinking Scalzi…
I did NOT bring the iPad. It was too big. So I used the iPod again, which means I had to take about five pictures per person to get a decent one. I really should just get a camera since I have no desire to upgrade my phone to something that can not only take good pictures, but actually get them off of the thing–unlike mine, which can’t even transfer contacts between two of the same model phone, let alone send or receive photos.
All photos are mine unless otherwise noted.
Neil Patrick Harris was signing excerpts of his upcoming autobiography, which has a Choose Your Own Adventure theme and the fantastic cover to go with it. I always joke that I have a shut-down switch somewhere in my body when it comes to gay men, so when I say that he was one of the most handsome men I’ve ever seen in my life, that means something. Very nice, and good at moving the line along.
Our conversation went something like this:
Me: You know what I loved you in? What was that show you were in with Tony Shaloub?
Him: Stark Raving Mad. Tony’s a genius.
Me: No, YOU’RE a genius.
…I was incredibly surprised by how fangirly I got.
I am a big fan of taking pictures when I’m one person back, but it makes for terrible pictures. This is Ann M. Martin of Baby-Sitters Club game, signing her new book, Rain/Reign.
Me: I feel like I’ve been reading your books forever. [Way to make her feel old, Alana.] But you know what my favorite it?
Me: Sweet Valley Twins #1.
Her, bursting out laughing and turning to her friend: I DID write that one!
Anjelica Huston from afar. I couldn’t not take a picture of Morticia Addams. My daughter would’ve been so disappointed in me.
“Jovial Bob” my butt. No, seriously, RL Stine was very nice, AND I didn’t tell him that Christopher Pike is better (but he is), but the poor man looked exhausted and it was only day one. I got a picture of the two of us as well, but my eyes are closed. Note to self: if no camera next year, remind people to take like twenty pictures with that thing and I’ll just delete the crappy ones next year. Second note to self: Don’t believe someone who says “That’s a good picture!” when they’re using my old iPod.
How goddamn adorable is John Scalzi? I just want to snuggle up with him on a couch and watch nerdy television shows. I want to play board games with him and invite him to be on my superhero team during RPG Sundays.
Jo Walton is what we call “a chatter.” She wanted to talk to everyone. It was one of the slower-moving lines I was in, but she was so sweet. I told her I was there because of a friend, and she signed two books–one for me, one for the friend. Such a sweet lady, I would’ve actually gone back and talked to her again.
Dear Raina (Telgemeier), Remember when I said the picture wasn’t going to be all forehead? I didn’t lie; I was just wrong. See, when I take a picture, there’s a status bar across the top. And that’s where your forehead was. So I cropped the picture. You’re welcome. And adorable. We’re so excited to read your new book!
That is a pile of Fault in Our Stars tissue packs that you got if you lined up for the movie poster. The poster also came with a flyer that says how to get two free tickets to If I Stay. The tissues were probably the best marketing device I saw at all of BEA.
Brad Meltzer, second year. Did not embarrass myself this time. He’s so pale. Can that be healthy? I know part of it is the bald thing, but SO PALE.
Scott Westerfeld, another chatter. I’m reading his new book Afterworlds right now, and it is so good.
The Stan Lee line moved SO FAST. It was really amazing because it meant EVERYONE could stand in front of him and hear that famous voice. You basically got a “How are ya?” and “All the best!” and you were handed the book, and you let the next person have their three seconds. I loved it. Picture by Alison Pitt.
Alison also sent me this great picture of Jason Segel:
who I did not see. But what a great picture!
Terrible picture from the back of the Event Hall of Tina Fey and Jason Bateman on the big screen talking about their new movie, which is based on a book. The two sound very different, both good, and I will probably watch the movie if it gets to Netflix.
David Levithan and Maggie Stiefvater and the nice kid who put up with my babbling in line. Levithan is Stiefvater’s editor, and I talked to him more than her because we read Two Boys Kissing for the book club and I’ve never been able to get a hold of the first of any of her books at the library. Now I have a new one! But I hear it’s a companion and I should STILL read Shiver first. Sigh.
