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My Journey Through “The Fault in Our Stars”

26 Feb

(SPOILERS AHOY! PLENTY OF SPOILERS FOR “THE FAULT IN OUR STARS” BELOW! SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS! YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!)

I’m just going to say now that I don’t write reviews. I write love letters or I write long rambling monologues about how much I detest whatever it is I just watched/read. One or the other, nothing in between (unless specifically requested/required by some greater power, ie. school).

This, oh this though, this is going to be a love letter through and through.

I first heard of John Green (technically) two and a half years ago. A good friend told me I needed to start watching the vlogbrother videos because I was definitely Nerdfighter material. I remember watching one video, thoroughly enjoying it, and then not watching more. No clue why I didn’t continue. Maybe the amount of videos there were to go through intimidated me, or maybe I thought I had something better to do with my life than watch two older men geek out about things. I was silly and naive and did not know better (obviously).

Cut to last fall, I noticed a tumblr friend was posting all of these lovely, beautiful quotes from something called Looking for Alaska by someone by the name of John Green. I became intrigued and, after doing some much needed googling, discovered that he was one of the infamous vlogbrothers I had watched so long ago and that he was also a novelist. I ended up purchasing Looking for Alaska and this last January I read it in less than three days. I fell in love with John Green’s writing right then and there, and have very recently began going through the vlogbrother videos (over 900 to go…meep!).

But this isn’t about vlogbrother videos and this isn’t about Alaska. This is about The Fault in Our Stars.

I could go into a lengthy ramble about how this book is damn near perfect and pinpoint how every detail of the book made me feel. I could spend entire paragraphs devoted to the traits of every characters, how every theme and motif works brilliantly, and how I now have the desire to travel to Amsterdam quite badly. No, instead I’m going to tell you all five things that this book does right.

1. I could not put it down. As I stated in yesterday’s entry, I never read books cover to cover. This is because, quite honestly, after reading a few chapters of a book I get bored (blame the internet). That was not the case for this book however. I think the quality of a book is really shown in the locations a reader indulges in the book. If it’s a book someone reads at their desk or in bed, meh, okay, but a book someone reads in random locations of their house? Obvious signs of a book people can not put down! I read this book in seventeen hours (would’ve been eight if I didn’t take an hour off for homework, an hour for Castle and dinner, and seven hours for sleep). Here are all the locations I read it in:

  • A grassy hill outside of my school’s gym
  • Work
  • The desk in my bedroom
  • My kitchen floor
  • My living room couch
  • My bathroom
  • My bed (under the covers)
  • My kitchen table
  • My bed (on the opposite end)

Yes, from five o’clock yesterday til ten o’clock this morning this book did not leave my side. Literally. I had it on me all seventeen of those hours, even when I was in bed. At one o’clock in the morning I was fighting with all my strength to stay awake, but I was so fatigued and exhausted from my previous night of drinking that I caved. I lay the book down on my bed and fell asleep. I then woke to my alarm blaring at 8:30am, but reset it for 9am. And there I was, my cat nuzzled up in a ball betwixt my chin and my chest, and Fault slightly pressing up against my back. And as I took that extra half hour to slowly urge myself to wake up, I fantasized. I fantasized a world in which Hazel Grace and Augustus Waters were not sick. I fantasized that they were well and that they went to an amusement park on a date and Hazel did not have to carry Philip and Augustus had both his legs. I fantasized all of this with a smile. Then, as nine o’clock came, I arose and my smile faded as I looked down at the book that had slept next to me all night, because I knew that there were no amusement parks that awaited in the last seventy pages of the book. There were no miraculous recoveries, no lack of Philip, no sudden grown-back leg. And yet I read, because I simply could not stop.

2. I gave a hoot about every single character. This is rare. Usually there are characters in books who I positively cannot stand, but just like in Looking for Alaska Green has managed to create a world where everyone is, on some level, likeable and relatable. The parents of Hazel and Gus were marvelously realistic and incredibly enduring. Isaac may have been my favorite character, since I found his view on life (no pun intended) pretty astounding. I, of course, adored Hazel and Gus, and their brilliant wit and charm. Even selfish Monica and grumpy Van Houten I couldn’t bring myself to dislike. I cared about all of them. I cared so much that when possibly the most beautiful part of the book happened I broke down in tears repeating to myself, “I don’t want her to die. Please don’t let her die.” (Oh how wrong I was.) Another great thing about Green’s characters was that I was able to visualize each and every one of them, which I’ve realized lately I can only do with books where I am seriously invested in the people. This book played out almost as a movie in my mind. I saw Hazel as Mae Whitman, Isaac as Eric Isenhower (yes, Orin from Parks and Rec), and I had my own complete image of Van Houten constructed. The only character I could not quite visualize was Augustus, and that’s only because he’s too perfect for my imagination to construct.

