Popcultureboy’s #CBR5 Review #105: The Fault In Our Stars by John Green

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Because reading one YA novel dealing with cancer this year simply wasn’t enough. I had to have more. And effing eff, am I glad I read this book. Of course, everyone else in the world already has read it, so you all know how bloody wonderful it is. But don’t let that stop you reading my full review. It’s on my blog here.

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Scootsa1000’s #CBR5 Review 42: Paper Towns by John Green

Unknown-1I was on a roll of books that were amazing and great and I loved them. And then.

I really thought I would love Paper Towns. I had only read one John Green book before (yes, of course, The Fault in Our Stars), and had very high expectations for the rest of his stuff. But this book really rubbed me the wrong way.

I know, Margo Roth Spiegelman is the “manic pixie dreamgirl” type that boys — like Quentin — can’t help but love from afar. But I saw nothing even remotely likable or enjoyable about Margo, and frankly, was annoyed that the entire book was about finding her when I never once felt that she wanted or should be found. Ugh.

What I did want was for someone — Margo’s parents, the detective, Quentin’s parents — to get Margo some professional help. Clearly the girl had some major problems. Quentin’s parents were psychologists and did nothing, said nothing. This drove me crazy.

I didn’t like Margo one bit and wish they had simply looked through her records, found Mermaid Avenue, listened to it, and said, Hey, This is Really Good. The End.

What I did like was the world of Quentin’s friends. I loved Radar and Ben, and even Lacey later on. I loved the real high school world described by Green — from band geeks to popular kids — and the realization at the end of senior year that nothing from the past 4 years matters anymore.

But I despised Margo and found her to be selfish and manipulative. And Quentin’s obsession with her made me dislike him, as well. Sorry.

And I couldn’t help but wonder what my own parents would have said or done if I had decided to skip out on my high school graduation to drive thousands of miles across the country to find my crazy neighbor. I’m pretty sure they would have said NO.

Enough with my complaining. I didn’t like the book because I couldn’t stand the characters. The End.

You can read more of my reviews on my blog.

alwaysanswerb’s #CBR5 Review 43: The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

The_Fault_in_Our_StarsGoodreads: “Despite the tumor-shrinking medical miracle that has bought her a few years, Hazel has never been anything but terminal, her final chapter inscribed upon diagnosis. But when a gorgeous plot twist named Augustus Waters suddenly appears at Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazel’s story is about to be completely rewritten.”

TFIOS is a touching, funny, sad, poignant, and somewhat dreamlike story that is well-loved and has been reviewed to death here and elsewhere. I don’t want to re-invent the wheel on this one, so I’ll just quickly share some of my general thoughts. Overall, I found this to be a wonderful novel, but for some reason I can’t put a finger on it didn’t become an instant favorite of mine.

John Green’s teens are, across all of his novels, generally wise beyond their years, and so it is the case here: Hazel and Augustus at times come across more like idealized versions of themselves than actual living people. Even their faults are perfectly expressed in metaphor, their emotions precisely defined. It was that precision, though, and that heightened realism that helped ground the “cancer story” and prevented TFIOS from becoming too maudlin. Where other tragedy-porn authors steer into verbose, florid language and hyperbole to create the verbal equivalent of that token string swell, Green’s incredible ability to put a point on the exact situational qualities that define a moment draws out more honest empathy from the reader. In other words: this may still have been emotional manipulation, but when the tears came, I felt more like they came from actual understanding than from a heavy mallet to the back of the head.

alwaysanswerb’s #CBR5 Review 42: Looking for Alaska by John Green

Goodreads summary: “Miles “Pudge” Halter’s whole existence has been one big nonevent, and his obsession with famous last words has only made him crave the “Great Perhaps” (François Rabelais, poet) even more. Then he heads off to the sometimes crazy, possibly unstable, and anything-but-boring world of Culver Creek Boarding School, and his life becomes the opposite of safe. Because down the hall is Alaska Young. The gorgeous, clever, funny, sexy, self-destructive, screwed-up, and utterly fascinating Alaska Young, who is an event unto herself. She pulls Pudge into her world, launches him into the Great Perhaps, and steals his heart.”

