It's about 11 A.M. where I am now, writing this. Approximately eight hours ago I was awake, voraciously devouring the last half (about 75-ish pages) o...moreIt's about 11 A.M. where I am now, writing this. Approximately eight hours ago I was awake, voraciously devouring the last half (about 75-ish pages) of this book - my first John Green - in one sitting. There's not a lot I can say about those last few chapters without giving away the abundant literary flourishes that John Green pulls out of his immense bag of tricks. But I can say this, and at this point I'm just another statistic falling in line, but here it is: I cried.
In the book Hazel constantly describes being on the phone with Augustus as like being in a third non-terrestrial space. Like the center of the venn diagram, somewhere only they can coexist in. It sounds like utter bullshit, right? That's John Green's greatest slight of hand here: he creates situations and dialogue that in other hands would come off as saccharine and sappy, but absolutely do not. Hazel and Augustus felt actually, honestly REAL. These are two kids that totally make sense together, you never for one moment wonder why one likes the other. And another of Mr. Green's great feats: he totally distracts you with brilliant bon mots and stupidly genius dialogue while you read, almost forgetting what the story is about.
Some of my favorites: "The world went on, as it does, without my full participation, and I only woke up from the reverie when someone said my name."
"It occurred to me that the voracious ambition of humans is never sated by dreams coming true, because there is always the thought that everything might be done better and again."
"It was the kind of weather that reminds you after a long winter that while the world wasn't built for humans, we were built for the world."
This is a sixteen-year-old that easily could have come off as snotty and pretentious, and maybe some of those lines do, out of context, but Hazel is anything but. She's warm and selfless and self-aware and willing to read the novelization of a video game without question or repulsion. I guess the literary term is "layers." If it is, she has 'em. She has a bit of a monologue towards the novel's end that best displays all of this (edited for spoilers): "Some infinities are bigger than other infinities. There are days, many of them, when I resent the size of my unbounded set. I want more numbers than I'm likely to get. But, Gus, my love, I cannot tell you how thankful I am for our little infinity. I wouldn't trade it for the world. You gave me a forever within the numbered days, and I'm grateful."
How fucking great is that?
To get back to the story: the ending, and last few chapters, are gut-wrenching. Soul crushing. Universe-ending. And totally, completely, 110% earned. Never, at any point, do you feel played or like someone is poking you in the shoulder and whispering, "Hey... this is where you cry... go on... omg yeah that line was sooo sad, right? Here's a tissue." It's the truth, Green plays his story out to the logical conclusion, and while it may be a tad predictable, it is one of the best fictional endings I've ever read.
Now, the nitpicking. I love Hazel's narration, but it occasionally dips into colloquial terminology that feels really weird against her and Augustus' normal and hilariously smart banter. Uses of words like "Doucheface", "Assclown", and "Douche" in general feel so strange juxtaposed next to gems like, "I fell in love the way you fall asleep: slowly, and then all at once." I just don't buy that the same girl that has the mental fortitude to worry about the ghettoization of scrambled eggs would ever use the word "Doucheface." But, hey, maybe that's just me.
It's not that I don't think she'd never curse, I totally could see her dropping F-bombs in frustration, so maybe it's just the YA of it all that forced Green to be more creative with the curses. But even something like "Dick", to me, would have been more believable. Especially in the conversation that "Doucheface" is used, which I won't spoil, but is the one moment in the book that the emotional gut-punch of is utterly robbed the second that word drops out of Hazel's mouth.
There are also way too many moments when Hazel comments on Augustus' features. "His strong arms pulling me into his muscular chest", "Sinewy muscles", "Powerful chest", etc. There's one excuse I'd allow for this, but it pertains to a spoiler. So I can't talk about it. I get it. She's a sixteen year old girl. I get it. And she falls in love with him for more than these attributes... I've just read way too many shitty YA books that are obsessed with stuff like this. And this book is NOT one of those, so when word choices like that crept in, it felt... jarring. Like, really, does both his arms AND chest need adjectives in the same sentence? The answer is no.
But all that crap doesn't matter. This is a good book. A great book, actually. It isn't perfect, but it's easy to overlook its imperfections because of its awesome and endearing totality. Just another Cancer Perk, I guess.(less)
There was a kernel of a clever idea hiding in the big reveal about the society and outside world, but it quickly gets muddled by the infinite amount o...moreThere was a kernel of a clever idea hiding in the big reveal about the society and outside world, but it quickly gets muddled by the infinite amount of angry-people-being-angry-at-other-angry-people, the indecipherable alternating perspective chapters, and one of the most puzzlingly pompous series-ending finales I've ever read. I don't regret reading these books, because they were quick and painless, but there just isn't much here to chew on after you're done. Even the controversial plot turn towards the end didn't occupy too much real estate in my brain in the day since I finished.
