Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

The Fault in Our Stars 
By John Green
Publisher: Dutton
Date Published: January 10, 2012

        Two years post-miracle, sixteen-year-old Hazel is post-everything else, too post-high school, post-friends and post-normalcy. And even though she could live for a long time (whatever that means), Hazel lives tethered to an oxygen tank, the tumors tenuously kept at bay with a constant chemical assault.

Enter Augustus Waters. A match made at cancer kid support group, Augustus is gorgeous, in remission, and shockingly to her, interested in Hazel. Being with Augustus is both an unexpected destination and a long-needed journey, pushing Hazel to re-examine how sickness and health, life and death, will define her and the legacy that everyone leaves behind.


In fact, this review (for now) will be rather brief because after finishing The Fault in Our Stars in about seven hours, I still find myself utterly speechless and at a loss for how I could ever write a review that will be able to encompass all the feelings I feel for this book. 

In short, this book is achingly beautiful. I didn't want it to end. I loved Hazel and Augustus, who exude intelligence and charisma but are not without their flaws.Who knew a novel about two teens with cancer could be so humorous and lovely and real? While Looking For Alaska did not fully garner my attention until its last pages, The Fault in Our Stars captured me the entire way through.

I haven't read Green's An Abundance of Katherines or Paper Towns yet, and I'm a little afraid that they won't measure up to my impression of TFiOS, which is his most recent (and probably most mature) book as a writer. Nevertheless, Green has won a fan in me with this novel and I plan on reading and rereading all of his work.

This one is highly, highly recommended.Well done, John Green- and thank you!

Looking for Alaska by John Green

Looking for Alaska 
By John Green
Publisher: Puffin 
Date Published: March 3, 2005

       Miles Halter is fascinated by famous last words and tired of his safe life at home. He leaves for boarding school to seek what the dying poet Francois Rabelais called the "Great Perhaps." Much awaits Miles at Culver Creek, including Alaska Young. Clever, funny, screwed-up, and dead sexy, Alaska will pull Miles into her labyrinth and catapult him into the Great Perhaps.

After discovering John and Hank Green's vlogbrothers channel (which has kept me wonderfully entertained and sane throughout the college application process) about a month ago, I finally ventured into John's writing with his debut novel.

Nearly seven years after its release, Looking for Alaska still holds the same it did when it received the Printz award in 2005. It’s raw, gritty (graphic at times), and doesn’t shy away from the reality of teenage angst and emotion.

While I never quite thought I can really see myself as this character or that character (mainly because I don’t smoke or drink or engage in many things of the same nature etc.), the questions Pudge or Alaska ask are ones which every young adult, every adult even, grapples with, like “How will [we] ever get out of this labyrinth?”

I admit that while I found Looking for Alaska enthralling in its closing, a majority of the novel "Before" left me feeling kind of empty. All the same, Green excels most in painting a picture of coming to terms with pain and loss. How do we escape suffering? Despite the aura of gloom and sadness, there is a sense that hope dwells in suffering. Things happen, but we move on. 

The beginning may not have captured me, but the final stretch is completely worth it.

Monday, January 2, 2012

John Green Week

 A bunch of lovely bloggers are hosting John Green Week this week, leading to the release of his newest novel The Fault in Our Stars next Tuesday (January 10). I actually have not completed any of Green's books (I stumbled upon the Greens from Vlogbrothers, their amazingly hilarious youtube channel), but I picked up all of them from the library last week and am planning on reading them this week as part of the festivities. I was one of the Barnes and Nobles customers who received a leaked copy of TFiOS last week, but I have joined the Nerdfighter movement and put it on my shelf to be read at a time when it was meant to be read.

 Head over to I Eat Words for more information on John Green Week!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

2012 Completely Contemporary Challenge

I started this blog a bit later in this past year. So I was really sad that I missed out on a lot of cool reading challenges around the blogosphere. Luckily, 2012 is on its way and a new year means new opportunities to enter all of these challenges! I'll be participating in the Story Siren's 2012 Debut Author Challenge as well as Chick Loves Lit's Completely Contemp Challenge. The Contemp challenge is really to set your own, attainable goal and read that number of contemporary YA novels from the past two years and next year. Since this is my first challenge, I'm going to stick with a goal of 3 per year. Here's my projected list:

1. Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver

2. The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson

3. Amy and Roger's Epic Detour by Morgan Matson

4. How to Save a Life by Sara Zarr

5. The Future of Us by Jay Asher

6. Sean Griswold's Head by Lindsey Leavitt

7. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

8. Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins

9. The Fine Art of Truth or Dare by Melissa Jensen

Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins

Lola and the Boy Next Door
By Stephanie Perkins
Publisher: Dutton
Date Published: September 29, 2011
       Budding designer Lola Nolan doesn’t believe in fashion . . . she believes in costume. The more expressive the outfit -- more sparkly, more fun, more wild -- the better. But even though Lola’s style is outrageous, she’s a devoted daughter and friend with some big plans for the future. And everything is pretty perfect (right down to her hot rocker boyfriend) until the dreaded Bell twins, Calliope and Cricket, return to the neighborhood.

When Cricket -- a gifted inventor -- steps out from his twin sister’s shadow and back into Lola’s life, she must finally reconcile a lifetime of feelings for the boy next door.

