The Fault in Our Stars, by John Green

The Fault in Our StarsOh, this book. I’ve had it since January, when I drove out to the beach to retrieve my J-scribbled pre-order, but I put off the actual reading part forever because a) once I read it it was going to have been read, and b) I needed to find a time to read it in which I would be willing to cry all the tears.

Spoiler: I cried all the tears.

Scott asked me what this book is about, and I was like, um, cancer? Kids with cancer? Kids dying of cancer and omg it’s so depressing and can you get me some tissues? It’s a hard book to summarize, because, well, there are kids with cancer in it and the cancer part sort of drives the story but it’s not really about kids with cancer so much as it is about kids who are trying to figure out life and failing as all humans do. There’s a lot about cancer and dying and how everything, including life, is just a side effect of dying, which, depressing, but there’s also friendship, waning friendship, young love, appreciation of literature and a whimsical journey to Amsterdam (where I will be in a month woo!).

And goodness, I loved the whole thing. There were a few things that were sort of obviously going to happen from the start, but the path to those things happening was not at all predictable and I was completely moved and engrossed. The characters, as John Green’s characters are wont to be, are fantastic and totally real, and totally how I remember existing as a teenager — overly self-aware and almost embarrassingly (to current me) pretentious. The story is real, too, even in the midst of the whimsical journey — the circumstances surrounding that journey require a bit of suspension of disbelief, but the interactions that occur make sense and it is nice to have a bit of a humorous reprieve from the cancer, which I think is the point.

I want to say so many more things about this book, but I don’t want to spoil it for you — not because there are any crucial twists or plot points that would be ruined if I told you about them, but because I spent every minute away from this book wanting to grab it and find out what happened next. If I had been anticipating this thing or that thing happening, I think I would have missed out on a lot of what happens in between. (If you’ve already read the book, let’s go have a party in the comments!)

Recommendation: For lovers of John Green and literature, and owners of many tissues.

Rating: 9.5/10

Will Grayson, Will Grayson, by John Green and David Levithan

Okay, so. We already know that I adore John Green. I laughed and cried through Looking for Alaska, I was delightfully baffled by An Abundance of Katherines and his story in Let it Snow, and Paper Towns had me itching for a road trip.

And then Will Grayson, Will Grayson came out, like, heading toward a YEAR ago, and I didn’t read it. I said, “Oh, I should pick that up,” but I didn’t. Partly it came out right before my YA class so those books took precedence, partly I was worried that I wouldn’t like the co-written aspect of the book, but mostly, I was afraid of Tiny Cooper.

See, almost every review I saw of Will Grayson, Will Grayson mentioned this same bit that’s right in the beginning of the book: “Tiny Cooper is not the world’s gayest person, and he is not the world’s largest person, but I believe he may be the world’s largest person who is really, really gay, and also the world’s gayest person who is really, really large.” And I have to give kudos to the awesomeness of the writing there, BUT.

I know Tiny Cooper. I know SEVERAL Tiny Coopers. I have had my fill of Tiny Cooper, he gets annoying after a while. I did not want to have to deal with Tiny Cooper ever again. So I did not pick up this book.

BUT then, I was on the internet and I was reminded of National Alaska Young Day (which is spoilery if you haven’t read the book), and I was like, hey, maybe I should re-read Looking for Alaska on NAYD, but I was also at the library and they had a copy of Will Grayson, Will Grayson and so I said, “FINE, fate. I will read this darn book.”

And I did. And I LOVED IT. I seriously have not cackled gleefully so many times in such a short span of time, and the book was just perfect and wonderful and definitely what I needed after a holiday season devoid of awesome books.

So forget Tiny Cooper. He’s there, certainly, and he’s large and homosexual and he has written a large homosexual musical that is all about him and how large and homosexual he is, really. But the book is really actually about the Will Graysons, of which there are two and of which one does not use capitals often and is more accurately a will grayson. Will Grayson is your average high school kid, only slightly more neurotic; will grayson is your average high school kid, only slightly more depressed. Will is actively avoiding relationships, will is in a wonderful online relationship that is about to go all IRL. Neither of these goes quite the way either of them planned it, of course, because that’s how life is, and their random meeting at a porn store in Chicago (yes, really) makes things go even slightly crazier.

