When you read a book on such heavy topics (death, resultant grief/guilt, cutting as a crutch to escape the pain), you hope the characters will be comp...moreWhen you read a book on such heavy topics (death, resultant grief/guilt, cutting as a crutch to escape the pain), you hope the characters will be compelling and the writing will be excellent enough to see you through.
This is not one of those books. Guy is really the only character I liked; the others were unbelievable and very stiff.
The writing was so choppy and distant (3rd person--"Willow knew that she shouldn't do it, but she couldn't figure out anything else to do" type wording) that this book was unfortunately a chore to read.
And honestly the ending may be too happy to be realistic.(less)
This book is really hard to sum up in a couple paragraphs. It had been recommended to me by several friends as simply a great book. It is definitely a...moreThis book is really hard to sum up in a couple paragraphs. It had been recommended to me by several friends as simply a great book. It is definitely a great book, and a gripping read. Melody's narrative voice is fascinating and pulls you right into her world.
Melody has a form of cerebral palsy which makes it almost impossible for her to move. She has some control of her hands and is able to roll and stretch a little bit. She is not able to talk except by pointing to words on her tray. Most people who meet her assume that she is learning disabled as well due to her great physical difficulties. A few people recognize the fact that she is actually very smart and has an almost photographic memory. When she is able to get a special talking computer, when she is in the 5th grade, things change for her quite a bit.
One of the best things about this book is how realistic it is. I'm not sure about the biology of someone who has this type of cerebral palsy, but the interactions of Melody with her family and with her classmates seem perfectly realistic. Her mom sometimes gets exhausted from all of the care she has to do. Her classmates have such a variety of responses to her--many of them have a hard time accepting her at all. One girl, Rose, does become Melody's friend, and even that friendship follows the lines of typical tween friendships, with some definite rocky times and some sweet times. There is also a girl who is quite a bully. Kids of all abilities will relate to Melody's attempts to make friends and simply deal with her classmates and those around her.
One major plot point is that Melody gets the chance to compete on the Whiz Kids team. This is a game style trivia show, which works well for her because all the answers are multiple-choice. Her process of getting onto the team and working with her teammates are very interesting, as is the end result of their team's competition.
Overall I would recommend this book for readers who are school-aged or middle school in particular, or even in high school. Readers who enjoy realistic fiction and especially books about kids who overcome great difficulties will really enjoy this one. I think it would make a great family read aloud as well, since the storyline is so gripping and there are plenty of conversation starters in it. (less)
Hard-hitting story based on a true event from south side Chicago in 1994. Pictures and words introduce us to Yummy, his background, his neighbors, and...moreHard-hitting story based on a true event from south side Chicago in 1994. Pictures and words introduce us to Yummy, his background, his neighbors, and the situations that led him to join a gang at a young age. It asks the hard, impossible to answer question of, whose fault is it? And, how can we keep it from happening again? Very worthwhile read.(less)
**spoiler alert** Whoa. That was one dark book, and what follows here is my rambling attempt to capture my thoughts about it and the subjects it cover...more**spoiler alert** Whoa. That was one dark book, and what follows here is my rambling attempt to capture my thoughts about it and the subjects it covers. It's really not a review at all; more of a journal, but this seemed as good a place as any to write.
It felt like reading Sartre, set in modern-day Alabama. The cover (smoke rising and dissipating) is really appropriate because (as I read it) the main conclusion of the book is that life is short, it can end really quickly and senselessly, and we really really don't know what happens after this life.
In some places it sounded like Miles (and Green) doesn't believe there is anything after this life--he says "you can't burn something that doesn't exist" (in response to the story about the woman who was trying to destroy heaven and hell so that people would believe in God for his own sake--I appreciate the point that God is so awesome that we should seek him on his own merits, but I think heaven and hell should be taken seriously). And yet, the book ends with him saying, "I don't know where there is, but I believe it's somewhere, and I hope it's beautiful." So either Green has some hope for more beyond this life, or he just didn't want to finish the book in a super depressing manner.
