The Mad Reader
This story is beautiful, deep and meaningful and it will touch you to the core of your heart. It raises issues of life and death, of sickness and health and the utter importance of love.
What is love? How long lasting it has to be to be significant? How do you live a life in sickness? These are all questions that the author tries to answer in this marvelous novel.
Much as An Imperial Affliction, this book provides a different and more real intake to kids with cancer and how we idolize their lives after they’ve passed just because they were sick. It was interesting and mind opening, because as Hazel was always concerned, people should be remembered for who they were, not what illness they “battled”. It also portrayed our need to be remembered by humanity once we are gone, our desire to do great things.
In sum, this book was heartbreaking and compelling, and it got me thinking until way after I finished it.
I loved the characters and the depth they all had. Each one of them had their own concerns. For Isaac it was his broken heart, for Augustus was posterity, and for Hazel was her being a grenade. Apprehensions that signified humanity’s greatest fears towards death.
I particularly loved the way they related, and how they helped each other overcome their toughest moments. You can experience, through them, that love and friendship can change the perspective of everything.
This was my first audio book ever, and I’m so grateful I took the risk and got it, because I opened up to a whole new and wonderful world I was missing. I’m officially an audio book lover! Anyhow, even if it was my first audio book, I didn’t need to be an expert to tell that the narration was impeccable! Kate Rudd, did an excellent job, especially with the gender roles. It’s hard for a woman to portrait good male voice, and she did it superbly not only with one, but with several characters. I particularly enjoyed that you could immediately tell who was speaking. Not one voice was like the other, and I loved how she played Peter Van Houten and Lidewij, because she did a great job capturing their accents. Finally, I will like to add, her rhythm and breathing were smooth. I will be keeping my eye out for other narrations of her.
This is a sweet, light, romantic novel that will warm your heart. I had a close experience with missing a plane and falling in love in an airport, so this story felt a tad closer to home; but I still feel this story is the perfect mixture of romance, thrill and taking risks. It speaks of a real connection between two people; and although many may think this “insta-love” thing does not exist, I am a strong believer that once in a life it is possible to have a chance encounter with a person with whom you’ll have a powerful connection. I admit that those kinds of bonds are very rare, but when you find what your heart is looking for or needs, you’ll just know.
That is why I felt the romance in this story is indeed genuine, because the author portrays said connection in a way you can feel their hearts recognizing each other. It is not fast, because it was an intense experience that allowed them to share fundamental parts of their history.
I especially enjoyed how the author combined elements of fate with elements of free will. Certainly the circumstances were crucial for the turn of events, but said events wouldn’t have happened if Hadley and Oliver hadn’t made some choices of their own. In brief, the opportunity was created but they had to take it, and that is exactly what life is about, taking advantage of the opportunities that are offered to you.
Lastly, this book also deals with important family issues and relationships; with new beginnings and endings, and the personal battle Hadley and Oliver are going through depicts the hardships of facing those kinds of situations with the maturity only a teenager can have, and how to better deal with it. The characters are real, their emotions ring true, and their behavior speaks of the carelessness and freedom of youth.
Casey Holloway did an excellent job with Hadley, she truly captured her essence. She felt like a teenage girl struggling with this trip and her whole family situation, whiny and mature enough. But she didn’t get Oliver right. Her British accent left a lot to wish for, and I thought the voice wasn’t very masculine. Her Violet I liked, she had this snobbish and nonchalance air to it with matched perfectly with the character. Her rhythm was smooth but constant and it gave the notion of haste in the right moments.
This book manages to touch some deep subject matter in a very delicate way. It deals with bullying and violence and yet, amongst all the drama, the author captures the wonder, thrill and intensity of first love. I particularly treasured that we actually saw Eleanor and Park fall in love. I have nothing against “insta-loves” but this was a refreshing change of pace. Eleanor and Park fell in love “slowly and then all at once”. You could feel how their relationship was changing in the little details, and that made me crazy happy because love is tasted in the details and the author nailed it perfectly!
The author managed to weave this delicate drama filled plot into the natural rhythm of life. The book wasn’t slow paced, nor too fast, giving you the sense of everyday routine; producing a powerful effect. It made the story real and tangible.
The story is compelling and heartbreaking and it flawlessly depicts the truth behind the notion of not “judging a book by its cover”, or just plain straight prejudice.
I liked Eleanor very much, and I personally think of her as an inspiration. Let’s face it she was ODD, but mainly because of the circumstances that surrounded her, rather than by choice. It seemed like the world forces were working against her, but she kept a positive attitude. She did the best that she could with what she got. That is simply admirable! I think I would completely act out, but she didn’t. She is an everyday hero.
Park on the other hand, was a regular kid trying to pass inadvertently; a mission that became increasingly hard the moment he started hanging out with Eleanor. But the process he experienced was moving, and the author really portrayed the struggle he had to face to embrace his and Eleanor's differences. I even was proud of Park’s mom, who generally was just the sweetest mom, when she accepted her as well. Adults can also be judgmental at times.
Rainbow Rowell has a magnificent sense of human feelings and processes and she sure knows how to put them into words. She is brilliant with descriptions. Nevertheless the book at times felt a little slow, I think maybe some things could’ve been spared. But all in all it is a masterpiece!
Finally, I think that having two points of view, and narrators, was essential to the story, because otherwise it would have been impossible to see how Eleanor and Park fell in love. We wouldn’t have gotten a hold of the subtle changes they were experiencing, and we couldn’t have figured out how they changed each other’s lives.
The same applies to the narration. It was crucial in the gender role representations. Nevertheless, at times Rebecca Lowman had to narrate some Park parts as Sunil Malhotra, had to do some Eleanor parts. It was scarce, but it wasn’t the same as hearing the actual voice they gave their original characters; yet they were almost as good, and if there wasn’t another narrator I wouldn’t have noticed. The pace in which they read though, was very calm. Almost too calm for me, which I guess goes right with the tone of the novel, but I need a bit more action. I’m a very restless person. However, it does not mean it was plain. They made the right voice inflexions in the right places, so it was a live story, just a very calm tone. I will like to end noting that I really loved how Sunil Malhotra did Park’s mom. I think he nailed her accent, and made her character funny and adorable.