I’m not done with my discussion of The Great Gatsby just yet (if you haven’t already, check out my review from Thursday). While poking around the internet for Gatsby love, I happened upon this video by the one and only John Green. It’s one of his regular Vlogbrothers videos from last fall (just a few weeks before my epic school night road trip to see him speak in Asheville). In this video, he offers his analysis of some of the big metaphors in the novel, mainly the valley of ashes. If you’ve ever read or loved Fitzgerald, you need to watch this video. So happy Saturday, y’all. Enjoy.
The Fault In Our Stars
by John Green
Pre-Ordered from Amazon (signed copy!)
[#16 in my 75 Book Challenge]
“Some infinities are bigger than other infinities.”
I know I’m not the last person on the planet to read this book, because I see some of y’all on Twitter, your blogs, and Goodreads that are also still waiting to read or finish it. But sometimes I feel like I’m the last person to read it, a month late.
This is a story about kids dying from cancer. Hazel Grace Lancaster has been living with terminal Stage IV thyroid cancer since she was twelve. A pharmaceutical miracle saved her life at age fourteen, but Hazel is tethered to an oxygen tank 24/7 and is living on borrowed time. While attending a cancer kid support group, Hazel meets the charming Augustus Waters…and our adventure begins.
Let me say first that this book, while still very John Green-y in it’s nature, is different from the other John Green novels. First, it’s told (very well) through the POV of a girl. And it lacks a Margo/Katherine/Alaska-esque Manic Pixie Dream Girl. And the general plot veers a bit from the standard John Green plots. Just a bit. Like always, though, I loved the quoteable, intellectual moments, the references to classic literature, and the rapid-fire wittiness of the characters. I don’t care if teenagers don’t actually talk like that! They think they do in their heads, and I think I do in my head, so I’m okay reading it in a book. That’s the heart of why I love John Green so much. That his fabulous way of saying profound things in obscure ways.
TFioS is a book about cancer, so I was also well prepared for it to be sad. And it was. I can’t lie — there were teary spots on my pillow. But it wasn’t quite as sad as I was expecting. It felt real, and real things have more emotions than just gut-wrenching sadness. There’s hope. There’s acceptance. There’s fear. I like what John did with this book and I like the discussions that can come out of the story. It certainly made me think about my own life and helped me reconsider some of the fears I have.
Final Grade: B As much as I hate it, this particular book isn’t likely to make my top 10 at the end of the year. It was good, and the messages will stick in my brain for a long time. But I think the messages overpowered the plot sometimes. To be completely honest, I think I had difficulty connecting with the plot because I’ve never had anyone close to me die of anything, much less cancer (knock on wood). It will happen one day, I know, but right now I just have no idea how that feels and nothing to connect those emotions to. I imagine someone who has gone through that would give the book five stars. And I do think everyone should read it, so I would definitely recommend it to all of my students and friends. Even people who don’t like sad books — because this is so much more than a sad book! There are sad parts, but it’s a book about life. We all die at some point. What happens when we go?
AAAANNNNNDDDD some spoiler-free quotes from the oh-so-quoteable John Greeny-ness:
“I believe the universe wants to be noticed. I think the universe is inprobably biased toward the consciousness, that it rewards intelligence in part because the universe enjoys its elegance being observed. And who am I, living in the middle of history, to tell the universe that it-or my observation of it-is temporary?”
“There was quite a lot of competitiveness about it, with everybody wanting to beat not only cancer itself, but also the other people in the room. Like, I realize that this is irrational, but when they tell you that you have, say, a 20 percent chance of living five years, the math kicks in and you figure that’s one in five . . . so you look around and think, as any healthy person would: I gotta outlast four of these bastards.”
…and that’s all the non-spoiling quotes I could find. READ THE BOOK!
So, John Green Week comes to an end today with the release of The Fault in Our Stars. Amazon sent me an email last night saying my copy had shipped, but it probably won’t arrive until Friday (yay for super-saver shipping!). While I’m waiting, I’ve got plenty of awesome books to read. Don’t you worry.