The madhouse around Cary Elwes, who was handing out excerpts of his Princess Bride book. Dude needs glasses to break up the bland sameness of his face. I think I was the only woman over 30 who didn’t have a huge crush on him because of that movie.
And that was it for me Sunday. I didn’t do much, having been annoyed by how BookCon was set up, and I ended up leaving early. But I’ll get into that next post.
One day, this thing will give me a thumbnail where I don’t have my eyes closed or my mouth open.
Once again I attended BookExpo America, this time on my own dime. I felt the experience was worth repeating if for the swag alone. Okay, maybe not just for the swag. Meeting authors and attending panels is fun too, and this year I did all of those things and more–and maybe a little less as well.
Due to my unemployment, I registered as a blogger, although I could’ve gone in as a book club moderator as well, so if you think that the industry-only days are closed to you, that may not be true. It is true, however, that if you have your degree and have worked in a library, you still feel like a librarian even when you’re between jobs. It’s a form of identity that I represented on my badge with the phrase “Action Librarian.” (I’d completely forgotten I’d put that on my registration, too. Ha.) When people at the show asked me what that meant, I told them I was rather an Inaction Librarian right now. I wish, however, I had said something about running, jumping, and climbing trees. Still, Action Librarian is a good way of describing the sheer amount of motion library workers and librarians, especially children’s librarians, are in, despite the stereotype of the tightly-wound woman behind the desk.
But I was representing libraries this year, in my own way; two local libraries and my old workplace will be receiving much of the free merchandise that BEA exhibitors give away in droves. Which is not to say there isn’t a lot I’ll be keeping.
One of the things I said I would do before this year’s Expo was to reread my list of tips from last year. I did not. So let’s review and see how I did.
BRING SNACKS: I did not, and I ended up eating a $2.80 banana because of it. I did, however, discover the amazingness of “sweet potato starch” noodles at the Korean place in the food court.
CHECK A ROLLING BAG: I did that! After the first day of terrible neck, shoulder, and back pain, I borrowed a rolling suitcase from the friend I was staying with and checked it. IT WAS THE BEST THING I EVER DID. You just have to fit in a drop here, a drop there, and then you come to realize that no one carries more than a bag of books at a time because they’re constantly dropping too. Game-changer. Really.
OR JUST SHIP ‘EM HOME: I thought about it when I was figuring parking costs, but I ultimately decided against it. It was cheaper to park and drive them home, I think.
GET THERE BEFORE 7AM: Yes! Every day I was there before 7am, and every day I got the ticketed authors I wanted. Saturday was cutting it close, but I also got there at about two minutes of.
OR DO THAT THING WHERE YOU PAY AHEAD OF TIME FOR TICKETS: I couldn’t figure out why I couldn’t do this. I tried logging in and out of the registration site, but still couldn’t find a way to become an Avid Reader. Then I forgot all about it during my West Coast trip, and by the time I came back, it was no longer available. As it turns out, bloggers don’t get that option. However, I was told by someone while chatting in a line that bloggers can call and request the pass and they’ll be able to buy it over the phone. I was also told they can upgrade to a Press pass, which gains them better access to…something. Not sure what. Maybe being able to get up close for photos of authors.
ONLY BRING ONE BAG FROM HOME: Didn’t, and BookTV stepped in again and handed one out to people waiting in line the first day. I was hoping that would happen. Once you know where the good bags are, that’s where you go first when the doors open anyway.
BAGS ARE SERIOUS BUSINESS: I already made my bag video post, which I’ll put up tomorrow.
THOSE BAGS WILL BREAK: Not if you drop to your suitcase often enough!
TATTLE ON THE LINE CUTTERS: Didn’t have to do that this year. Or maybe didn’t care enough. A lot of people will hold places in lines for people to go to the bathroom, etc, and those are not people who bother me. I certainly did held places for people, and people held places for me–but only once we’d already lined up, and only for bathroom breaks and bag-grabbing. Some of the lines were better dealt with than last year, so I only saw one person who got in a line that was cut into pieces (as you have to do when you’re working in a small area), and they obviously didn’t do it on purpose.
DON’T JUST USE THE EVENT MAGAZINE: True! I grabbed the galley drop schedule from a couple of booths and it made a big difference on getting the books I wanted.
