Tag Archives: John Green

Turtles All the Way Down, by John Green

Turtles All the Way DownSure, everybody’s teen years are confusing and difficult, but Aza’s life is not so bad. Her single mother is also her history teacher, but she’s a great mom. Daisy, her BFF, has an endless supply of coupons for Applebee’s, so they eat free every week, and the boy she is crushing on even seems to return her affections. It’s just that Aza can’t get past the suspicion that she is a fictional character.

When the feeling becomes oppressive, Aza drives her nail into her finger, and the pain of the split skin reassures her that she is real. This relief is quickly replaced by the fear of infection, so Aza has to remove the ever-present Band-Aid, washing and disinfecting the open wound. And then there are the Wikipedia articles that she feels compelled to read over and over, describing the symptoms of the most dreaded diseases and causing her to live in constant revulsion over all of the bacteria dwelling in her healthy human body.

Daisy lives life out loud. She works at Chucky Cheese, writes fan fiction, and chatters through all of Aza’s silence. When Daisy finds out that they could win $100,000 by finding a missing millionaire, she jumps right in—which means that Aza has to play, too, since she is the one with the wheels.

Bestselling author John Green has described this novel as his most personal work yet. The theme of mental illness has become a growing trend in young adult fiction over the last few years, and often, the main characters are good kids in solid homes with loving parents, which helps to erase the stereotypes in older works. Turtles All the Way Down features Green’s signature witty and precocious teens, with one strong girl just trying to get through high school while drowning in her Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Aza is a thoroughly relatable character who is caught up in the tightening spiral of her own thoughts, someone who would like to focus more on other people, but who cannot escape the fears that consume her every waking moment.

Very highly recommended.

Disclaimer: I read a library copy of this book, since there will probably never be another galley of a John Green book. Opinions expressed are solely my own and may not express those of my employer or anyone else.


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The Rest of Us Just Live Here, by Patrick Ness

Rest of Us Just Live HereMike is not one of the indie kids. He and his friends never interacted with the vampires a few years back, or the ghosts a few years before that. They just go to high school, work at local restaurants, and deal with their parents. The indie kids wear black clothes, engage in a lot of angst and despair, and listen to jazz while reading poetry. Unfortunately, they also die a lot.

Sure, Mikey and his family have their share of problems. Mike has OCD to the point that he washes his hands until they crack and bleed. His older sister, Mel, is recovering (maybe) from anorexia, and their father is an alcoholic. Meredith, the youngest, is a genius and is the best at dealing with their politically-driven mother. Mike’s closest friend, Jared, is a great guy with the added bonus of being able to heal people a little bit, probably as a side effect of being one-quarter god. God of the Cats, that’s Jared. He has a soothing presence, but there is the issue of all the cats that follow him around to worship him. The new kid, Nathan, is impossibly handsome and might be an indie kid, or it could just be that Mikey hates him because Henna is smitten with Nathan, and Mike is in love with Henna. Maybe.

Patrick Ness never does anything the same way anyone else does, and furthermore, he never does anything the way he has done it before. In this new genre-bashing novel, he begins each chapter with a stylized, new age, poetic fantasy paragraph, such as this:

CHAPTER THE SECOND, in which indie-kid Satchel writes a poem, and her mom and dad give her loving space to just feel what she needs to; then an indie kid called Dylan arrives at her house, terrified, to say a mysterious glowing girl has informed him of the death of indie kid Finn; Satchel and Dylan comfort each other, platonically. (p. 11)

Following these chapter headings, we continue the story of Mike and his family and friends in which exactly none of the things above happen. Is this just the author’s little joke? Oh, no. Is he just making fun of YA literature? Well, yes. Ness manages to tell one or two narratives that are serious and believable, with tongue tucked firmly in cheek and one bizarre plot twist after another. It’s a YA problem novel with fantasy and loads of sarcasm laced with empathy. It’s as if John Green and Maggie Stiefvater each wrote opposite parts of the novel, making fun of each other as they went. (Which I’m sure they would never do, of course, because they have the utmost respect for one another’s brilliant work and for one another as fine human beings.)

So fun, so well done. A Printz winner? Maybe.

Highly recommended for older teens and adults who read enough YA to get the inside jokes. One not-at-all-graphic sex scene and a bit of foul language.

Disclaimer: I read a library copy of this book (which means I bought 17 of them). Opinions expressed are solely my own and do not reflect those of my employer or anyone else.

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