Monday, August 27, 2012

The Fault In Our Stars by John Green

I don't want to seem like I'm exaggerating here, but The Fault In Our Stars is both my new favorite book and my new favorite author.  I guess my only way to explain my love for this book is the words of the protagonist, Hazel Grace Lancastor.  As she says, “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.” I couldn't agree more.  This book made me think about issues that had never been part of my life before, such as cancer and the prospect of having no prospects, no foreseeable future at all.  Hazel's voice is that of a person accustomed to their lot in life, no longer trying to pretend any different.  Though she is a grim realist, Hazel never comes off as depressingly so.  Instead, she gives a new perspective to the life of teenagers with terminal cancer.

Hazel is a 16 year old girl who, since she was diagnosed with thyroid cancer and a large amount of tumors in her lungs, has never been anything but terminal.  After many hospital stays and brushes with death, Hazel becomes a tester for a tumor-shrinking drug called Phalanxifor.  Miraculously, her tumors shrink-and stay shrunk.  However, the effects of the drug are expected to be temporary, making Hazel feel as though she is just another sick kid that has lost any semblance of having an adult life.  At cancer support group, she meets Augustus Waters, a boy recovering from osteosarcoma.  He is interested in her, and while at first she tries to keep her distance to avoid hurting him, she can't help but fall for him.  They share a favorite book with a cliff hanger ending and an obscure author who won't answer questions and who lives in Amsterdam.  After Augustus begins a correspondance with the author, they go to Amsterdam and their love story expands to become something much more then a teenage fling.  

I thought this was an amazing book, the best of four great books written by the same author.  Hazel's voice is very realistic and smart.  She says things about being sick and about having cancer that I'd never heard said before, but seemed very true.  The story of her and Augustus is never a fairy tale, never sickly sweet or unrealistic.  Instead, it's a model for a modern day, real life love story.  It makes some very smart and very true points about love and about pain.  It was a great experience for me to read.  It made me laugh and it made me cry.  I closed the book with new questions and ideas about what it is to be sick, what it is to be in love and what it is to try and look at every day as an experience, and not as a countdown.

I would recommend this book to anyone interested in a great realistic fiction story about love and real life issues.  If you want to look at the world in a different way, the ingenious points that this book makes will do that for you.  Also, this book's portrayal of death might seem depressing, but it is simply extraordinarily, unprecedentedly real.  “That’s part of what I like about the book in some ways. It portrays death truthfully. You die in the middle of your life, in the middle of a sentence.” 

John Green has written three other books.  They are Looking for Alaska, Paper Towns and An Abundance Of Katherines.  He has written a collaborative book with David Levithan called Will Grayson, Will Grayson and a collaborative book with Lauren Myracle and Maureen Johnson called Let It Snow.  John Green is one half of the vlogbrothers, a youtube channel with him and his brother, Hank Green.  I urge you to check out  
all of the above.  

These two pictures are fan made covers.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

The Help by Kathryn Stockett

Finally, the moment you've all been waiting for...a post about the groundbreaking and much-talked about book, The Help.  Here I go-I'll try not to disappoint.

The Help is set in Jackson, Mississippi in the early 1960's.  Aibileen Clark is a black maid there.  Her speciality is taking care of white children, and she is taking care of her 17th  child, a child ignored by her mother.  Aibileen is dutiful in reminding the little girl everyday how special she is, but she knows that she can't stop the girl from turning out just like her mother and believing that black people are beneath her.  Aibileen also can't shake the feeling that something needs to be done about the racial injustices in Jackson.      

Minny Jackson is the best cook around.  However she is very mouthy and has trouble keeping a job as a maid.  She is fired from the job she has been working at for five years because she has done something awful to her employers daughter, Hilly Holbrook, top lady in Jackson.  Soon Minny is working for a mysterious newcomer who doesn't know the rules of Jackson.  While juggling her job, Minny is also finding out that you don't mess with Hilly.

Skeeter Phelan has just graduated from college.  She's smart and ambitious, but all her mother cares about is a wedding ring.  Skeeter is best friends with Aibileen's employer and Hilly.  After sending a letter to a New York City publishing company, Skeeter gets an idea.  This idea is incredibly dangerous, but she is determined to follow through on it.  Soon Minny and Aibileen are part of it too.  The three of them, plus a handful of other maids, are writing a book.  This book is going to be about what it's like to work as a black maid in Jackson.  But when the white women in Jackson find out-especially Hilly-the three of them may have bit off more then they can chew.

This book was a great experience for me.  It combined a great story with an engaging plot with a lot of learning.  I liked it a lot--it was the kind of the book I could re-read--and I think that a lot of people would agree with me.
The Help was truly a melting pot of genres.  It has historical fiction, realistic fiction, information about civil rights and mystery(though perhaps not fantasy). If you like those things, go for it!  Even if you don't like them, I recommend reading this book.   I know that I am better off having read it.  I hope that you will be too.