Sunday, January 15, 2012

Sunday Sunshine: John Green Edition

This is a Very Special Sunday Sunshine, for two reasons:  one, it is entirely composed of John Green books, and two, today is kind of a fake Sunday because there is no school tomorrow, so I don't even have any Sunday Night Blahs to combat!  Plus, I've got a whole mess of finger sandwiches and Jaffa cakes and things ready for our friends who are coming over to watch Downton Abbey tonight.  So this is an extremely sunny Sunday indeed.  Let the reviews commence!

What I read in the last week: 

Paper TownsPaper Towns by John Green
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Something I love about John Green: the way he creates these wonderfully rich boy narrators with exactly the right amount of casual (hilarious) detail and gorgeous voice...and then makes them translucent overlays for girls who it's impossible not to love even if you know they are manic pixie dream girls. Something else I love: the way this book acknowledges and tangles with its MPDG. I think I will never be able to watch Garden State again: Natalie Portman's character is the ultimate paper girl and Zach Braff's is patently absurd and sort of offensive. Margo is actually, now that I think about it, kind of a muggle pixie dream girl--no magic, after all. Can't wait for more John Green!

Abundance of KatherinesAbundance of Katherines by John Green
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book made me realize and remember the joys of the 3rd person omniscient narrator (especially the sardonic, dry-witted kind). Not that I don't love first-person narrators--like the first-rate examples in John Green's other books--but man, 3rd person really worked for this book. Also, the math was pretty cool--not that I understood it, but just in general, I've started to get interested in mathematical thinking and communication, so this was a neat example of that.

The Fault in Our StarsThe Fault in Our Stars by John Green
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A note on the subjectivity of reading and reviewing: I read this book like a chicken. I knew it could make me cry--and oh, it sure could--and so I read it, and enjoyed it, and kept it at arm's length. I will go back to it someday when I have it in me to cry over a book, and also when I am not reading it on the subway and on Amtrak trains, and I will read it the way it is meant to be read, and then I will cry. Because John Green is exceptionally talented at writing funny, gut-wrenching books.

I will say that this book did make me, forcibly, smile. At least twice.

The author's note:

"This is not so much an author's note as an author's reminder of what was printed in small type a few pages ago: This book is a work of fiction. I made it up.
Neither novels or their readers benefit from attempts to divine whether any facts hide inside a story. Such efforts attack the very idea that made-up stories can matter, which is sort of the foundational assumption of our species.
I appreciate your cooperation in this matter."

And this, from p. 33:

"Sometimes, you read a book and it fills you with this weird evangelical zeal, and you become convinced that the shattered world will never be put back together unless and until all living humans read the book. And then there are books like An Imperial Affliction, which you can't tell people about, books so special and rare and yours that advertising your affection feels like a betrayal."

View all my reviews

Waiting In The Wings:   

 (For real this time!  Some of my students have read it and started talking about it in Book Blogging Club, so I must get this in before I get spoiled!)

 (Also for real--this was both a Christmas present from my mom, and also part of my resolution to diversify my reading habits this year!)
(Can you believe I haven't read this yet?  Me neither!)


  1. Great reviews! I just finished TFiOS and it might just be my favorite Green yet. Getting ready for Downton Abbey here too!

  2. I'm positive that the Fault in Our Stars is going to make me cry, the description made me cry so I'm preparing myself to read it, and cry.
    I never got around to reading Prairie Tale.

  3. oooh - Daughter of Smoke & Bone is so, so good! Enjoy!

  4. You made me laugh when you said you read the Fault in Our Stars "like a chicken"! I have been doing the same thing! I've been reading it slowly--very uncharacteristic for me--I'm one who sits down with a good book and doesn't get anything done until I'm finished! But--I'm reading this one slowly, because: 1) John Green is one of my favorites, and I don't want it to be over, and 2) I have to keep casting furtive glances around me so nobody sees me cry!
    Thanks for the great post!

  5. Can you believe I've never read a John Green novel? Where should I start? Are there any you'd recommend for a teen book club, ages 12 and up? (Regulars include four 12 year-olds and three 15-16 year olds. Maybe we wait until they are a couple of years older... )

    I'd love to read the Melissa Gilbert book. Have you read The Wilder Life? Lots of fun.

    1. Hmm...I would probably hold off on John Green until the kids are HS age--for two reasons. One, the characters are quite colorful in the way they rib each other and just generally express themselves, which feels very authentic and not gratuitous--they talk the way they talk, with catchphrases and shared jokes and insults that are fantastically specific to each set of kids. I love that about his books--but that is what it is. If it was just that, I'd say 12-year-olds would love it--but his books often require the reader to be able to get into a character's head and inner life. His characters develop ideas about how the world works, or how it should work, that might be hard for younger kids to empathize with. You never know--if you have a crew of 12-year-olds who would get really into Dawson's Creek, then fire away! (And apologies to Mr. Green for that comparison--but that's my generation's go-to reference for idealistic, introspective teens, which is the specific thing I'm talking about here. John Green books are a lot more fun/less mopey.)

      I liked the order I did, actually--Looking For Alaska is my favorite so far, maybe because I read it first. Well, except for Will Grayson, Will Grayson, which is only half a John Green book. Then the others in rapid succession. I think Paper Towns was the page-turner of the lot, but I've been going round and round in my head all week and I still can't pick a favorite narrator--Paper Towns, like LFA, has a first-person male narrator; TFIOS has a first-person female narrator; An Abundance of Katherines is 3rd person omniscient, like I said, and it's making just as strong a bid for favorite narration as the other two. So. Enjoy!

  6. Wow, thank you so much for your thoughtful reply! I think it's a good idea to save John Green until they are at the right age to "get" the books. I just requested Looking for Alaska for myself, though. I have a huge TBR pile right now, but I'm hoping to sneak it in sometime soon. :) Thanks again!!

  7. I used to follow the vlogbrothers and so of course bought his books. I've only read Alaska, but have two others in my TBR pile (which I'm in the process of chipping away at in a serious way so should get to them soon). Met him in person at a bookstore event and he's just that genuine, interesting and caring in person.

    Also just started watching Downton Abbey on netflix with my wife. It reminded me of Gosford park and then I realized it was the same writer! I'll have to rent that again now...

  8. I just read TFIOS too, and I thought it was fantastic. Totally made me smile too. :) And please let us know what you think of SMOKE AND BONE. One of my favorites!


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