And so the book is of course about relationships in the romantic sense, but it is also very much about friendships, whether between people who like each other or hate each other or like like each other or tolerate each other. And it’s about how those relationships change when circumstances change, and how two people can see the exact same event and interpret it completely differently. And it’s also about honesty and how it’s an excellent thing when used at the right time and not put off too long, which is the main reason that I want to get everyone I know to read this book.

Also, Tiny Cooper is highly amusing, probably largely (hah) because I don’t have to be friends with him. Or pick his nose.

So basically, yes, I still love John Green, and also I may need to go out and get David Levithan’s entire backlist because he shares much of Green’s writing sensibility, at least in this book. And I know it’s premature, but this may be a contender for Best Book I Will Read All Year. True story.

Recommendation: For those who love John Green, and David Levithan, and any of the similar YA writers who are wonderfully sarcastic and biting and amusing but also very spot on about everything.

Rating: 10/10
(A to Z Challenge)

Let it Snow, by John Green, Maureen Johnson, and Lauren Myracle (18 December — 20 December)

I picked this book up both because I like John Green and Maureen Johnson and because it’s practically Christmas and I wanted to get some of that proverbial spirit going. Well, I still don’t have any Christmas spirit, but I did have a good time reading about people who do. 🙂

The book is three shorter interconnected stories: Johnson’s, the first, tells of a high-school girl called Jubilee who ends up stranded on a train in western North Carolina. Because of the scary cheerleaders who are also stranded with her, she treks away from the train as fast as she can, which is of course not very fast in snow that can strand a train. Jubilee ends up at a Waffle House where she meets a cute guy who offers her his and his mother’s hospitality for a few days. I think we all know what a mother’s “hospitality” is like. -eyebrow waggle-

Then Green comes in to tell the story of three kids who are friends with the manager at said Waffle House, who, by the time he calls, is looking at a room full of cheerleaders and wants to invite along Tobin, JP, and the Duke to ogle them. Of course, the Duke being a girl, she’d rather ogle maybe one of the other people I’ve already mentioned, so there’s awkwardness there, and oh, did I mention the snowstorm? Because there is some slow-tastic adventuring out in Tobin’s mom’s SUV just to get to the Waffle House. Current me is like, “Why would you go out in the snow like that???” but high-school me is like, “ADVENTURE!”

Myracle’s story is about a girl called Addie who is devastated over her breakup with Jeb, a bit player in the two previous stories (stuck on the train and then stuck in the Waffle House), even though it was all her fault. She’s pretty self-absorbed, but when her best friends and her manager and the old lady that comes in to Starbucks all the time all tell her so in the span of a couple days, she starts to take it to heart and tries to make up for all of her mistakes.

I’m always a little wary of teen romantic novels, because they’re always a little implausible, but this one is just completely implausible so it worked for me. 🙂 I don’t think any girls are going to be looking for romance in a snowstorm at the Waffle House (though, maybe), and after Addie is portrayed as a bad guy for wanting a storybook/movie romance… well, there’s a chance for teens yet!

Rating: 7/10
(Countdown Challenge: 2008)

See also:
Library Queue
an adventure in reading
Book Nut
Blogging for a Good Book
things mean a lot

Pass me yours, if you’ve got ’em.

Paper Towns, by John Green (12 June)

When I saw that John Green had mentioned Scott Westerfeld in his acknowledgements as part of a writing group, I was surprised but not surprised. I love them both! And now I’m going to have to search out the works of the other authors in the group, because I imagine they are also swell.