If you didn’t know already, John Green has signed all of the pre-ordered copies of the book. There was many a Vlogbrothers video where poor John Green talked about how intense it is to sign 50,000 books. HOWEVER, I’ll be really excited when I can add the signed copy to my shelf. Maybe I’ll even be one of the lucky few to get a Hanklerfish or a Yeti on my signature page as well.
If you’ve never read a John Green novel, I hope this week of me obsessing over him has inspired you to read one of his fabulous books. My reviews of An Abundance of Katherines and The Fault in Our Stars will be coming as soon as I read them! I did want to wrap up the John Greeny-goodness with some related posts from the blogosphere.
From My Blog
- My weeknight road trip to see John Green in Asheville
- How to be a Nerdfighter
- Me and John Green in the same YouTube video
- Paper Towns and Looking for Alaska as #6 on my All-Time Favorites list
- My review of Will Grayson, Will Grayson
- My review of Looking for Alaska
- My review of Paper Towns
- My review of Geektastic
- My review of Let It Snow
From The Blogosphere
- John and Hank’s Vlogbrothers YouTube channel
- The Education of Nerdfighteria
- From The Reclusive Bibliophile, this is a categorized list of Vlogbrothers videos that contain interesting tidbits of information.
- The Top Ten Things I Like About John Green Novels
- elizzie’s vlog pretty much hits the nail on the head.
- I Eat Words
- Visit the hosts of John Green Week!
Paper Towns by John Green
Paper Towns is the story of Quentin Jacobsen and his search for Margo Roth Speigelman. Margo takes Quentin on an all-night journey around Orlando, accomplishing all of an eleven-part plan. The next morning, Margo disappears. Margo has left clues as to where and why she’s gone and Quentin spend the rest of the novel trying to track her down…because he’s in love with her. He’s always been in love with her.
This was the second John Green book I ever read, and I immediately compared it to Looking for Alaska. The characters are similar — the nerdy, trying-to-come-into-his-own Miles/Quentin is in love with the crazy, misunderstood, beautiful Alaska/Margo. However, two years later I remember them as two very different books. Looking for Alaska is darker, like a Death Cab for Cutie song. Paper Towns is an adventure.
What I Love About It
This book is just fun. It also has a great message, but first and foremost it is fun. The tasks Margo takes Quentin to complete are hilarious, and they are just the beginning of the mystery that is to unfold. Friendships are key to the story, and the dialog between Quentin and his friends was full of more laugh-out-loud moments than I could count. Margo’s clues involve the use of Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass, and the struggles that each of the characters go through feel real.
My favorite part of the story is that Quentin’s friend, Marcus “Radar” Lincoln, has parents who have the world’s second largest collection of black Santas. I ALWAYS think of Radar when I see a black Santa. Marcus also regularly adds articles to the online “Omnictionary,” which now actually exists on the internet (and is totally dedicated to John Green and Nerdfighteria).I also didn’t know what a Paper Town was until I read the end of this book, but I think the idea is really clever. My favorite parts of the book are the random moments of road-trippin’, geektastic, nerdalicious awesomeness, but the ending is what made it speak to my soul. John Green, again, writes a great novel with depth that treats teenagers like their feelings are legit.
“What a treacherous thing to believe that a person is more than a person.”
“Those of us who frequent the band room have long suspected that Becca maintains her lovely figure by eating nothing but the souls of kittens and the dreams of impoverished children.”
“Dude, I don’t want to talk about Lacey’s prom shoes. And I’ll tell you why: I have this thing that makes me really uninterested in prom shoes. It’s called a penis.”
“Traveling, I am finding, teaches you a lot of things about yourself. For instance, I never thought myself to be the kind of person who pees into a mostly empty bottle of Bluefin energy drink while driving through South Carolina at seventy-seven miles per hour – but in fact I am that kind of person.”
So, John Green definitely wrote some fabulous novels (I’ll be reviewing Paper Towns tomorrow). However, he also wrote some excellent short stories that have been featured in YA short story collections. I haven’t read all of these, but the ones I have read are excellent! Green hangs with the coolest crew of YA authors, so these collections read like a sampler of some of the most awesome literature for teens. For this post I’m reposting a review of Geektastic that I wrote last fall. Green’s story in the collection is called Freak The Geek.
