I'm not really putting this very well. My point is this: This book contains precisely zero Important Life Lessons, or Little-Known Facts About Love, or sappy tear-jerking Moments When We Knew We Had Left Our Childhood Behind for Good, or whatever. And, unlike most books in which a girl gets cancer, there are definitely no sugary paradoxical single-sentence-paragraphs that you're supposed to think are deep because they're in italics. Do you know what I'm talking about? I'm talking about sentences like this: The cancer had taken her eyeballs, yet she saw the world with more clarity than ever before. Barf. Forget it. For me personally, things are in no way more meaningful because I got to know Rachel before she died. If anything, things are less meaningful. All right?
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So in order to understand everything that happened, you have to start from the premise that high school sucks. Do you accept that premise? Of course you do. It is a universally acknowledged truth that high school sucks. In fact, high school is the where we are first introduced to the basic existential question of life: How is it possible to exist in a place that sucks so bad?
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So. If this was some normal fictional young-adult book, this is the part of the story where after the film, the entire high school would rise to their feet and applaud, and Earl and I would find True Acceptance and begin to Truly Believe in Ourselves and Rachel would somehow miraculously make a recovery, or maybe she would die but we would Always Have Her to Thank for Making Us Discover Our Inner Talent, and Madison would become my girlfriend and I would get to nuzzle her boobs like an affectionate panda cub whenever I wanted. That is why fiction sucks. None of that happened. Instead, pretty much everything happened that I was afraid of, except worse.
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So if this were a normal book about a girl with leukemia, I would probably talk a shitload about all the meaningful things Rachel had to say as she got sicker and sicker, and also probably we would fall in love and have some incredibly fulfilling romantic thing and she would die in my arms. But I don't feel like lying to you. She didn't have meaningful things to say, and we definitely didn't fall in love. She seemed less pissed with me after my stupid outburst, but she basically just went from irritable to quiet.
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[Earl, on liking someone] Because, honestly, the rational part of me know for a rock-solid fact that I would never, ever get with Madison Hartner. But that was just the rational part of me. There's always a stupid irrational part of you, too, and you can't get rid of it. You can never completely kill off that tiny absurd spark of hope that this girl-against all odds, although she could date any guy at school, not to mention guys at college, and even though you look like the Oatmeal Monster and are a compulsive eater and suffer from constant congestion and say so many stupid things per day that it seems like a Stupid Things company is paying you to do it- this girl might like you.
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I started playing music around 13 or 14, played jazz in high school, and played other stuff in college. After college, I tried to make it as a musician. I lived in a big squalid house full of dudes outside of Boston. We were all musicians. We built this studio in the basement and played there all hours of the day.
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There's a certain trope in young adult fiction. A young girl gets cancer and becomes this radiant person who's a fountain of insight. Everyone who encounters her is changed for the better. That doesn't happen all the time. The whole thing is much more difficult to process. Adults have trouble with it, so why shouldn't we expect teens to?
'The Haters' has some of the generalities of band experiences that I've had - the camaraderie, the grubbiness, the outsized collective ambitions and frequent painful collisions with reality - but very few of the specifics. I guess it was a way for me to take some of my experiences to their logical crazy extremes.