There were hilarious LOL parts and lots of cleverly worded sentences and especially lots of intricate, believable characters. I can't remember any of the funny parts right now b/c of the depressing parts.
There were parts that really reminded me of Paper Towns. One wonders if there was a girl in Green's life who was really moody and impulsive and came up with great pranks, and befriended him as the hyper-intellectual nerd. (Is that redundant?)
Would I recommend it to anyone? I don't know. People that like intellectual, existential novels and don't mind a lot of drinking, smoking, and some explicit sex, I suppose.
Am I glad I read it? Really, mostly because I had always wanted to read it, because John Green is kind of a hero in these parts, and I enjoyed Paper Towns and Abundance of Katherines, so I knew I would read it someday. It was well written, and it made me think, so yes I'm glad I read it.
Plot points to remember:
--Miles (Pudge) moves to Alabama to the boarding school because he wants to learn more, he is kind of bored with his high school, he wants to "explore the great perhaps." --He bonds very quickly with his roommate, Chip/the Colonel, who's friends with Alaska, who he immediately falls in love with (not in so many words, but really). --Takumi is another close friend. --Lara is the other one in their set. She's from Romania and likes Miles right away. Eventually they hook up for a while and there is a rather funny scene involving a tube of Crest and a tutorial. (Alaska is the expert, so why not ask her?) After Alaska's death, Miles ignores her for a while, but they sort of make up at the end. --Halfway thru the book they find out that Alaska was present at her mom's death; she died of an aneurysm (I think) and Alaska's dad asked why she didn't call 911--she was 8. She apparently lived the rest of her life in that shadow. --The 2nd half of the book consists of them trying to figure out the details of Alaska's death. They piece together--she was very drunk, she was talking to Jake her boyfriend (about whom we know very little), she remembered she forgot her mom's death anniversary so she took flowers and drove away, then she drove into a cop car near a jackknifed semi. It proves impossible to figure out if it was intentional on her part or not. --One wonders why they didn't have cell phones. Or maybe it was mentioned and I forgot. --Their religion teacher is very old but asks some interesting questions and gives them really interesting essay/exam questions to work through. --At the end they pull the Alaska Young Memorial prank, which involves a male stripper posing as a psychologist speaking at Speaker Day to "subvert the patriarchal paradigm." --They eat "bufriedos"--fried burritos. --And, in the words of the immortal Lily (Kevin Henkes), "Wow. That's all I have to say about that. Wow."
Summary of the book from goodreads:
Miles Halter is fascinated by famous last words and tired of his safe life at home. He leaves for boarding school to seek what the dying poet Francois Rabelais called the "Great Perhaps." Much awaits Miles at Culver Creek, including Alaska Young. Clever, funny, screwed-up, and dead sexy, Alaska will pull Miles into her labyrinth and catapult him into the Great Perhaps.
Looking for Alaska brilliantly chronicles the indelible impact one life can have on another. A stunning debut, it marks John Green's arrival as an important new voice in contemporary fiction.(less)
I read about 70 pages of this book--the characters are fascinating and the premise was interesting, but their personal lives were just too hard for me...moreI read about 70 pages of this book--the characters are fascinating and the premise was interesting, but their personal lives were just too hard for me to stomach. Probably a great book (was highly reviewed), just not what I want to fill my mind with right now.(less)
John Green is simply one of the best authors writing today, period. I am still amazed that he is younger than I am (by one year)--all those heavy, awe...moreJohn Green is simply one of the best authors writing today, period. I am still amazed that he is younger than I am (by one year)--all those heavy, awesome, prize-winning books and 1.1 million tweeps in not so many years.
Anyway, this may be my favorite book of his yet. For whatever reason, I enjoyed reading about teens fighting cancer more than I've enjoyed reading his books about teens facing mental illness or emotional trauma of various sorts. It was really hard to read still, of course, because their physical suffering is so intense.
