real-talk YA book reviews

Tag Archives: John Green

let it snow

Enjoyability:      smile transpsmile transpsmile transpsmile transpsmile transp half gray

Deep Thoughts: brain2brain2brain outline transp 2brain outline transp 2brain outline transp 2

Pages: 352   Copyright: 2008

The blurb: “Sparkling white snowdrifts, beautiful presents wrapped in ribbons, and multicolored lights glittering in the night through the falling snow. A Christmas Eve snowstorm transforms one small town into a romantic haven, the kind you see only in movies. Well, kinda. After all, a cold and wet hike from a stranded train through the middle of nowhere would not normally end with a delicious kiss from a charming stranger. And no one would think that a trip to the Waffle House through four feet of snow would lead to love with an old friend. Or that the way back to true love begins with a painfully early morning shift at Starbucks. Thanks to three of today’s bestselling teen authors—John Green, Maureen Johnson, and Lauren Myracle—the magic of the holidays shines on these hilarious and charming interconnected tales of love, romance, and breathtaking kisses.”

               Hey, everybody! I’m college now! I’m posting this from my dorm as my dream catcher lays on the desk beside me because my command hook wasn’t man enough to stay on my cinderblock wall. If anybody knows of a satanic substance that will stick to the unstickable, please let me know, because this situation is unnacceptable. But anyhoo, on to the book. 

                Let It Snow was not as mushy as the blurb makes it sound. The only author of the three that I had any past experience with was John Green, but Johnson and Myracle passed the test—they fit in easily at the lunch table of the witty and talented YA writers that I already know and love.

                I liked and felt a connection to all three of the protagonists, and all three of the love stories were excellently fresh and strong— there’s a case to be made for formulaic swoony romances, but these connections weren’t those. Myracle’s story was the closest to that swoony zone, and I’ve been given to understand that some readers found it the weakest of the three, but I thought it was sincerely sweet and dodged clichés as well as the other two.

                The interweaving of the three stories was also very well and naturally done. If this book had been sold as the work of a single author, I think I would have believed it. Each story had its own flavor, but they tossed together into a tastefully cohesive salad. With the added bonus of the snowy, hot-chocolatey winter theme, this is the perfect pick for cold blanket-pile days and summery imaginings alike.

Special Awards:

sqee  Squee for romantic prowess.

comedy mask ROFL award because although I didn’t laugh out loud a lot, there was a lot of witty humor, especially in Green’s section.

What’s super fun and closing in three days? The I’ll Be the Judge Flash Fiction Flash Contest! You still have time to send me a super-short story!


katherines Enjoyability:     smile transpsmile transpsmile transpsmile transpsmile transp

Deep Thoughts: brain2brain2brain outline transp 2brain outline transp 2brain outline transp 2

Pages: 229   Copyright: 2006

        Colin Singleton has been two things all his life: a child prodigy, and a dater of Katherines. He has been romantically involved with nineteen girls over the course of his existence thus far, and all of them have been named Katherine– there just seems to be a correlation between the name and his compatibility with them. But now he’s been dumped by K-19, devastatingly ending the longest and most serious Katherine situation yet, and with his high school diploma in hand, his prodigy status is quickly becoming a thing of the past. 

      Seeing his emotional deterioration, Colin’s best (and only) friend Hassan, an overweight wise-cracking Muslim with a slacker attitude, peels him off his bedroom floor and takes him on a road trip. They have no idea at the start that they’ll end up in Gutshot, Tennessee, living in a pink mansion, working on an amateur oral history project, and in Colin’s case, attempting to formulate a Theorum of Underlying Katherine Predictability that will explain why he’s a perennial Dumpee, and might finally transform him from has-been prodigy to legitimate genius. 

