Review - The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

Friday, February 24, 2012

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
Publisher: Dutton
Publication Date: 10 January 2012
Genre: YA Contemporary
My Copy: hardcover - library

Diagnosed with Stage IV thyroid cancer at 12, Hazel was prepared to die until, at 14, a medical miracle shrunk the tumours in her lungs... for now.

Two years post-miracle, sixteen-year-old Hazel is post-everything else, too; post-high school, post-friends and post-normalcy. And even though she could live for a long time (whatever that means), Hazel lives tethered to an oxygen tank, the tumours tenuously kept at bay with a constant chemical assault.

Enter Augustus Waters. A match made at cancer kid support group, Augustus is gorgeous, in remission, and shockingly to her, interested in Hazel. Being with Augustus is both an unexpected destination and a long-needed journey, pushing Hazel to re-examine how sickness and health, life and death, will define her and the legacy that everyone leaves behind.

This was the first book I've read by John Green. I've only seen maybe two of the Vlogbrothers YouTube videos. It's not like I'm some crazed John Green fanatic. I'm almost too worried to read another book by him because now I have high expectations. I say this so you understand that this book really did blow me away, and it wasn't just because I was already biased to like the book.

I wish I could put into words how absolutely fantastic this book really is. My words, however, do the book no justice. I was in tears for last couple chapters of the book, which does make it difficult to read. It’s one of those books I just want to shove into everyone’s hands and tell them they must read it. When I finished the book, I immediately turned back to the beginning and reread it. I have never done that with any book before. This book ripped my heart apart and then somehow stitched it back together again. It’s a book that takes you awhile to recover from. I expect it will stick with me forever, and I think maybe it has changed something inside me. I know that sounds ridiculous and cheesy, but I’m not being dramatic.

This book had me laughing so hard I was in tears. Then I was in tears because of the overwhelming feelings the book inspires. The characters are amazing. They're teenagers, but they are going through things that most of us couldn't begin to imagine. Green does a wonderful job balancing the angst of teenagers with the maturity that comes with facing adversity. Hazel and Augustus are eccentric and yet still very grounded. The book is filled with their existential ponderings which add great depth to the story. Isaac behaves in a way which is a little closer to what most people might think the average teenager would react. There are parts in the novel, mostly with Kaitlyn, which make it seem like this is a book written by an adult with preconceived notions of how teenagers act, but overall I think it's believable that the characters could be real teenagers.

The plot is incredible with some unexpected twists and turns which ground the book in reality. The pacing is pretty solid throughout the book except perhaps towards the end where it speeds up. I wasn't prepared for the ending and then it was over. However, I hesitate to call that a weakness in this story because it really happens that fast sometimes. That feeling of imbalance in the world is completely realistic. I don't want to say more than that for fear of giving something away. But seriously, if I could put this book into the hands of everyone I met, I totally would.

Book Beginning:
Late in the winter of my seventeenth year, my mother decided I was depressed, presumably because I rarely left the house, spent quite a lot of time in bed, read the same book over and over, ate infrequently, and devoted quite a bit of my abundant free time to thinking about death.

Favorite Quotes:
“There will come a time when all of us are dead. All of us. There will come a time when there are no human beings remaining to remember that anyone ever existed or that our species ever did anything. There will be no one left to remember Aristotle or Cleopatra, let alone you. Everything that we did and built and wrote and thought and discovered will be forgotten and all of this will have been for naught. Maybe that time is coming soon and maybe it is millions of years away, but even if we survive the collapse of our sun, we will not survive forever. There was time before organisms experienced consciousness, and there will be time after. And if the inevitability of human oblivion worries you, I encourage you to ignore it. God knows that’s what everyone else does.” -pg 12-13

Sometimes, you read a book and it fills you with this weird evangelical zeal, and you become convinced that the shattered world will never be put back together unless and until all living humans read the book. -pg 33

"All salvation is temporary," Augustus shot back. "I bought them a minute. Maybe that's the minute that buys them an hour, which is the hour that buys them a year. No one's gonna buy them forever, Hazel Grace, but my life bought them a minute. And that's not nothing." -pg 59

"But I believe in true love, you know? I don't believe that everybody gets to keep their eyes or not get sick or whatever, but everybody should have true love, and it should last at least as long as your life does." -pg 75

Wounded. Like Caroline Mathers had been a bomb and when she blew up everyone around her was left with embedded shrapnel. -pg 98
"I'm like. Like. I'm like a grenade, Mom. I'm a grenade and at some point I'm going to blow up and I would like to minimize the casualties, okay?"
My dad tilted his head a little to the side, like a scolded puppy.
"I'm a grenade," I said again. "I just want to stay away from people and read books and think and be with you guys because there's nothing I can do about hurting you; you're too invested, so just please let me do that, okay? I'm not depressed. I don't need to get out more. And I can't be a regular teenager, because I'm a grenade."
-pg 99

"You realize that trying to keep your distance from me will not lessen my affection for you." he said.
"I guess?" I said.
"All efforts to save me from you will fail," he said.
"Why? Why would you even like me? Haven't you put yourself through enough of this?" I asked, thinking of Caroline Mathers.
Gus didn't answer. He just held on to me, his fingers strong against my left arm. "We gotta do something about this frigging swing set," he said. "I'm telling you, it's ninety percent of the problem." -pg 122-123