Geektastic: Stories from the Nerd Herd edited by Holly Black and Cecil Castelluci
I am not typically a reader of short story collections, but I immediately knew I had to read this collection. I ordered this book with my last big book order because the reviews were great and it seemed like a fun book. When the book came in, I was actually able to see the list of contributing authors on the front of the book and I was hooked. Where else can you find a book that combines the topic of geekiness AND fabulous YA authors suchs a Libba Bray, John Green, Wendy Mass, David Levithan, Garth Nix, and MT Anderson? As a self-professed geek I could not deny my curiosity, so I had to read it.
It. Was. Awesome! This is one of the best books I have read this year. All aspects of geekiness are covered in these pages — band nerds, quiz bowl geeks, Role Playing Games (RPGs), conventions, stormtroopers, LARPing, Star Wars vs Star Trek, sci-fi, Dungeons and Dragons, comic books, Buffy, paleontology, drama geeks, astronauts, Rocky Horror, and so on. I guess I’m not geeky enough to know a whole lot about many of these geekdoms, but I enjoyed the overall geek-tasticness of reading about other geeks of all kinds. Though some of the stories were a little slow, most of the stories were perfect for getting a quick read in at lunch. I realized that the great thing about short stories is that they can be completed in one sitting.
My favorite stories in the book were “I Never” by Cassandra Clare, “Quiz Bowl Antichrist” by David Levithan, and “The Stars at the Finish Line” by Wendy Mass, and “It’s Just a Jump to the Left” by Libba Bray. This is definitely a book that I have purchased and added to my personal collection. It is a book I can see myself re-reading. Apparently my students feel the same way, because I can barely keep it on the shelf! Check out this book and other short story collections @your library!
Looking For Alaska by John Green
Looking for Alaska is the tale of Miles Halter as he heads off to boarding school at Culver Creek, in search of “the great prehaps.” Miles is obsessed with the last words of famous people and his new hall mate, the troubled and sexy Alaska Young.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a John Green book without the nicknames. In this one we’ve got Miles “Pudge” Halter and his roommate, Chip “The Colonel” Martin. Interestingly, Alaska Young is actually named Alaska.
I first read this book in the spring of 2010 in a young adult literature class for my master’s. I wasn’t reviewing books formally then, but I did keep a list of the ones I’d read with notes about each (can be found in the “50 Books 2010″ tab above). For Looking For Alaska I wrote, “Sad. But no crying. Just very very sad.” I wrote a post about Looking For Alaska and Paper Towns last February when I listed my 15 favorite books of all time. I ranked them (together) as #6. You can check out that post here.
What I love about it
This little gem won the Printz Award in 2005, and it definitely deserved it. Looking for Alaska was the very first John Green book that I ever read. I was hooked. Green manages to speak to the teenage experience without downplaying the real emotions that teenagers feel. Are these characters a little pretentious? Yes. Too quick-witted? Yes. But I’ll tell you right now that these kids do exist in the real world. Believe me, I hung out with them.
What kept me going in the story was the use of the countdown to the mysterious event. I wanted to know what the story kept counting down to. The book is divided into two parts: before and after. The before part was typical ya angsty boarding school fiction (which I love) with lots of smoking, drinking, pranks, and sex. The second part is what made the story great, taking it beyond the typical to a book about life and death.
This book sticks with me because of the event in the middle. I think about it a lot. There are many questions in my mind, but they will never be answered and I’ll have to stick with my own conclusion about what really happened. That’s why I love to talk about it with anyone that will listen!
“Thomas Edison’s last words were ‘It’s very beautiful over there’. I don’t know where there is, but I believe it’s somewhere, and I hope it’s beautiful.”
“I just did some calculations and I’ve been able to determine that you’re full of shit.”
“The only way out of the labyrinth of suffering is to forgive.”
Guess what, guys? It’s John Green Week!
John Green week celebrates the fabulolosity that is John Green in the week leading up to the release of his new novel, The Fault in Our Stars, on January 10.
Green’s books are full of smart, quirky characters, friendships, unrequited love, and the philosophical questions that we experience as we grow older and wiser. His books appeal to teens and adults alike because we’re all searching for love and meaning in life, but we also like to laugh while we’re doing it!
