John Green's Audibles should be labeled "Warning: Do not drive while listening."
"The Fault in our Stars" (2012) had me sobbing through an entire chapter. Fortunately, I was in really heavy traffic and I was able to slowly follow brake lights ahead of me
On the other hand. I laughed to hard through parts of "Paper Towns" (2008) that I forgot to look at my GPS, drove far past my exit, and ended up late for a meeting with a big grin on my face, instead an appropriately contrite look.
I'm not going to summarize the whole book here. I'm several generations past the target audience, and I'd almost certainly end up condescending and judgmental. Green doesn't deserve that, and neither do his characters Quentin 'Q' Jacobsen and Margo Roth Spiegelman.
So, as a middle aged mom of teenagers, here's what I thought was great about the book:
I like Green's neologisms. I've worked with developers for more than 20 years in California. There so many named, never built grand dreams on maps. California City. Salton Sea. Elegant community names are given, streets are mapped out and maybe graded, lots are sold - but nothing is ever built. Green calls them "pseudovisions" - and that's really the best word for what they are.
Green's subtle, clever nod to American photographer Lillian Virginia Mountweazel (1942 - 1973) added an unexpected dimension to "Paper Towns" that I had fun exploring. I don't think Mountweazel's posthumous contributions, especially to Wikipedia, are recognized often enough.
I also have a confession to make: I managed to make it through almost half a century without the slightest inclination to read Walt Whitman, much less understand his poetry. Or, to be fair - any poetry not written by Edgar Allen Poe, Ray Bradbury, or Maya Angelou. So, yes, I'll be listening to Whitman sometime soon. And I'm guessing I'll really like if. (Audible, wouldn't "Leaves of Grass" be a neat Daily Deal???)
The only problem I'm having now is - well - I keep thinking of great practical jokes. Which, since I'm a litigator and Judges are required to give up all sense of humor when they take the bench, won't ever happen. But at least I can imagine tricks while waiting for my case to be called.
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Cancer books seem to fall into IMPORTANT categories, like factual and vaguely or actually scary (Siddhartha Mukharjee's 2010 "The Emperor of All Maladies"); herbs/alternate life style/dietarily inspirational ("A Dietician's Cancer Story" Diana Dyer, 2010); humorously practical (Fran Drescher's "Cancer Schmancer" 2003); or melancholy and ending with the death of a neighborhood curmudgeon and/or a loved one (too many to name) who passes on an Important Life Lesson just before dying. If you're looking for one of these kind of books, then John Green's "The Fault in Our Stars" (2012) isn't for you.
I had avoided Green's book for a long time because I was afraid it would be one of those latter Inspiring Stories, a saccharine sweet tale that tastes okay going down, but leaves an unpleasant aftertaste. I was wrong.
"The Fault in Our Stars" was a heartbreaker, but in a clear, unsentimental and pragmatic way. 16 year old Hazel Grace and 17 year old Augustus Waters probably had my fellow commuters wondering just what kind of breakdown I was having. They would have had time to notice: I sobbed through an entire chapter, with traffic stop and stop again.
Is "The Fault in Our Stars" true to a 16 year old girl? I don't know. I was a 16 year old girl for a year, and I'd like to think I can relate - but I was 16 in a different century. Kind of LATE in a different century, but still - a different century.
Green's an unobtrusive voice, but he comes through in Hazel Grace and Augustus Waters scared parents. The parents want nothing more than to spend what time is left with their children; and their teens want nothing more than to be normal - you know, embarrassed by hovering moms; sneaking out the window on naive dads; and taking absurd risks and going on adventures. Come to think of it, it was the Mom in me crying with the parents.
"The Fault in Our Stars" haunts and is haunting. It's a good listen.
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There's a couple of sure ways to get me interested in a book by an author I haven't read before. One way: have a bunch of highly paid talking heads argue vehemently about what the book actually says, all using the same quotes to back their arguments. That's how I ended up reading/listening to former Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates' memoir, "Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War" (2014) earlier this year.
Another way to grab my attention is to have community members and conservative parents try really hard to ban the book at schools and libraries. "The Perks of Being a Wallflower" has been, off-and-on, one of the top 10 banned books since it was published. According to the American Library Association (a non-profit dedicated to NOT letting books be banned), its been taken off the shelf for: offensive language, abortion, drugs/alcohol/smoking, violence, suicide, homosexuality, and it's sexually explicit.
Now that I've listened to "Wallflower" I can confirm it has all of that - and more. There's also a rape and more than one child molestation. That's a lot for a short book - it's 256 pages in print and a 6 hour 20 minute listen.
The plot and the subject matter isn't easy to hear, but I think it's important for teens to know life can be very, very difficult - and people go through hard times. That's a little patronizing, but that's a reviewer problem, not the book itself. I'm almost 50, I have high schoolers, and I just can't think of a better way to put it.
I was a little disappointed with the vocabulary. Sure, Stephen Chbosky used all the right words - there wasn't a silly euphemism to be found. However, the vocabulary level wasn't quite 5th grade. Since the main character spent most of the book reading literature, the juxtaposition was jarring.
This is 9.0 AR points (source: arbookfind dot com).
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