For me, this is a masterpiece, and it goes straight onto my all-time favorites list. This is the most sensitive, person-centered treatment of deadly dFor me, this is a masterpiece, and it goes straight onto my all-time favorites list. This is the most sensitive, person-centered treatment of deadly disease, and its terrible toll, that I have ever seen. The characters are so deep, so intelligent and so emotionally charged that even a sometime cynic like me gets choked up about them. The dialogues alone are a work of genius.
I knew very little about John Green before picking this up, and had not read any of his books. I loved every page of it, every paragraph. I would certainly read it again.
After finishing my review, I found very thoughtful points of criticism, about details of character and dialogue, from highly respected reviewers who are very familiar with his other work. To me, this is one of the great strengths of goodreads - the diversity of views about a single book, among very serious and intellectually gifted readers. I was not noticing those issues as I read it, but I might have felt differently with more of his books in my memory bank. On the other hand, I am basically just a sucker for beautiful writing and strong ideas, and for me this work was completely packed with both.
Great thanks to Flannery, Amber and other GR friends for bringing this wonderful book to my attention. I understand that it is on the bestseller lists now, but goodreads is the best place for me to find out about the great books that are out there. Much better than any list. Just saying.
There are loads of great quotes from this book, but I picked two that said a lot to me and don’t reveal a lot about the story:
“Hazel is different. She walks lightly, old man. She walks lightly upon the earth. Hazel knows the truth: We’re as likely to hurt the universe as we are to help it, and we’re not likely to do either.“
“The real heroes anyway aren’t the people doing things; the real heroes are the people NOTICING things, paying attention. The guy who invented the smallpox vaccine didn’t actually invent anything. He just noticed that people with cowpox didn’t get smallpox.“
The two central characters in this book are heroes, in different ways and for different reasons. For me, the story took flight in the opening lines, and never came down.
I read this powerful story after enjoying Wendy Darling’s wonderful review, and following her link to it. In the hands of a master writer, a short stoI read this powerful story after enjoying Wendy Darling’s wonderful review, and following her link to it. In the hands of a master writer, a short story can speak volumes about the human condition, and the joys and pain that life can bring - so much so that you may be left shaking your head. In this case, you may also notice that your heart is still pounding as your mind struggles to digest the last of it.
Identical twins can have shared secrets, and parallel thoughts, that most of us can only glimpse through stories like this one. Secret fears, on the other hand, are present in greater or lesser degree for all of us. We can run from them, but we cannot hide from our own thought processes, and there are times when we can’t control them either. In the right time and circumstance, such fears can literally take over our lives.
The neuroscientist in me has some understanding of how our brains can do such things to us, but I will restrain myself from that digression here. Well, except for saying that the thinking, reasoning brain can be overwhelmed, at least briefly, by the primal fear response. As adults, we can develop mental tricks to regain control. But children are still developing the circuitry and the techniques for doing this, and they may not be so lucky.
In this masterfully written tale, one identical twin can read the other’s thoughts, and can understand the desperation to avoid a situation that will expose a secret fear, without feeling that fear himself. These plot elements play out in a spellbinding tale that quickens the pulse, and reveals the mysterious power of the mind for both good and ill. For me, it was a great reminder of just how much meaning and drama can be packed into a few thousand exquisitely chosen words. Very highly recommended. ...more
Absolutely mesmerizing. I took a long time to read it, partly because of other things that were going on, but mostly because I insisted on savoring evAbsolutely mesmerizing. I took a long time to read it, partly because of other things that were going on, but mostly because I insisted on savoring every sentence. I never would have found this book if not for GR friends. Come to think of it, almost every book that I read now came from a favorites list of a friend or someone I follow.
This book is a lights-out masterpiece, one of the greatest novels I have ever read. Without getting into the plot details, I will just say that the story is complex but, ultimately, quite simple in its basic form. Written in and about Stalinist Russia, it uses multiple layers of dramatic intrigue to paint vivid images of all-too-frail men (and women), and all-too-powerful forces that transform their lives in good ways and bad. Incredibly entertaining, gripping, frightening, and funny - the author plays with the reader, leading him/her this way and that, twisting the reader's mind as it does likewise with the characters.