3. The writing is beautiful. John Green has a way of changing my outlook on certain words. With Alaska it was the words “after” and “great perhaps”. For this book, it was the words “okay” and “everywhere”. But that’s not even it. The way Green writes is just so beautiful and there are sentences that absolutely take your breath away. Here is an example:

There will come a time when all of us are dead. All of us. There will come a time when there are no human beings remaining to remember that anyone ever existed or that our species ever did anything. There will be no one left to remember Aristotle or Cleopatra, let alone you. Everything that we did and built and wrote and thought and discovered will be forgotten, and all of this will have been for naught. Maybe that time is coming soon and maybe it is millions of years away, but even if we survive the collapse of our sun, we will not survive forever. There was time before organisms experienced consciousness, and there will be time after. And if the inevitability of human oblivion worries you, I encourage you to ignore it. God knows that’s what everyone else does.

Seriously. That is so beautiful. And the book is filled with deep, meaningful quotes so much like this one. I would love to go inside John Green’s head for five minutes, just to see what it’s like.

4. I cried. Me crying during movies? Not an uncommon occurrence. I cry at almost every movie I watch, including ones I’m not overtly fond of. I’m a very visual person, so just throw on a sad scene, or, hell, even just a slightly sad scene played with a really gorgeous score and you’ve got me in tears. I cried during Clerks II for crying out loud. I don’t, however, cry too often during books. Just the ones I’m attached to. Hunger Games, Green Mile, Looking for Alaska, Harry Potter, and The Lovely Bones are books that have made me cry before, because they offer up a story that is so much more than just a story. This is precisely what Fault did. Green created a world where these characters instantly became real to me within a page of their introduction. They were fleshed out, thought out, and well written, so I cared when something awful (or something wonderful) happened to them. When Gus delivers some not so pleasant news to Hazel I was in the bathroom doing well, erm, some business, and I quite literally threw the book on the ground and started sobbing. I’m pretty sure I haven’t reacted that way to a book since Catching Fire where I literally screamed while waiting at a bus stop.

5.  It made me hate John Green. I hate him for his talent. I hate him for making me laugh one moment only to make me cry several seconds later. I hate him for being my personal Peter Van Hutton and making me want to know about all the characters after this story ended. I hate him for making me realize that, no matter how hard I try, my own writing will never be on the same level as his because he is so goddamn amazing. Of course, as you’ve most likely realized, I don’t hate John Green (though I am green with envy). This book has just ensured that I will be purchasing Paper Towns, An Abundance of Katherines, and Will Grayson Will Grayson sometime in the not so distant future, because I simply cannot get enough of that man. John Green is pretty much everything I hope to one day be as a writer. The one thing I can take solace in is that I’m probably a better slam poet than him, but for all I know he could be an amazing slam poet and, honestly, I wouldn’t be all too surprised (I bet he could write a better Muppet poem than me, which slightly breaks my heart).

So. There is my love letter to The Fault in Our Stars.

And if you’ve read this whole thing but have not read the book (didn’t you see the spoilers warning?!) I strongly suggest you go out and purchase yourself a copy because, oh my goodness, you will not regret it.

Now back to watching vlogbrother videos and avoiding my Moby Dick homework.

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“I take quite a lot of pride in not knowing what’s cool.”

25 Feb

I have never read one book in a single sitting before.

I suppose Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows comes closest. I read it over the course of two days and, with the exception of sleep, eating, showering, and my dad dragging me to go see Hairspray with him in a theater, I pretty much read the book cover to cover.

Now I’m reading a book that I positively want to read in a single sitting. The problem? I can’t. That book is The Fault in Our Stars by one John Green. Since I’ve gotten to work I’ve read 104 pages of this novel and I positively don’t want to stop, but alas, I must. A (tumblr) friend of mine warned me that the second half of the book was just going to make me cry and it would be very obvious when that turn would happen. Well, I found that turn, at the end of chapter six.  So I’m putting the book down. I’ve cried at work before, so I know that when the tears start falling is when people start coming in asking to rent a room (the best ‘crying-at-work’ experience by far was when a woman came into the office to find me in tears and I told her, “Sorry, I’m watching Toy Story 3” and her response was, “OH GOD, I UNDERSTAND.”).

So. Book is closed. It’s glaring at me from literally four inches away from my left hand, softly whispering, “Juuuulia. You want to read me, Juuuulia. Don’t you want to know what happens to Hazel and Augustus, Juuuuuulia?” But I must stay strong! I’ve got Moby Dick homework that demands my attention now.

Ugh. Moby Dick. How I loathe it.

Fault in Our Stars is also a really great reminder that, no matter how hard I try, I’ll never be as good of a writer as John Green. Dear god, this man deserves all the awards.