     This is it, folks. The John Green book that I can unconditionally love. No death or destruction. Just pure unadulterated writing prowess, loveable characters, and quirky, unforgettable plot. I love premises that make you go “wow, I’ve never heard that before!”, and a guy dating only Katherines fits that bill; even better, the rest of the story lives up to the premise and matches it in originality. It doesn’t rest on those laurels like some flashy-premise books do, but keeps on bringing it, with Colin’s prodigy-hood and his fun footnotes1, Hassan and his constant jokes about his religion, the people of Gutshot, etc. Also, I think one of my favorite things about John Green is how he writes male friendships. Hassan and Colin has excellent friend-chemistry.

     I’ve been reading complaints that people thought Colin was whiny and unlikeable, but I disagree. Whiny, yes, but that’s the point. He has enough good qualities and supporting characters (and people calling him on it) to balance it out. I thought he seemed like a good guy at the core, and I was rooting for him. I also really enjoyed the Katherine stories that were smattered throughout the book– it was artful of John Green to do it that way, rather than just info-dumping the full Katherine lineup in the beginning. It was a good framework to keep things moving.

     If I have one big criticism for the book, it’s this: if I was a girl named Katherine, and a guy asked me out only to later admit that he’s dated as many as eighteen other Katherines before me, I  would run. I don’t believe that those girls would hear that and not assume he was some creep who ONLY liked them for their name. I could be talked into it with the magic of suspension of disbelief, I guess, but the book never addressed the issue even once. Maybe it was an issue of an adult man not being able to entirely sense the viewpoint of a teenage girl. But ah well.

     An Abundance of Katherines was short and sweet, and it’s definitely my favorite of the John Green books I’ve read. I hope he does more like this in the future and steers away from Depressingville. But that’s just me.

Special Awards:

comedy mask  ROFL award– Okay, it didn’t actually make me roll on the floor, but it did make me chuckle.

music notes Lyrical Award, just because John’s writing is always so slick. It disappears into the story.

___________________________________________________

1Incidentally, I’m currently reading ANOTHER novel that uses footnotes (I’ve Got Your Number by Sophie Kinsella). How strange is that? I like them; they really add whimsy.


          Hello, world. Happy Saturday. Today is pretty booked up for me– this morning I had callbacks for my school’s production of a cute rom-com play called Almost, Maine (this is the first show I’ve ever had my heart set on a specific part in. It’s stressful!!), and later I’m going to a big holiday party.

          So, I kind of feel like I’m in the middle of a booknado right now, except without the peaceful eye-of-the-storm part. I have Allegiant (the end of the Divergent trilogy) out from the library, finally, and I have Ned Vizzini’s new book The Other Normals out from my school library, which I’ve had for quite some time, and I’m not really sure when it’s due back. So clearly I should be reading those. But then there are two books that I recently bought, I’ve Got Your Number by Sophie Kinsella and An Abundance of Katherines by John Green, and those two, especially the latter, just keep calling my name more loudly. Which is causing a lot of stress, because I know my time is limited to read the library ones. I guess I just have this feeling like Allegiant is complex and intense, and The Other Normals kind of is too, while the ones I own are lighthearted, easy realistic fictions, and I’m more in the mood to relax than to sit on the edge of my chair.

            I’ll try to persevere with the library ones, if for no other reason for the sake of reporting to you all about them before they’re taken away.

            If you’ve been following my monologues especially carefully over the months, you’ll know that it’s newsworthy that I’m feeling so positive about a John Green book— not that I haven’t enjoyed his work a lot, but there’s always been that sense that I’m not as 1000% obsessed as the rest of the reader world is. But a friend told me that An Abundance of Katherines was her favorite, and I sense already that I may be inclined to agree. I only have one major beef with it, and that is that I cannot buy for a second that nineteen girls named Katherine would have zero problem with the fact that their boyfriend only dates Katherines, refers to them by number (Katherine IV, Katherine XI), and has dated as many as eighteen of them before her. Why should they believe he likes them for them and not for their name? Huge red flag. But whatever. It’s a really fun book, well written like his stuff always is, and I don’t sense any awful tragedies lurking ahead. Hopefully.