Put simply, an incredible book. The multi-form Russian names are always a challenge, as readers of Tolstoy and the other greats will know very well. But for this one, the names are as much fun as every other element of this masterful tale. Highest possible recommendation....more
At the top level, this is a fictional story about a teenage boy (Christopher) who tries to solve a mystery involving a dog in his neighborhood. But itAt the top level, this is a fictional story about a teenage boy (Christopher) who tries to solve a mystery involving a dog in his neighborhood. But it is far more significant for being a first-person, full-immersion view of the mental processes of autism. It must have been extremely challenging to write, and that job was done very well. It has a lot of parallels with the real-life story of Born on a Blue Day: Inside the Extraordinary Mind of an Autistic Savant, which I WILL get around to reviewing one day.
The book was a leaving-the-lab gift to me by my last PhD student. She told me it was the book that got her excited about working on an autism-related project, which she did in my lab for her dissertation. From the prime-numbered chapters, to detailed discussions of the nonsensical ways that ‘normal’ people think, every page is loaded with examples of the autistic thought process. In this case, the individual also shows special skills in areas like math and spatial relationships. The mental processes of these autistic savants bring into very sharp focus the seemingly inexplicable – that autism can completely degrade a set of normal social skills, while enhancing other not-so-normal skills to a truly astonishing degree.
As one example, Christopher cannot be too close to people, and cannot bear to be touched by them. To relieve stress, he sometimes counts to 50 or higher, while cubing each number as he goes (!). In other stressful episodes, he solves extremely complex spatial puzzles in his head, to take his mind off the unpleasantness of too much going on around him. The story is painful to read at times, because it portrays in detail the extreme frustrations and everyday hardships on both sides of the autism divide – for those who have it, and those who provide care.
Awareness of autism is growing in our society. Still, many of the too-typical views of autism are badly misinformed. Wrong about what causes it (vaccines? Very unlikely). Wrong about how to deal with it (blame the parents; give the child some old-fashioned discipline). Wrong about the numbers of affected individuals – roughly 1 in 110 children in America, though some very recent estimates are even worse. Some of the exponential increase in recent years can reasonably be explained by diagnostic criteria and improved testing methods. But most investigators would agree that something very scary is happening out there in the way that genes, the environment and modern life interact. The kids are, very likely, a leading indicator.
In the context of these appalling numbers, the book forces us to think carefully about the monumental struggles attached to seemingly normal, simple activities of everyday life – for the affected individuals, and for their parents, teachers, and society. For those who are interested and/or dealing with these issues in their own lives, there is an excellent series of review articles in the recent issue of Nature:
For me, the first two-thirds of this book were really, really tedious, if you want to know the truth. One star for that section. I'm not kidding.
TheFor me, the first two-thirds of this book were really, really tedious, if you want to know the truth. One star for that section. I'm not kidding.
The last third revealed enough of Holden Caulfield's pain and inner struggle to give me some sense of the depth of his character. Major scenes with a former teacher and his kid sister were very well done. Three stars for this section.
Overall, I know this is a 'classic' but it certainly didn't read that way for me. I really enjoyed Franny and Zooey when I read it many years ago - I want to look it over again for a current comparison. This one left me mired in the pit, with no ladder. That killed me, it really did.
A wonderful collection of stories about girls growing up and making their way in a not-so-nice neighborhood. The stories are told by the central charaA wonderful collection of stories about girls growing up and making their way in a not-so-nice neighborhood. The stories are told by the central character (Esperanza), and packed with the characters, play, thoughts and fears of her world. The prose is concise, even sparse, but very evocative and rich in subtlety.
There is magic in the way Cisneros conveys both the inner world of Esperanza, and the adventures and challenges of life as she confronts them. Very high impact – truly a life that feels as if you are moving through it. A quick read, but best appreciated if you take the time to go slowly. Highly recommended....more
I won this book in a First Reads giveaway. The author sent it to me with a very cordial and personal note, a courtesy that was much appreciated.
I realI won this book in a First Reads giveaway. The author sent it to me with a very cordial and personal note, a courtesy that was much appreciated.
I really enjoyed reading this imaginative and involving tale of three special children, who rapidly become young adults in the course of events.
The first of a trilogy, this book introduces a richly imagined world full of dangers, intrigue and evildoers that must be overcome by an evolving collaboration of the band of young heroes. The characters and plot are drawn with a skill and subtlety that shows high skill in this very promising first novel.
I plan to pass this book along to my 10-year old, avid-reader son, who should love the combination of fantasy, magic, and tough reality contained in these adventures. I look forward to the remaining two books in this series, and to other developments from the fertile imagination of this gifted author. ...more