Looking for Alaska predates Paper Towns, which I read first. I mention this because in my review of Paper Towns, I suggested that John Green had successfully navigated the familiar waters of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl trope by at first buying into it, then subverting it. He tried something very similar here, but I don’t think he was as successful. The two books are very, very similar, but Paper Towns seems to be a slightly more mature version of Looking for Alaska; both feature self-proclaimed ‘average guy’ protagonists whose worlds are upended by an extraordinary girl, but while by the end of her book Alaska Young remains more of an iconoclastic symbol than a real person, Margo Roth Spiegelman in Paper Towns explicitly rejects the idealized version of herself the protagonist believes she is.

This was, still, a book I enjoyed, and even though all of the characters sound in one way or another like they have a healthy measure of John Green in them (by which I mean, it’s like in movies where an actor might be doing a really great job, but s/he is so famous that you never quite forget it’s that actor. That’s kind of what a lot of John Green’s characters are like), they were all still people I wouldn’t have minded having as friends in high school. His prose is very lyrical and he has the ability to describe feelings in a very acute, descriptive, and yet poetic way. More than once I stopped and thought to myself, regarding something I would have previously thought indescribable, “Yes, that is exactly what that feels like.” That ability is probably his greatest asset as an author, especially given the specific realm that he chooses to inhabit in his novels, which I would title “teenage romance and self discovery in peculiar circumstances.” Anyway, you probably don’t strictly need to read this if you’ve already read Paper Towns, but given that my audience is a bunch of people who are specifically trying to read as many books as they can, I’ll just say that this is an enjoyable few hours.

3.5 stars

bonnie’s #CBR5 Review #56: The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

Normally, I like to jump into my CBR Review quickly and bop through a breezy synopsis and analysis of the book, but this time, there’s too much going on. Did you ever read a book that sort of corresponded to a life situation? Because it happened this time, and I feel like my reading experience was influenced by my personal experience, and that turned the book into something different altogether.

About 6 weeks ago, one my close friends and colleagues in my department was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor. She’s in her early 30s, it’s sudden, and she’s having to take time off work and school to go through surgery, radiation, and chemo. What’s worse, is this kind of tumor is likely to come back. We don’t know when.

So, in our small group of friends, the CANCER specter is hovering rather annoyingly over us. It feels like it is clouding so much, and I’m fighting so hard to keep it away. I’ve been to visit my friend at her parents house out-of-state, and she is amazing in that she is keeping her head up and just focusing on getting better. I was supposed to visit her again last week, but she had to go back to the hospital for another surgery, much to our great disappointment. School is starting again, and I just don’t know when I’ll have the time, and I don’t want to “forget” her and leave her behind.

So, reading The Fault in Our Stars was actually very helpful, if you can believe that. Not everything is analogous, obviously. But in following the quasi-love story of Hazel and Augustus, I began to realize (yet again) that life/death/loss/love are all connected and equally unpredictable for the healthy and “sick” alike.

I particularly like John Green’s treatment of cancer. He’s not sentimental and often makes fun of the Cancer Patient trope and the Cancer Genre of writing (Lurlene McDaniel, anyone???). People with cancer aren’t saints and they aren’t perfect. They are. Ultimately, we all just are. And that might be the single greatest takeaway from this novel.

The novel ends as one might expect it does. I will say: it does not surpass The Book Thief for its soul-gutting devastation that had me curled up in a fetal position over a box of Kleenex. I’d describe my sadness as a slow and steady leak of tears because the pain and beauty were just slightly too much to bear together.

My one critique of the book would have to be the end. I don’t know what it is about books dealing specifically with loss, but for some reason, the end of the novel just didn’t feel…realistic, right, I don’t know (this is, by the way, my one criticism of Ian McEwan’s excellent The Child in Time, another book about loss and grief). It was too neat. It didn’t seem entirely realistic and in keeping with the rest of the story. But perhaps Mr. Green realized he needed to provided his readers some catharsis and chose this particular setup. It doesn’t detract from the novel overall, and I am very glad that I read it.

