Why every cover on Amazon is different from the cover I read, I have no idea.
ANYWAY, about eleventy-hundred times in class my writing my professor tol...moreWhy every cover on Amazon is different from the cover I read, I have no idea.
ANYWAY, about eleventy-hundred times in class my writing my professor told me I needed to read John Green. Whenever we'd discuss edgy YA it would lead to John Green. I now understand what she meant. The characters in Looking for Alaska are unique, a little above ordinary teens who nonetheless feel incredibly real. They smoke and drink and swear, but they are also uncertain, awkward teens who exist in a reality.
Even if that reality is a boarding school in Alabama. Which, I don't know much about and John Green does. But what John Green does not seem to know (and which drove me batshit nuts) is that if you are FROM Florida a la his MC, you do not say "in Florida". You say "in North/South/Central Florida", and we find out you are from Orlando (aka Tourist Central) long before the middle of the book.
No one not from Florida would care about these details, but I do okay. Also, if you're conjugating French verbs in the subjunctive, tell us that it is subjunctive otherwise we think it's being conjugated wrong.
Those nitpicks do represent things I learned from LfA, but I learned more than that. I grew to understand the Midpoint Reversal that Janice Hardy talks about. I learned that it is okay to have intelligent characters who think about things other than sex (but that too). I loved his language and pacing.
My writing professor was correct, I did learn a lot from my first John Green book, and I'm excited to learn more (less)
**spoiler alert** The book is a Lovely Bones-esque look at the day after Mia's family is killed in a car accident. She is unconscious, and also watchi...more**spoiler alert** The book is a Lovely Bones-esque look at the day after Mia's family is killed in a car accident. She is unconscious, and also watching her body from outside, trying to decided whether or not to stay. Unique, definitely.
One of the reviews on Goodreads points out that Forman uses speech verbs such as "volleyed". I noticed that, in the beginning, but since I sometimes wonder if we do words a disservice by eliminating dialogue tags from our repertoires I disagree. Sparingly, maybe it is okay to remind us that these words exist somewhere other than the bowels of the OED.
Onward: I liked Mia, and was heartbroken for her. Her romance with Adam was sweet, and credible. Her family was caring, and one really got what she was losing with their deaths. But... well... to me the beginning of the story wasn't as jarring until after I had the backstory. After I understood her family, I cared about their deaths. And I started to care about Mia later in the book. I almost think the novel could have started further back, and dealt with the aftermath as well. I'm excited about the sequel for that reason. I want to see what Mia's life is like without her family, not just what it might be like.
I didn't feel as touched by the book as perhaps I should. It's short-- my library eBook was only 118 pages-- and I've read books sort of like it. The Lovely Bones and Elsewhere by Gabrielle Zevon spring to mind. The concept isn't what kept me going, it's the characters. The rock 'n' roll parents, Mia with her cello. I think it could have been a wonderful character driven story, but I also liked that these characters existed within a high concept plot.
The tense shifts interested me as well, and they were done well. I did think it could have been more fluid if ghost-Mia was drawn into the flashbacks somehow, for some reason or to learn some lesson. We're never quite sure why she gets to sit by her body like that, and I'd like to know. Perhaps it's a thread that was cut to make the book more streamline-unnecessary in my opinion.
A reviewer also commented that Forman didn't get the voices of teenagers, and I totally disagree there. Teens are all different, and I loved Mia's voice. I loved the way music was integrated with the story, and it gives me confidence for my own music-saturated WIP.
I learned the importance of fleshed-out secondary characters from this, and the ways in which a few rules of structure can be broken to fashion a very unique piece. I'd definitely recommend the book.(less)
I read this nearly a month ago, but it stuck with me. Maybe because I wasn't a huge fan of 13 Little Blue Envelopes and it made me figure out why Maur...moreI read this nearly a month ago, but it stuck with me. Maybe because I wasn't a huge fan of 13 Little Blue Envelopes and it made me figure out why Maureen Johnson is such a big deal. But I think it's more because it did things I've had trouble with, masterfully.
Third-person, three main characters whose stories work like a double helix, separating and coming back together to keep the story moving. The three protagonists were individuals with whom I could connect to, even though presenting characters like that in third-person, and with three of them, can be very difficult.
The subject matter of the book could have made it preachy. Sexuality in teenagers often leads to books all about how it is OKAY to be DIFFERENT and this is SHINY and HAPPY. In the Bermudez triangle, it's not. There are complications, but also side-stories. Life goes on, even though the characters are discovering who they are sexually as well as in general.