I wasn't sure Perkins would be able to top her debut, Anna and the French Kiss (which I recently reviewed here). While Anna still bests Lola and the Boy Next Door, I'm glad to report that it's by an extremely slim margin. Lola was just as thoughtful and likeable as Perkins' first novel, and another testament to the fact that young adult chick-lit can stretch a bit deeper than one might expect.

All of the elements that made Anna stand out can be found in Lola. Everything is in the details. Perkins' plots are really nothing new- girl meets boy, they fall into like, external hurdles (the inevitable other boyfriend or girlfriend) get in the way, angst ensues, but then love triumphs in the end. This plot is resurrected by all the memorable details Perkins instills into her characters, from Lola's ostentatious fashion to Cricket's messages on his hand.

Perkins really has a knack (I've been using this word a lot lately) for creating likeable, swoon-worthy male leads who are likeable because of their imperfections. Cricket may be awkward and nerdy and "overly nice" (though honestly I've never understood the whole 'nice guys finish last' thing), but he feels real in ways that Etienne St. Clair (of Anna) does not. In fact, I think I actually may prefer Cricket.

Paris was truly a character in Anna. Perkins once again illustrates her ability to capture the essence of a city, to the point where the city magically plays a prominent role in the story. I almost feel as if Lola could not have taken place anywhere outside of San Francisco.

I enjoyed all the appearances made by St. Clair and Anna and was happily surprised that they were a more integral part of this story than I thought they would be. I expected a once sentence cameo, or a brief mention. However, it's important to note that Lola and Cricket definitely stand on their own and I didn't wish to see even more of St Clair or Anna because I completely believed and understood that this was Lola and Cricket's story.

I'm looking forward to 2012's Isla and the Happily Ever After, the final companion novel in Perkins' trio of novels.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Top Ten Tuesday: Childhood Favorites

Top Ten Tuesday is an original weekly meme created and hosted by The Broke and the Bookish

1. Julius, Baby of the World by Kevin Henkes : This was just absolutely hilarious to me first-grader self. I think I really identified with it because when my little brother was born, I sort of look down on him with animosity at first because I was jealous.
2. The Magic Tree House #20: Dingos at Dinnertime by Mary Pope Osborne : This book was really the stepping stone between pictures books and chapter books for me. I remember finding it in a stack of books my older cousin gave me, back when I still had never read "a real book without pictures" before. I got hooked and went through the rest of the series at the time.
3. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling : Must I even explain how important this book has been in my life? This is where it all started, where I realized that I loved reading. I grew up with Harry in a sense, since I discovered his world when I was only six.
4. The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner : These had such a pivotal role in whetting my appetite for mystery.
5. The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis : I happened on Narnia by chance. I didn't find Narnia through a wardrobe, but I did find it in a stack of my teacher's books when I needed to find a book for independent reading. Along with Harry Potter, the world of Narnia has since then been one of my favorite places to return to.
6. Nancy Drew: Nancy's Mysterious Letter by Carolyn Keene : I LOVED Nancy and I still do. I went through all of them in a matter of months (quite a feat for my young age)
7. A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Ersatz Elevator : ASoUE, while grim for children's books, always fascinated me because of its three protagonists. The Ersatz Elevator is probably my favorite because I felt like it was the most inventive and engaging.
8. Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine : I've read this 5x, I swear. My favorite adaptation of Cinderella.
9. Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie : Magic and never growing up! I think I've always appreciated fairy tales with a darker edge. I'm a fan of the real Peter Pan over Disney's version of him.
10. The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale : I think I went through a phase where I just really loved stories about magic and princesses mixed with a bit of darkness. The Goose Girl can also easily be appreciated by any teenager, I think.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

Never Let Me Go
By Kazuo Ishiguro
Publisher: Vintage
Date Published: April 5, 2005

     Hailsham seems like a pleasant English boarding school, far from the influences of the city. Its students are well tended and supported, trained in art and literature, and become just the sort of people the world wants them to be. But, curiously, they are taught nothing of the outside world and are allowed little contact with it.

Within the grounds of Hailsham, Kathy grows from schoolgirl to young woman, but it’s only when she and her friends Ruth and Tommy leave the safe grounds of the school (as they always knew they would) that they realize the full truth of what Hailsham is
The past month my assignment in English class has been to read a Man Booker Prize winner or nominee. Since I had been meaning to get around to Never Let Me Go for the longest time, naturally I decided to choose it! (It was a nominee for the prize in 2005). 

Through the eyes of Kathy, the narrator, we're bombarded with memories and brief moments in time. There are really quiet, lovely depictions of life and never-ending English countryside. The story is slow-paced at times, and not much action actually occurs, but the character interactions are magnetic. 

Yet despite the nostalgic tone (which I loved) and sense of peacefulness, there is always something disconcerting lying behind Kathy's narration, as it was probably meant to be. Perhaps its the resigned way in which Kathy regards her future, when readers can only think: Why didn't any of them ever try to escape their fates? I don't want to give away a large aspect behind the mystery of the novel, but as the story progresses, this sense of a loss of innocence as the characters move away from their childhood ignorance increases and it's heartbreaking.

This novel isn't for everyone. The themes are a bit more mature, and will not please those who prefer plots where major events occur. I felt drained once I had finished it. I felt tired because I had invested so much into the lives of these characters only to reach the end and discover their fates. Though it was somewhat unsettling (for a reason), I loved the quiet poignancy that pervaded Ishiguro's writing. I appreciate that Never Let Me Go gave me a lot to think about and suspect that this book will keep haunting me even after I have written this review.