For being a novel about cancer, this book is filled with joy, surprise, love, and exquisite happiness. Things I hope to carry to all my friends and loved ones for as long as I have them. Cancer or no cancer.*

You can also read this review on my personal blog, The Universe Disturbed.

 

*Please forgive my excessive use of feelings. I am feeling so many things today, and I just cannot put them all into coherent words.

alwaysanswerb’s #CBR5 Review 39: Paper Towns by John Green

Goodreads says: “Quentin Jacobsen has spent a lifetime loving the magnificently adventurous Margo Roth Spiegelman from afar. So when she cracks open a window and climbs back into his life – dressed like a ninja and summoning him for an ingenious campaign of revenge – he follows.

After their all-nighter ends and a new day breaks, Q arrives at school to discover that Margo, always an enigma, has now become a mystery. But Q soon learns that there are clues – and they’re for him. Urged down a disconnected path, the closer Q gets, the less Q sees the girl he thought he knew.”

I really enjoyed this one. It surprised me; it started out as what seemed to be a pretty standard tale of a guy obsessed with a Manic Pixie Dream Girl, and that she is the key to enlivening his existence. But then Paper Towns turned that whole trope on its head and became a complete deconstruction of it. What started as Quentin worshipping a romanticized ideal of Margo Roth Spiegelman became Quentin realizing he doesn’t know her at all and trying to, first by reading into clues she left behind and then by finally understanding that the whole of who a person is can’t be deduced just by pieces left behind.

Philosophical meanderings aside, the novel also had a ton of great smaller moments between friends in their final weeks of high school, a satisfying (if unrealistic) storyline of high school jerks getting their come-uppance, and some hilariously cartoonish parents. Seriously: the three sets of parents we hear the most about are prototypically mean and neglectful (Margo’s), blissfully clueless (Quentin’s), or delightfully wacky to the extent of trying to collect every Black Santa ever produced in tangible form (Radar’s).

This is a charming and thoughtful YA book that was a quick and satisfying read. It was my first John Green book, and I have others coming through the library hold pipeline that I’m excited about.

Travis_J_Smith’s #CBR5 Review #61: An Abundance of Katherines by John Green

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Once you move past the absurdity of a character who’s dated girls named Katherine exclusively, the number of Katherines having reached as high as 18, John Green’s An Abundance of Katherines manages to be entertaining, almost in spite of its self. I mean, I could easily rattle off reasons why you might not take to it like I did. For instance, Colin can be an insufferably whiny twat, plus his character arc can be predicted from the outset. Those are what stood out to me, whereas I’ve noticed others taking issue with other, more minor aspects of the work. The abundance of kafirs and fugs Colin and Hassan, his best and only friend, spout off at the mouth with is one example.

I don’t deny the existence of these flaws. Rather, I question their importance in the grand scheme. Yes, Colin’s beating at the hands of TOC (The Other Colin) felt almost cathartic, his stubborn inability to move on from this Katherine thing well deserving of a beating. I’ll also grant you that the story isn’t as ambitious as Green’s latest release, The Fault in Our Stars. Every story needn’t be leaden with meaning, though, and Colin’s ignorance was acceptable for someone his age. When I was as old as him, I was begging a girl whose hand I’d never even held to remain my “girlfriend.” Who am I, then, to judge? Who is anyone to question him, as I wager many of you were no more enlightened when it came to love than he was.

Oh, and the bit about everything being kafir this or fug that? Well, fug that. I noticed the outcry in response to it partway through the book, thus, became hyper-aware of the usage of each word, and still saw no reason for alarm. Teenagers are cesspools of angst and profanity; be glad it wasn’t fuck this and fuck that instead.

An Abundance of Katherines is a story that aims low, yet lands its shot so close to center that it’s forgivable. The story is, in my opinion, Green’s funniest, and its lightness makes it a quick, easy, and satisfying read. Page for page, I prefer it to The Fault in Our Stars which aims higher, yet isn’t as much of a sharpshooter.

 

Travis Smith’s blog, containing this review, as well as others, photography, and more, can be found here.