Some things are too beautiful not to share.

10 Feb

“What is Real?” asked the Velveteen Rabbit one day. “Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?”

“Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When [someone] loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.”

“Does it hurt?” asked the Rabbit.

“Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. “When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.”

“Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,” he asked, “or bit by bit?”

“It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t often happen to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept.

“Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand… once you are Real you can’t become unreal again. It lasts for always.”

― Margery Williams Bianco, The Velveteen Rabbit

I Wish I Had My Own Boy with the Bread.

2 Feb
I could really use a Peeta Mellark in my life right about now.

 

There would be so many cuddles.

So many secrets shared.

So many kisses.

And so much free bread.

That’s pretty much all I want from life.

(especially the bread part)

I Miss Scholastic Book Fairs.

24 Jan

Do you remember those? I do.

In elementary and middle school we’d get handed a catalogue to take home once every couple of months; a catalogue filled with all different kinds of books. Beautiful, wonderful, life changing books. I’d race home with it gripped tightly in my tiny hands and beg my parents to let me order dozens upon dozens of books, but in the end I only ever got to order two or three at most. Then my mom would write me up a check and I’d diligently bring it back to school, along with the filled out order form, and wait patiently for weeks until the books would finally arrive. I loved when they did because, not only did it mean finally getting the books; it also meant the Scholastic Book Fair was coming to our school.

For my school, Holy Family, this meant that for an entire week our library was turned into a bookstore. The tables and ledges were jam-packed with books for all ages. We could browse books, toys, manuals, magazines, and gadgets all week long, and purchasing if we could afford it. There was even a day devoted entirely to the Fair, where, per class, we’d get to spend a certain amount of time browsing all the books, in case there were any others that struck our fancy. I remember my mom showing up for some of them, and I remember begging her for more books. She usually caved and bought me them, since she was a kindred spirit and enjoyed a good book infinitely more than I ever would at that age.

I remember these book fairs. I remember getting in trouble during class for reading. I remember my mom reading Harry Potter to my brother and I each night. I remember my dad guiding me through the first book that I ever read on my own. I remember reading ten books at a time, and switching between them whenever I finished a chapter in one. I remember how Wrinkle in Time was the first book that ever made me cry. I remember how everyone called me a “little bookworm” throughout elementary school. I remember always loving reading.

This has been heavy on my mind today because my Young Adult Fiction class discussed how reading is so heavily reinforced when we are small children, but once we get to high school adults sort of stop trying to impress books on us. High school was most definitely the time in my life when I read the least. Sure, I can chalk this up to my discovery of the internet and how I’d talk on the phone for hours with Connie about basically nothing and how TV became a priority, but… I don’t know. Maybe if my mom had been alive during my high school days reading would have stayed with me more. I still read during those four years and I guess my love of books never truly went away, but I just feel like high school forced me to read so many dull books (Ethan Frome, The Awakening, Grendel… ugh, gag me with a spoon, just thinking about those books makes me bored). Maybe if we had read more books like The Secret Life of Bees and To Kill a Mockingbird (my favorites I read in high school) then I would have never fallen away.

I’m just glad reading’s back in my life. I’m glad it’s something I now make time for every day, even if it is just before bed and I only get through half a chapter before I pass out. I’m glad I’m discovering so many better authors, like Sedaris, Green, Martin, and Sebold. I’m glad reading is, once more, my constant.

Now if only I could just ditch Moby Dick and read The Fault in Our Stars instead…

A dick of a whale.

16 Jan

Today I started reading Moby Dick. Why? Because I was assigned it for a class. You would think that it’d just be, y’know, ten or so chapters. No. We were assigned forty-two chapters to read over this weekend. Let me repeat myself:

Forty. Two. Chapters.

And I have been sitting on my butt reading this book almost non-stop all day. Yes, I took a little TV/lunch break, I did some dishes, I went on facebook, but other than that my day has pretty much revolved around this damn whale, who – mind you – hasn’t even shown up in this book so far. And you know what?

I still have sixteen more chapters left to go.

I have only made it through twenty-six chapters. I mean, seriously? Seriously??? Who assigns forty-two chapters of Moby Dick for the first weekend of the term? I haven’t even touched my Spanish composition or my paper analyzing the Earl of Surrey’s Assyrian King poem because of this fucking book. And what sucks the most is I actually like this book, but the fact that I’m being forced to read so much of it in such a short amount of time is making me slowly hate it more and more. This is not Looking for Alaska, which I was assigned to read the whole of over the course of this weekend. Alaska is a quick, easy read that I had no problem being assigned. No. This is not a young adult fiction book, meant for high schoolers. This is Moby Dick. The language drags and Melville takes every goddamn opportunity to embellish and rant about things that are not essential to the story. I… just… UGH.

I need a drink.