Tag: books

Book Review: The Fault In Our Stars

I have a confession to make. I follow John Green around. I follow his Tumblr. I follow his Twitter. I subscribe to his YouTube channels CrashCourse, MentalFloss and Vlogbrothers. I do this because I believe him to be extremely intelligent and insightful. I deeply admire his goal to, as he puts it, “decrease worldsuck” through the efforts of various charities and the input of the Nerdfighters who also follow him. And he’s a New York Times bestselling author, a distinction he’s earned for the young adult tale of romance called The Fault in Our Stars.

Courtesy John Green

Hazel Grace Lancaster, sixteen years old, is living with cancer. A miracle in an ER and the advanced drug Phalaxifor left her with the necessity of an oxygen tank to help her failing lungs take in air. She’s trying to make the most of her time, attending college courses since she finished high school early, but her parents insist she also go to a local support group instead of just staying at home watching America’s Next Top Model. Reluctant as she is, Hazel tries to endure, making faces and sharing sighs with her friend Isaac, until the night Isaac arrives with a young man named Augustus Waters.

The first thing that impressed me about The Fault in Our Stars was the reality and intelligence in Hazel’s voice. She is not the kind of person to hide from or conceal her feelings or attitude, which is extremely admirable, especially in a teenager. Rather than put on airs or try to be something she’s not, Hazel owns her situation no matter what it might be, and is very much the sort of person who wishes to be the master of their own destiny. Her feelings for Augustus do mess with this inner dynamic somewhat, and reading about her difficulty in that regard is just as engrossing as Augustus himself. Charming and intelligent in his own right, it’s clear why these two fall in love, despite (or perhaps because of) their circumstances. They’re such rich, real characters that you can’t help but empathize with them, and it’s that empathy that keeps the pages turning.

The Fault in Our Stars presents some complex ideas and deep themes about life, death, identity and the contract between author and reader, but it is not itself a complex read. Green is not interested in any shadow plays or narrative slight of hand. He keeps the story moving and the points simple, yet still weaves an involving and emotional narrative. This is another case in which simplicity in storytelling does not necessarily mean the story suffers. In fact, the simplicity of the plot means there’s more room for us to get to know our characters, even minor ones, which makes The Fault in Our Stars come to life in a way that other epic tales might envy.

I cannot recommend The Fault in Our Stars highly enough. It is a rich, involving story of young love and true loss that strikes home with the power and ferocity of a bullet from a high-powered sniper rifle, and John Green has perfect narrative aim. The book will, in most cases, make the reader tear up or even weep openly at times. Every tear is worth it, though, and I hope that more young adult fiction aspires to emulate a story like this as opposed to some of the other stuff that’s out there. Young people deserve great stories, and The Fault in Our Stars is one of the best.

Book Review: Mockingbird

When last we left Miriam Black, her unique ability to see the way people die had driven her not to take a life, but to save one. She defied fate, and pulled a fast one on the Reaper. Visions have taunted her to say that she’s part of something much bigger than just her freaky touch-based powers, and as Mockingbird opens, we find out that Miriam feels much the same way about destiny that she does about fate – it can go fuck itself.

Courtesy terribleminds

Miriam tries. She tries pretty hard to settle into something resembling a normal life with Louis, the burly trucker she met during her last adventure. But normalcy and Miriam get along together about as well as a Tea Partier and an NPR host in a Hessian sack, and before long Miriam’s hit the road again. Louis chases her down, mostly because he’s devoted to her, and convinces her to talk to a teacher he knows who is willing to pay Miriam in order to confirm a suspicion. Reluctantly, Miriam agrees, and is drawn into a murder plot involving some of the girls at the school, knowing that the only way to cheat death is to offer it a life.

There’s something poetic about Miriam Black between the swearing and the cigarette butts. Despite her human form and function, she operates more like a force of nature, forever altering the lives of those she comes into contact with. Yet Chuck writes her with such a raw and real voice that we can’t help but relate to her, even if a good deal of her antics seem deplorable or reprehensible to us. Her world view may be skewed several degrees to the side of what most folks consider “normal”, and she may lie just as often as she deals in blunt, raw honesty, but at her core, she wants to avoid the suffering of others and never seeks to be the cause of it, if she can help it.

This is why the school environment and mystery plot are perfect for her. She’s put in a position where she is compelled to act, not out of monetary motivation but due to a sense of justice, of wanting to do right by girls who haven’t had their chances yet. It’s an opportunity for Miriam to both show her true colors and demonstrate that as much as she might rail against her destiny, she does herself no favors by denying her nature and avoiding what her gift can do for others. You can’t really call her a ‘heroine’ but Mockingbird brings her damn close.

I will admit to a touch of cognitive dissonance between this and Blackbirds, only because this work is much more focused on an overarching plot and objective than the previous one. This doesn’t make either work superior to the other one; it simply makes them different. Blackbirds was a tight, focused, and unflinching examination of Miriam Black as a character. Mockingbird takes this character and puts her on the rails of a more straightforward narrative. This is worth mentioning for lovers of the first book, but it’s most certainly not a problem: if you like Miriam Black, Mockingbird will not disappoint. It’s just worth it to be aware of the differences.

Chuck Wendig remains on top of his game, especially when it comes to his leads. Some of the supporting cast may feel a bit arch, ciphers for various aspects of Miriam and her life and past, but I think that’s inevitable when your protagonist is such a powerhouse. Fans of both mystery and Miriam Black will find plenty to love about Mockingbird. I know I did.

© 2022 Blue Ink Alchemy

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