I hope to re-read it soon and copy out some of the sentences that made me really stop and think and say "wow that's true." John Green is a pretty astute observer of our world and includes all kind of literature and philosophy, including the Trolley Problem. (If you're not married to Alex, that may not make sense to you.)
SPOILER ALERT HERE:
Recap of plot: Hazel has lung cancer, she's doing okay now b/c of an experimental drug but she always is on oxygen and has a hard time breathing anc will probably die soon. She meets Augustus in her cancer teens support group (in the literal heart of Jesus). He has osteocancer (s.th. like that) with a prosthetic leg but is strong and athletic and apparently hot. They start hanging out ALL the time. There are some hilarious scenes where he drives terribly b/c of his leg. There are some touching "are we dating or not" scenes. Then he uses his cancer miracle wish to take them both to Amsterdam to meet the author of Hazel's favorite book. The author is awful to them. They eat an amazing meal outside with petals falling near the canal--this scene is absolutely perfect. I loved it. They have sex. They go to Anne Frank's house. Then she finds out Augustus' cancer is back, and now she is no longer worrying about how he will survive the agony of her death. She must survive his. And she does, beautifully.
Very good book, definitely worth reading and savoring and re-reading again.(less)
**spoiler alert** Decent book that covers lots of topics (SPOILERS): faith in God when things are bad, premarital sex, staying faithful to your boyfri...more**spoiler alert** Decent book that covers lots of topics (SPOILERS): faith in God when things are bad, premarital sex, staying faithful to your boyfriend, suicide, parents' reactions to children's deaths, etc. It's told in verse (sort of), which adds to the stream-of -consciousness, life is unbelievably weird and I can't make sense of it, theme and tone of the book.
Since the author lives in Utah and teaches conferences at Brigham Young, I'm wondering if she's part of a new cadre of Mormon writers (Twilight, Matched). The religion element was actually less pronounced than I thought it would be, and the end is more ambiguous on the subject of faith and practicing it than I thought it would be; both of those are to her credit and I believe make the book more credible.
(I actually skimmed the ARC and didn't read every page but think I got the gist. I think it would be worth purchasing but not a must-have.)(less)
Okay book with some suspense, although most of the suspense is "what should I do?" agonizing kind. Some dated cultural references. Not the best book,...moreOkay book with some suspense, although most of the suspense is "what should I do?" agonizing kind. Some dated cultural references. Not the best book, but definitely a fine choice for middle and high school readers especially boys.(less)
Shawn and Russ have a dream--a dream of a puppy. But puppies cost money, and money is something neither they nor their families have much of. They do,...moreShawn and Russ have a dream--a dream of a puppy. But puppies cost money, and money is something neither they nor their families have much of. They do, however, have a plan--a poop scooping (PS) business. They scoop dog poop out of people's lawns or in the dog park, charging by the dump. As they save up their money, they keep visiting Nick, who owns the puppies they want to buy. Something starts to seem fishy at Nick's place, though, and they wonder what they've gotten themselves into.
I would recommend this book to school-age readers who like a quick read, enjoy animals, or enjoy laughing about poop. The boys' poverty definitely impacts them and shapes their choices, but the book isn't condescending or preachy about it. They tend to be thankful for their relationships and what they do have. Shawn's family is close and large. Russ' mom is dead and his dad is in jail, so he's with his uncle--but he chooses to live in the camper in his uncle's yard instead of the house. Friendship and family are important theme, as is the end result of violence and revenge.
***spoiler alert ahead
Nick hosts pit bull fights in his garage. In the end, the boys get him busted by the police and end up in the hospital. Russ starts to reconcile with his uncle, especially once his uncle brings them to a farm to get them a puppy. The boys choose a sweet dog instead of the attack dog they had originally chosen when their goal was for the dog to get back at the school bullies.
The author is an Iowan. Also, the pace really picked up once they figured out about the pit bull fighting, so it may be worthwhile mentioning that when recommending it to a potential reader. (less)