Johnson also created a believable world for her characters to live in. Their families were fleshed out, and locations described well. The thing was, while the secondary characters were amusing, sometimes they didn't seem to have a purpose. I'm of two minds about this, because while Nina's roommate in her summer program was funny, for instance, she didn't add to the plot. I think if characteristics of these people had been in the more major characters the novel might have been richer. But other details like the ones pertaining to the Irish-themed restaurant Mel and Avery work at were dead-on relatable. Maybe I'm just picky about character!
The wholeness of this book is what resonated with me, I think. The interwoven plots and themes. I learned a lot from the way Johnson managed the time span, and the multiple interesting characters.(less)
**spoiler alert** I LOVED the book. They talked about the "Jingle bells, Batman smells", song for the love of Mike. But this blog is about learning ab...more**spoiler alert** I LOVED the book. They talked about the "Jingle bells, Batman smells", song for the love of Mike. But this blog is about learning about craft from books. So I'mma try and do that.
The one issue I had at first was understanding that the romance was the plot of this book. I'm not used to that. Obviously, books have romance, but I had to internalize the fact that Anna's journey WAS her relationship with Etienne, and other things were side-plot, including her adjustment to her French boarding school.
I literally opened this book, read two pages, and decided to rewrite my WIP in the first person. Something about Anna's voice, the way we get into her head immediately, made me see that that would work best for my characters too. She's very different from them, but I think they'd get along, actually. Strong opinions, strong voice, and a disdain for Nicholas-Sparksesque people? My MC would LOVE that. Along with Anna's love of Paris, in the end. Right.... side track.
I truly felt for her when she left school for Christmas. That feeling of alienation when things have changed, your little brother has sort-of forgotten you, your family explodes....? I've been there. The whole period was very raw, and I liked the way Anna realized her love for Etienne through it.
The plot definitely kept me turning pages, and most of the characters had depth. There were people I would have lied to have seen fleshed-out, and obvious nod to the coming-up companion novel, but in general it was fabulous! The setting has been gushed about in blogs from here to everywhere, so I won't go into that. I will go into how real it all felt. It's dialogue driven, but in a good way.
Good, good, good, good.
I'm sure I learned more, but I can't concentrate on that. Too busy trying to figure out how best to get to Paris in the near future. (less)
**spoiler alert** In the book SPOILERS teenage Cameron is dying of Mad Cow Disease. In a hospital bed, he is also on a quest to save the world. Little...more**spoiler alert** In the book SPOILERS teenage Cameron is dying of Mad Cow Disease. In a hospital bed, he is also on a quest to save the world. Little elements from his life pre-MCD appear in his delusions, creating a powerful story about what it means to live.
I think that at any other time in my life I would not have liked this book. There are parts where it is in INCREDIBLY cracky, and it ends as a dream-- of sorts-- both things I hate. But maybe it's my current resolve to embrace my nerdiness, dude guys she invented a version of Star Wars to allude to. The social satire is so biting and well imagined. I'm a sucker for sense in the random, and the little details connect so well in this book. Cameron's fantasy world works with what we see of his real world.
Reviews on Goodreads say Cameron is unlikeable. That this is a case of making us empathise with a difficult character. It wasn't for me. I liked Cameron. Hell, I dated a Cameron for a hot second in 2005. I get the sarcastic, overlooked kid who doesn't like Don Quixote. His opinions are presented with every thought, but you can also see his vulnerability. In the beginning, when he comes over to speak to his sister's group of popular friends, there's a tiny bit of longing in the conversation, an attempt to belong that he hides even from himself. Who hasn't been there?
The fact that his fantasy is a fantasy didn't make me hate the book, because the reader can tell. Cameron's floating in and out of his hospital bed, and while he thinks that that is the dream, the reader can know otherwise. Then they can lie to themselves, as he's doing. You root for him, even though you know mad cow is fatal. With each page turn I hoped Libba Bray had found a cure that medical science hadn't to give this smart-ass kid a chance to live outside of his own head.
There are unanswered questions. Did any of Cameron's "living" have basis in fact? Did Gonzo even exist? If he did, was he aware that in some way he was Cam's best and last friend? No knowing. That should kill me. I hate loose ends, guys. But in Going Bovine there aren't answers. There's only an incentive to live, because it could be over for you at any turn, even if you're a kid living in the shadows.