You could do better, you could do worse. In the end, it all just feels... like it's just there. Mediocre. Which, in all honesty, is one of the harshest criticisms I can possibly give a book.(less)
There's not really a whole lot that can be said about Gone Girl without ruining the multitude of its violent surprises. It's about a husband whose wif...moreThere's not really a whole lot that can be said about Gone Girl without ruining the multitude of its violent surprises. It's about a husband whose wife disappears and soon meets a wave of accusations and hushed he did it whispers. It's also a study of modern marriage and parody of our image-obsessed, easy-to-accuse, crime-addicted world. And no matter how smart of a reader you think you are, how you always expect to be two steps ahead of the author and claim to predict twists and turns and surprises - this thing will get you. Bad.
The book concerns Nick Dunne, a washed up magazine journalist who whisks his doting but concerned wife - Amy Elliott Dunne- off to Nick's home town of Carthage, Missouri after they both lose their jobs. He claims he needs to take care of his ailing mother and lost-in-senility father, but in Amy's eyes he mostly does neither. The book's told in alternating chapters: Nick's a snarky, bitter bite of wit after the eponymous Girl gets Gone'd; and Amy, seen from her diary entries of the lustful early years of their courtship. He's sarcastic and flippant, and she's smitten and in love. But is either a sociopath?
Nick's chapters mainly focus on the whirlwind of an investigation that hits after Amy's disappearance from their house the morning of their fifth wedding anniversary. Gillian Flynn's perhaps greatest feat in the novel (among many) is how she toes the line between making you simultaneously adore her characters, yet have permanently entrenched in the back of your head: but he could have probably murdered his wife, yes. Nick is an idiot and does undeniably idiotic things throughout the novel, especially considering the circumstances. But he is self-aware; he doles out brutal honesty about others (marking on Rhonda Boney, a police inspector, and her poor features) as well as himself ("I have a face you want to punch.") Flynn lines the beginning of each chapter with a big, bold heading of the character's name and how many days Amy has been gone. The latter is perhaps of purpose, but she characterizes the two leads so perfectly, so well painting a huge canvas of their quirks, cadences and opinions, the former becomes increasingly superfluous.
Flynn writes in a furious way that makes you eat through chapters in a sitting, but slowing down and re-reading lines is required. Throw-away lines hide brilliant, skewering gems, each exposing the true character of whoever is thinking it at the time. Like this one: "My thank-yous always come out rather labored. I often don't give them at all. People do what they're supposed to do and then wait for you to pile on the appreciation- they're like frozen-yogurt employees who put out cups for tips." It's something that could easily come off with a certain air of pretension, but the context of the quote, the moment of its bursting into that particular character's head, it's perfect. Like everything else in this book, it all fits a purpose - no single line is throwaway.
This is an addictive, read-it-in-one-sitting-if-you-have-time book, for the first half. A murder-mystery of impossible-to-predict circumstances that you have no idea where it's going. Then Flynn punches you in the gut about half-way through, and doesn't lay off for 200 pages more. Not to mention the slow introduction of one of the creepiest, most terrifying villains I've ever encountered in a book. Or anywhere, for that matter. They're calculating, smart, and utterly cognizant of their psychopathy. But perhaps most terrifying? They show the ability to have no sense of self-preservation, willing to meet their own end just to triumph over others. It's shiver-inducing, nightmarishly brilliant stuff. The book becomes something more here, more than a murder-mystery, more than a parody of our crime-obsessed world. It becomes a question, one that most couples probably end up asking themselves: how did we start off so well, and end up here? And the amazing thing about Flynn is that she actually has the balls to answer it. (less)
What works in written form fails miserably here. There's no mystery, no subtly to the writing and storytelling, it's all heavy-handed metaphors and aw...moreWhat works in written form fails miserably here. There's no mystery, no subtly to the writing and storytelling, it's all heavy-handed metaphors and awkwardly handled dialogue that spends more time talking directly to the reader than it does having actual characters say anything meaningful. The lack of King's writing is a constant and sad presence. I'm the biggest Dark Tower fan you can find, so maybe that's why I was so hard on this, but I have the $100 leather-bound omnibus of the first five Volumes in the series and I'm finding it hard to continue on from this poor start.
