I was correct. Not only did I not cry the entire time, I spent most of the movie chuckling, or rolling my eyes, or whispering "that's another t-shirt quote!" each time these oddly-wise sixteen year olds proclaimed poetic words of wisdom. The cancer aspect aside, the film was comical throughout as it was obviously written to appeal to a very narrow audience. In fact, when you start to breakdown the plot, it's not really an original story at all, but stereotypical teenage fantasy with no verisimilitude whatsoever. The shy, vulnerable, unlovable Hazel is swept off her feet by Mr. Waters, a character with absolutely no character flaws who always knows exactly what to say. After weeks of resisting his advances, she finally gives in to his proclamations of love, only to see that he is also vulnerable and insecure about his missing leg. In fact, once their relationship finally blossoms, Augustus immediately self-destructs and Hazel inherits all of his previous character strengths...and then he promptly dies leaving Hazel the right to perpetually mourn his absence. She boldly proclaims "not that it matters, but I was his girlfriend!" as she stands to deliver his eulogy at the end of the film. The movie ends with her reading and re-reading his last letter to her has she lies in the grass and stares up at the faulted stars. It's a teenage girl's dream: A perfect guy, noble drama, lack of foresight, and pure emotion.
I was amazed this book ever got written. I'd seen John Green on Youtube in the past and he seemed rather witty...so I was surprised he would write such an obviously pandering story. If his goal was solely to sell a product, he had succeeded quite well, but beyond that, this novel really didn't offer much. There had to be something more...some twist that the general public was missing.
And that's when it hit me: this book isn't about relationships at all. It's not really about life, and it's not about Amsterdam. It's about the five stages of grief: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance. In fact, Augustus Waters isn't even real. He's a physical manifestation of Hazel's cancer. He's a projection of how she sees herself dealing with the disease. At first, the denial and anger stage, she sees herself as clever and sage, and witty, and noble as she holds the metaphorical cancer between her teeth but doesn't give it the power to kill. Eventually though, she comes to love "Augustus" or rather, comes to love her condition. She bargains with it as it gives her perspective and "wishes". She begins to set up plans for her family to be comfortable and lead full lives when she moves one. But then of course, the depression, as she realizes the ultimate cost of her disease including her own death. "Augustus" dying is not the loss of a character, it's Hazel realizing the final price of the cancer which she has allowed to define her for so long. And finally, there is acceptance. Hazel thanks her cancer for providing her an "infinity" by limiting her days. She thanks it for letting her realize the value of life. And finally, on her grass, starring at the stars...Hazel dies as she closes her eyes and gives in. "...Okay".
Of course, even without this interpretation, it's still a cute story, but if only taken on surface value, this movie deserves to shown on TBS from 2pm to 4pm on Wednesday afternoons. If you actually want to believe this story is about something more...you have to accept that there is no Augustus Waters. By definition, he is a fantasy who must be allowed to vanish in order for one to truly accept life. Roller Coasters that only go up are pointless, eventually one needs to come back down. Augustus is afraid of oblivion because he's a delusion...he can only exist as a parasite in the minds of others. Only when he is destroyed is Hazel finally at peace as she passes on.