My tasks for this week will be as follows: revisiting my favorite John Green novels and moments, posting some vlogbrothers videos, and (finally) finishing/reviewing An Abundance of Katherines, the only John Green novel I haven’t yet read. My copy of The Fault In Our Stars probably won’t arrive until Jan. 17, but I can’t wait to start reading!
John Green Week is hosted by YA Bibliophile. Click here to read her post about the celebration, to see a list of other blogs hosting, and all the blogs participating.
Let It Snow: Three Holiday Romances
by Maureen Johnson, John Green, and Lauren Myracle
Library book ordered from Follett
[#4 in my 75 book challenge]
I waited all fall to read this book ON Christmas Eve. I read it over three days, December 24-26, and I would argue that that’s exactly how it should be read. I was not disappointed. The three stories, all taking place in the same North Carolina mountain town, are as follows:
“Jubilee Express” by Maureen Johnson
After her parents are put in jail due to a fight over Flobie Village collectibles, Jubilee is shipped on a train to her grandparents’ house in Florida. A massive snowstorm hits, and the train is forced to stop outside of Gracetown, NC. Jubilee hikes to the local Waffle House and meets Stuart, a sad Jewish boy with a broken heart.
“A Cheertastic Christmas Miracle” by John Green
The cheerleaders from Jubilee’s train have made their way to the Waffle House. Tobin, JD, and The Duke go on an adventure through the snow storm to bring Twister to the cheerleaders (and get some hash browns). Did I mention that “The Duke” is a pretty girl, and there’s romance in the air?
“The Patron Saint of Pigs” by Lauren Myracle
Addie works at the local Starbucks, and she’s sad. Sad because she made a mistake and lost Jeb, the love of her life. She’s a little bit self-centered and miserable, but she starts to make right some of the selfish things she’s done.
The one problem I had with the story was the geography (skip to the next paragraph if you don’t want to read me nitpicking). Jubilee’s train is supposed to be going from Richmond to Florida and it stops in western NC? There aren’t even any passenger train lines in western NC. At first I thought the story was taking place in the Raleigh area, but the final story makes it sound like this fictional town is supposed to be between Maggie Valley and Asheville. It also says it is a 200 mile drive between Maggie Valley and Asheville. Now hold up. I’m pretty sure I used to live in that town, and Maggie Valley is only 30 minutes from Asheville. Just sayin’.
Moving on…one of the reasons I did like this story is that it was taking place in my back yard. All of the three short stories came together to create a great novel. It’s Maureen Johnson, John Green, and Lauren Myracle for goodness sake! Johnson’s writing was real but charming and a little ridiculous at times (in a good way). John Green’s story was like all of his other stories that I love so much: smart and nerd-tastically funny. I’ve heard and seen some criticisms of Myracle’s story, but I also loved it. I’ve felt EXACTLY like Addie before, so that one hit really close to home. I didn’t blame Addie for moping around to much, and her story brought together all the other stories.
Final Grade: A Fluffy and fun, but well written. It served exactly the purpose I wanted it to serve, which was getting me in the holiday spirit. I think it would be enjoyable any time of year, and I will definitely recommend it to any of my students who like romance because it definitely delivered. I think this is my first A novel…how exciting!
I promised this a few weeks ago, but the video only posted last Wednesday…which means I’m only a week late in posting. To my friends who also know me in real life, you may have already seen this on Facebook. For everyone else, you must watch the video. At 0:06, if you look in the top right corner you can see some people with a cardboard cutout of their friend. Just behind them you see an arm or two flailing about.
I know it just barely counts, but I’m still very excited that John Green filmed us for his Vlogbrothers intro. If you’re feeling really snazzy, click the video to view it in YouTube and watch the video called “Reading Chapter One of The Fault in Our Stars,” where John gives a sneak peak of his new book. Our intro was supposed to play that day, but I guess I’ll forgive John Green because I am sooooooo excited about The Fault in Our Stars. I will be pre-ordering the signed copy from Amazon.
Watch this video, or as least the first 7 seconds, and enjoy.