As he read, I fell in love the way you fall asleep: slowly, and then all at once. -pg 124-125

"I'm in love with you, and I'm not in the business of denying myself the simple pleasure of saying true things. I'm in love with you, and I know that love is just a shout into the void, and that oblivion is inevitable, and that we're all doomed and that there will come a day when all our labor has been returned to dust, and I know the sun will swallow the only earth we'll ever have, and I am in love with you." -pg 153

Some infinities are bigger than other infinities. -pg 189, 260

But that wasn't quite right. I called it a nine because I was saving my ten. And here it was, the great and terrible ten, slamming me again and again as I lay still and alone in my bed staring at the ceiling, the waves tossing me against the rocks then pulling me back out to sea so they could launch me again into the jagged face of the cliff, leaving me floating faceup on the water, undrowned. -pg 263 [referring to level of pain on a scale of 1 to 10]

My thoughts are stars I can't fathom into constellations. -pg 311

The marks humans leave are too often scars. You build a hideous minimall or start a coup or try to become a rock star and you think, "They'll remember me now," but (a) they don't remember you, and (b) all you leave behind are more scars. Your coup becomes a dictatorship. Your minimall becomes a lesion.
We are like a bunch of dogs squirting on fire hydrants. We poison the groundwater with our toxic piss, marking everything MINE in a ridiculous attempt to survive our deaths.
We're as likely to hurt the universe as we are to help it, and we're not likely to do either. -pg 311-312

Rating Breakdown:
Plot: 5 hearts
Pacing: 5 hearts
Characters: 5 hearts
Character Relationships: 5 hearts
Ending: 5 hearts
Recommend: Absolutely! A must read for everyone!

Read for these challenges:
YA Literature
A to Z
100+ Books

Review - Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion
*Debut Novel*
Publisher: Atria
Publication Date: 26 April 2011
Genre: YA Zombie Horror
My Copy: library - hardback

R is a young man with an existential crisis--he is a zombie. He shuffles through an America destroyed by war, social collapse, and the mindless hunger of his undead comrades, but he craves something more than blood and brains. He can speak just a few grunted syllables, but his inner life is deep, full of wonder and longing. He has no memories, noidentity, and no pulse, but he has dreams.

After experiencing a teenage boy's memories while consuming his brain, R makes an unexpected choice that begins a tense, awkward, and stragely sweet relationship with the victim's human girlfriend. Julie is a blast of color in the otherwise dreary and gray landscape that surrounds R. His decision to protect her will transform not only R, but his fellow Dead, and perhaps their whole lifeless world.

Scary, funny, and surprisingly poignant, Warm Bodies is about being alive, being dead, and the blurry line in between.

This book was a unique and fantastic read. The question the book seems to be asking is what is life? Does R have a life? R is a zombie with feelings and intelligent thought. That alone makes him unique in the realm of zombie novels and movies. He has no pulse, but he contemplates his existence. He listens to music and seems to enjoy art. The zombies have a culture of their own with a religion and a legal system of sorts. Do the humans who live in the stadium have a life? They live day to day just trying to survive. They aren't really improving their lives. They aren't trying to find a cure anymore. They are just trying not to die. Julie is a bit different from the average person in the stadium. She collects artwork (like Salvador Dali's Persistence of Memory) and reads books. It is definitely an interesting and thought provoking book.

The plot is unique although it is not the only zombie book with this theme running through it. The pacing is fairly even with only a few spots where I had to force myself to not skip forward. The story has enough small conflicts to keep the book moving forward to the larger climax. The climax did seem a little rushed, and some of the things surrounding R and Julie and also the Boneys are never explained. The ending does not imply any sort of sequel which is probably for the best, so you just have to make a few assumptions. It's interesting to be inside R's mind. He's a very insightful and lovable character. Perry's thoughts provide the dark, realistic human perspective on the world while still somehow maintaining an edge of hope. Julie provides the lighter side of the book. She's hard and has been through a lot, yet she's incredibly vulnerable, forgiving, and hopeful. She's brave and has a lot of spunk.

On a final note, I will say that sometimes this book seemed like a YA novel and at other times I doubted that label. I'd recommend this to anyone who enjoys a good zombie book or who likes to read books which question the meaning of life. The film is supposed to come out August 10th.

Book Beginning:
I am dead, but it's not so bad. I've learned to live with it.

Favorite Quotes:
"You haven't been here long enough. You grew up in a safe place. You don't understand the dangers."
Dark feelings flood my belly at this, but I manage to hold my tongue. I don't know the pain she's speaking from, but I know it's deep. It makes her hard and yet so terribly soft. It's her thorns and it's her hand reaching out from the thicket. -pg 111

"There is no benchmark for how life's 'supposed' to happen, Perry. There is no ideal world for you to wait around for. The world is always just what it is now, and it's up to you how you respond to it." -pg 113

Rating Breakdown:
Plot: 5 hearts
Pacing: 4 hearts
Characters: 5 hearts
Character Relationships: 5 hearts
Ending: 4 hearts
Recommend: Absolutely!

Read for these challenges:
YA Literature
12 Dystopian/Post Apocalyptic
A to Z
100+ Books