Also this is a graphic novel and it took me over a month to get through. There's just no sense of fun, or adventure here, which is what is thriving in the series proper. It's all very serious; this is a serious quest and we have to seriously do what our fathers tell us to seriously gain their trust and seriously save this town humph serious. King was playful with his characters (maybe too much so towards the end there, but that's an argument for another time). You get the sense here that they were trying to carve out their own niche in the Tower universe but something nearing Game of Thrones-level seriousness doesn't gel in this world to me. I mean I LOVE this universe but even I have to admit that it's a little fucking bonkers, ya know? Cuthbert does provide the Eddie comic relief but it's mostly too-little-too-late. And it falls in that awkward category of coming first in the chronology of the series' timeline, but coming second in ours. We've seen this dynamic before, and better, in the novels.
My undying love for the series will probably pull me back here, but for now I'm out.(less)
Let's start with a question: why are people eating this book up like it's anything on par with quality YA titles like Hunger Games? Or any book so hum...moreLet's start with a question: why are people eating this book up like it's anything on par with quality YA titles like Hunger Games? Or any book so humbly mentioned on the dust jacket like The Passage or Ender's Game? Here's my honest answer: I don't know. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but when I see a sheet carved out of an Entertainment Weekly and covered in praise such as "a modern sci-fi masterpiece" and "nothing short of amazing" I have to start wondering who's playing a practical joke on me. Because this is just plain bad.
So the gist of the plot is that Earth has been invaded by aliens who do terrible things in "waves." They knock out the power, they flood the coasts, they decimate us with plagues, they trick us with alien/human hybrids, and the major mystery of the book is what the eponymous "Fifth Wave" will be. It's the most interesting part of the entire thing but it also shares the burden in being the only original part of the book. In a heap of sci-fi stereotypes - from aliens that look like us to a floating mothership and a resistance of scraggy-but-hopeful humans - the hope that an unexpected Fifth Wave could come along and burst these predictable plot threads is almost enough to pull you through the book. Almost.
But here's the problem with it: the protagonist sucks. Cassie is a so-called "hardcore" chick who shoots and kills more innocent people in this book than aliens and bitches and whines and pities herself in what sees more page real-estate than actual, meaningful character development or plot. Her basic character traits never make sense. The first half of the book we see her taking care of herself (while still reminiscing about hot guys from before the invasion) but at least she has the potential to be endearing because we know in the end she is alone and responsible for her own further existence.
Then halfway through the book she completely loses all common sense when a hot guy with a six pack and "arms of steel" whisks her away to a cabin in the woods to broodily stare at her and sponge bathe her. Seriously. That happens. And as a reader we see the twist coming upon the first mention of the size of his chest, but Cassie stays in an annoyingly complacent state of ignorance for nearly 100 pages. Why should I like this girl who probably wouldn't have given Evan two glances if he had been some average-looking guy with skinny arms and bad skin? Why should I care if she lives or dies? Not to mention the fact that when she's being snarky for about the first third of the book, it's to herself and it comes off as oddly self-serving and arrogant. Like she's preparing a comedy show before a live audience. I get that she's a teenage girl but in the light of half of the species dying all of this "witty" chatter comes off as annoyingly glib.
There are parts that shine through the idiocy, fortunately, and some writing that isn't fully out-and-out bad. Like when Cassie mentions how quiet it is and how "Sometimes in my tent, late at night, I think I can hear the stars scraping against the sky. That's how quiet it is." That's quite nice, a real human moment from a character who, for the most part, feels like they're pretending to be human.
But then you get lines like this, spoken from one of the few other points-of-view characters: "Before the alien Armageddon happened, I was known for my smile. Not bragging too much but I had to be careful never to smile while I drove: it had the capacity to blind oncoming traffic." Hearing a character explain to another character what makes them likable is the epitome of lazy-ass character development. Show me him being charming, give me a scene of him being snarky in the face of alien drama, make me want to like him. Don't just tell me why I should and assume I will. It's like the literary version of pulling my arm up against my back and not letting go until I cry uncle and promise to be as weak-in-the-knees towards him as the other idiotic protagonist is.
There's just not much to recommend here. Yancy seems unable to handle the point-of-view of a teenage girl (and boy, for that matter) and saying the love moments in this book fall flat would be an understatement. It's a sci-fi book where all of the sci-fi elements are built as a road-map to get the protagonists in what are supposed to be emotional moments of discovery but end up being dull as dirt, exposing in the process how little thought out the sci-fi elements are to begin with.
It took me four months to finish this book. And not because it was bad. Because speed-reading a Game of Thrones book is not the point. Soaking up ever...moreIt took me four months to finish this book. And not because it was bad. Because speed-reading a Game of Thrones book is not the point. Soaking up every syllable and character name and description and history is the point. I love this book. But it destroyed me emotionally. And I may never recover.