            On a maybe-unrelated note, I’ve been messing with drawing a lot lately. I’ve always called myself “the artistic type” while avoiding sports and suffering through math homework, but for the most part, that’s manifested itself more in writing than in visual art. But I’ve always been partial to drawing people, maybe for the same reason that I like to write. Drawing someone is like creating a character, but it gives you a lot of abilities in that creation that you don’t have in writing, and can convey your vision a lot more efficiently and powerfully (a picture is worth a thousand words). My preferred medium has always been plain old un-colored pencil on paper; it’s very no-fuss and I can focus my energy without worrying about mastering a lot of tools. So I’ve been drawing a lot of people, and more than anything, pushing myself to do different body positions, other than straight-on views of a person standing in rigid mountain pose. And to add another level, being on Tumblr with all the jaw-droppingly talented art that gets posted there makes me want to add my humble attempts to the mix, so I’ve done some ink-outlining (my lines are never dark enough) and scanning. And naturally seeing a drawing in photoshop makes me want to color it, but the tutorial to do anything more than basic unshaded colors seemed to go from a scribble in step 1 to the Mona Lisa in step 2, so… yikes.

            But anyhow, it’s been fun, and I guess if I just keep making tiny advances, I can only improve. Hopefully.

           Notice that I haven’t said anything about the fact that I’m hearing back from my top-choice college in four days. Or actually, you didn’t notice, because you didn’t know. Because I don’t want to talk about it. So I guess that closes that subject. *muffled screaming*

           Is your shelf overloaded? Or are you in a book lull?


           lfaEnjoyability:       smile transpsmile transpsmile transpsmile transp half graysmile transp gray

Deep Thoughts: brain2brain2brain2brain2brain outline transp 2

Pages: 221  Copyright: 2006

                  Miles Halter’s life has always been fine; but that’s not enough anymore. As an aficionado of famous last words, he knows that the life he’s living is unlikely to be very memorable. He’s seeking the “Great Perhaps” that François Rabelais spoke of on his deathbed. So he moves from Florida to Culver Creek Boarding School in Alabama. And he finds what he was looking for.

                Culver Creek is a world apart. It’s a world of social class rivalries, elaborate pranks, and a new group of friends that revolutionize Miles entirely (and rename him Pudge). They are edgy, intelligent, and maybe a little out of control. And then there’s Alaska Young, who is more alive, more beautiful, and more intoxicating than anyone he’s ever known. But things that burn too hot and fast can’t sustain themselves forever. When Pudge learns that really engaging with life means being vulnerable to great pain as well as great joy, he is faced with spiritual dilemmas that have captivated generations of thinkers.

                This was my serious attempt to climb onto the John Green train that I missed when he became the king of everything. Am I on the train? I don’t know, so I guess not, because I don’t think there’d be a question if I was. Did I like the book? Ultimately, yes.

                It all comes down to this: I do. Not. Like. Sad. Books. I just do not.

                And there was a period in Looking for Alaska where it was a sad book. And I understood why, but I didn’t like it. And that’s not a value judgment at all, it’s just me. But then it came out of the dark space, and it started to make sense of the sadness, and I, along with the characters, was able to step back and appreciate the story again. And ultimately, I was left feeling uplifted, in that cathartic way. The ending of the book and the main character’s final soliloquy had me filled with awe for life and the universe and such. I read it for a class, and I think I would have felt more negative and unable to deal with it if that hadn’t been the case. The assignment aspect helped me get to the detached place.

                John Green has a way of making things important. He’s one of those authors with characters that you want to listen to. He is also the master of the quirky character gambit. Each of the characters in LFA are full of color in their own way. I enjoyed, for example, hearing the various noteworthy last words of famous people that Pudge has memorized. I also liked that supporting characters who were originally presented as flat and unimportant came to reassert themselves as round human beings with their own desires and problems. They seemed to be written that way to intentionally send a message: we view most of the people in our lives as cardboard scenery in our life stories, but every single person that we see has an entire world and existence just as complete as ours.