But back to the book at hand. Paper Towns is the story of Quentin Jacobsen and his quest to find Margo Roth Spiegelman, his erstwhile best friend. Margo showed up at Q’s window one night after several years of non-speaking-ness, took him on a grand revenge-getting and trouble-making adventure, and then disappeared. When Q hears from her parents that Margo likes to leave clues when she runs away, he gathers up his friends to decipher the ones it seems she’s left for them. It takes him a while to make sense of what she’s left, and all the while he starts to realize that he doesn’t even know who Margo Roth Spiegelman is, let alone how to get into her head and find her.

It’s a good time and a fast beach read. (But be careful on the beach — you’ll get so caught up in the book you’ll get a sunburn. [Yes, this did really happen to me.]) Green’s characters are always so very, and these guys are no exception, but I feel like I could have known these people as a larger group in high school. And they’re fun, so that’s good. And [spoiler alert?], Green evens out all the ridiculousness inherent in the road-trip-on-a-deadline at the end with a punch of reality to the face, and I for one appreciated it.

Rating: 8/10

An Abundance of Katherines, by John Green (27 April)

Obviously, after the slow but interesting Murder, as I think I will call it from now on, I needed to go back to the YA brain candy. So I did. And it was good.

An Abundance of Katherines, as the title suggests, is about a kid called Colin with a lot of Katherines in his life… as of his high-school graduation, he’s been dumped by 19 of them. Nineteen! Of course, some of these are third-grade (third-grade!) relationships, but they still count because every single one of them has been named K-a-t-h-e-r-i-n-e. Not Kate or Katie or Catherine. Katherine. Yes.

This last Katherine having been his girlfriend for 11 months and eight days, Colin is understandably upset about this breakup. So, in the grand tradition of all high-schoolers everywhere, Colin and his best friend Hassan go on a road trip. From Chicago to middle Tennessee. Where they go on a tour of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand’s grave and then make friends with the also high-school-aged tour guide, whose mother gives the boys jobs and invites them to stay in her house. Right.

So then adventures occur and all the kids discover new things about themselves and, you know, come of age, as you do. Also Colin tries to develop a Theory of Underlying Katherine Predictability which will tell him how long a relationship will last. And there is math and footnotes and it’s all kind of ridiculous but you go along with it because why the hell not, we’re adventuring!

Seriously, it’s good stuff. I continue my *heart*ing of John Green in happiness.

Rating: 8/10
(Support Your Local Library Challenge)

Looking for Alaska, by John Green (13 December — 16 December)

I’d been pondering purchasing a John Green novel for a certain friend of a certain name, but I didn’t want to do that if the book turned out to suck. So I was going to read the book first, but then I found out that it was Green’s second book, and you know how much I dislike reading things out of order (lest I read the best things first, Jodi Picoult, cough).

So, even though Looking for Alaska has sod-all to do with that certain other book (okay, whatever, it’s called An Abundance of Katherines, like you didn’t Google it already), I popped in a request to the library and found out that it’s somehow quicker to get books from places two counties to the west of me than from my own friggin’ library. A complaint for another time.

Back to the book! The titular Alaska is a girl called Alaska Young, who befriends our hero, Miles Halter (whose name I had to look up because he is called “Pudge” pretty much everywhere else in the novel), who has just arrived at boarding school to seek his “Great Perhaps.” Pudge falls in love with this girl, who is kind of bipolar but also super awesome. SOMETHING BIG HAPPENS in the middle of the novel, which you know is coming because the little chapter sections are all labelled, like, “one hundred thirty-six days before” and “the last day” and “one hundred thirty-six days after” (see the symmetry!), but you have (or I, at least, had) no idea what that’s going to be until it does happen.

This is definitely one of those bildungsroman novels, and it has one of those overarching morals based on death and dying (Pudge is obsessed with people’s last words), and it is really quite good. The book is funny at times, sad at times, and definitely reminded me of coming to college and having to meet all new people and fit in. I just wished I’d pulled a prank or two like these guys. 🙂

Also, there’s a preview of that other book at the end of this one, and I totally have to read that, too.

Also also, John Green has worked for mental_floss and NPR, so really, you know he can’t be all bad.

Rating: 8/10
(Countdown Challenge: 2005)