DON’T TAKE EVERY BOOK: I didn’t, but having the rolling bag made it harder, especially knowing that I wasn’t going to keep everything for myself.
KNOW WHAT YOU’RE GOING TO SAY TO YOUR FAVORITE AUTHORS–BUT KEEP IT TO TWO SENTENCES: I didn’t do this the way I did last year, where I rehearsed in my head. Part of this is because a lot of authors I was in line for for the kids, and that’s a discussion in itself. Some authors are very chatty (Jo Walton, Scott Westerfeld, Adriana Trigiani), and that’s on them, but I tried to wrap it up quickly. Which is more than I can say for my conversations in line. I babbled. I do that when I’m tired. Sorry, line friends.
ASK FOR THINGS: There are secret books that you have to mention to get. Also, I got a display copy, last galley there, on the last day, because I asked. Thank goodness, because I would’ve really regretted not getting it. (It was the new Sara Farizan, in case you were interested.)
CHARGE EVERYTHING THE NIGHT BEFORE: I actually found the charging stations this year! But didn’t have to use them. But I did keep an eye on someone’s phone for them while it was charging. No one even tried to steal it.
STAY AT ONE OF THE HOTELS THEY SUGGEST: This is my goal for next year.
SCHEDULE SCHEDULE SCHEDULE: I did this, but only between 7am and the time the show opens. That’s a lot of time to kill, and scheduling helps it pass.
BRING A PACK MULE–I MEAN, A FRIEND WHO LIKES BOOKS BUT DOESN’T OBSESS THE WAY YOU DO: Not possible this year, but I bet my shoulders would hurt less if I had.
SIT DOWN IN LINE WHENEVER YOU CAN: Very true.
MAKE FRIENDS: I loved my line friends! The librarians from PA, Jen who got me the Guardians of the Galaxy bag, the two kids who put up with my babbling waiting for Maggic Stiefvater, the woman who dared me to tell R.L. Stine that Christopher Pike is better, Alison Pitt (fabulous sister of actor Michael Pitt), who was my line-buddy the last day and some of whose pictures will be posted here, and the Westerfeld boozers. You know who you are.
TAKE THE FREE BOOZE: I didn’t, because I was driving this year, and also because I knew I’d rather just take muscle relaxants at the end of the day.
ACTUALLY LEAVE THE EXHIBIT HALL ONCE IN A WHILE: I went to a couple of panels this year and wish I could’ve gone to more.
GO TO BED EARLY: I regret that I didn’t spend more time with my host and hostess, but I’m glad I tried to make sure I was asleep by ten every night. I even tried to get to bed–well, couch–by 9. It’s a necessary part of the process, especially when you drive in.
I definitely felt like I had a much better handle on what was going on this year, and worked things out accordingly. Did I miss things? Of course, especially for the last day’s BookCon, which deserves a post of its own. Many of the publishing companies had a better grasp of what they wanted to do this year, although some will flat out lie to your face if they think it’s in their best interests. I do feel that, if there are authors I’m excited for, I will go next year. This year almost could’ve gotten a pass, given some of the people who showed up, but part of me thinks that just being in the same room as Neil Patrick Harris made it all worth it.
Upcoming posts: The Bags of BEA 2014 video, The Disaster That Was BookCon, Unshelved‘s panel on reclaiming libraries and librarianship, and some pictures!
Book Expo America 2014 starts in two days and I am nowhere near ready. I haven’t finished redoing the blog, I haven’t set up my itinerary, and the friend I was going to stay with got a new job so now we have to re-figure my schedule and transportation needs.
I joined four new book clubs in the past month, and am in the process of relocating my online one to a new forum.
I’m still job hunting; I may wear a safari costume to my next interview.
And I think I’m getting one of those spring colds that you swear is allergies until you realize it totally isn’t.
I’m bringing my iPad to BEA this year so the pictures will be better, and maybe I’ll get to do another video past about bags. Hee.
I am in the process of moving again. I think I’m going to revamp Bookslide afterward. A lot of the archives will be gone, and some posts will be rewritten. It will be fun. :)