                I thought this book was very deep, and very genuine. I believed in the characters, and was gripped by the story, and it gives a lot of interesting thoughts and ideas that would be great to have a discussion about. It certainly made me feel something, or a lot of things. If there’s one thing I’m willing to say definitively about John Green, it’s that he has writing talent. Also, I think I liked this one better than Paper Towns. But it might take a reread to say for sure.

                 In case anyone was wondering, I still refuse to read The Fault in our Stars.  


200px-WillGrayson

Enjoyability:       smile transpsmile transpsmile transpsmile transpsmile transp gray

Deep Thoughts: brain2brain2brain2brain outline transp 2brain outline transp 2

Pages: 304   Copyright: 2010

Will Grayson is a perpetually average guy, overshadowed by his larger-than-life best friend, Tiny, who is currently busy putting on Tiny Dancer, a musical of his life (the indisputably gayest musical ever written, as even he agrees). Meanwhile, elsewhere in his town, Chicago, another boy, also named Will Grayson, is living with clinical depression, unable to connect with anybody except Isaac, his long-distance online boyfriend, who he has never met in person. When the two Will Graysons meet by chance one night, both of them at low points, their storylines intertwine, pushing both of them off their tracks and into the unknown.

                I was coerced and urged over a long period of time to read this book, but I was hesitant, because of my John Green issues. I read Paper Towns a while ago, and enjoyed it well enough, but didn’t love it. Then later I started listening to An Abundance of Katherines on a car trip, but I don’t do that well with listening to books, and the trip wasn’t long enough to get very far in it. So my relationship with John Green has been kind of stalled on the runway, and then came the John Green explosion, with everybody ADORING him (especially since I’ve joined Tumblr, they love him on there), and loving The Fault in Our Stars, which I know is way too sad for me to ever read, and I just started feeling like he was one of those bandwagons that was going to pass me by.

                But I think this was the perfect gateway book to John Green, because he wrote it with David Levithan, who I LOVE LOVE LOVE. And you know what? I couldn’t for the life of me tell which chapter was written by who. John Green’s sections had everything I love about David Levithan—the same sardonic wit, the same loveable, relatable characters, the same awkward, sweet and believable romance. And both authors infuse their writing with meaning and insightfulness that doesn’t feel overdone or preachy.

                Both Will Graysons had my heart. Will Grayson #2 annoyed me a little at first, because he doesn’t capitalize any of his letters, which seemed really affected to me (I still think it would have been stronger without that quirk— his character would have shown through just fine without it, and it’s a tad gimmicky), and also his incredibly bleak and negative outlook got on my nerves. But I realize that’s kind of the point; he gets on his own nerves too, for the very same reasons. Once things started going a little better for him, and I came to understand him better and feel empathy, I came to love and care about him. Will Grayson #1’s story was a delight from the start. Tiny was so fun to read about. In Will’s words, “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 also really, really gay, and also the world’s gayest person who is also really, really large”. I really can’t try to summarize and describe Tiny here, except to say that he’s a force of nature. I really enjoyed reading everything that Will #1 thought, and his romance line was very gripping, cute, and above all, very realistic.

                Another great aspect of this book was the musical storyline. The lyrics from the songs, which are quoted here and there throughout, are highly entertaining, and as a long-time theater participant, I enjoyed all references to the process of putting on the show. It really added to the story.

                The very ending of the book is highly, highly unrealistic. But it was fun.

                John Green and David Levithan clearly make a perfect team. The latter didn’t disappoint me, and the former has earned my trust— at least enough to pick up one of his solo books. We’ll see what happens.

               In any case, yes, Em, I finally read Will Grayson, Will Grayson, and yes, you were right.  

Special Awards:

sqee  Squee for Will #1’s romance. It was pretty cute.