Book: Turtles All The Way Down

"Turtles All The Way Down"

Sixteen-year-old Aza never intended to pursue the mystery of fugitive billionaire Russel Pickett, but there’s a hundred-thousand-dollar reward at stake and her Best and Most Fearless Friend, Daisy, is eager to investigate. So together, they navigate the short distance and broad divides that separate them from Russel Pickett’s son, Davis.

Aza is trying. She is trying to be a good daughter, a good friend, a good student, and maybe even a good detective, while also living within the ever-tightening spiral of her own thoughts.

Confession time: I’m a bit biased when it comes to John Green. I liked the first book by him that I picked up. Everything that followed was a reflection of that first book, until The Fault in Our Stars. Which I also liked at the time of reading, but quickly outgrew. There was something that’s very adolescent in the way John Green wrote his characters, and they don’t hold up when you read them again a few years later. So when I picked up Turtles All The Way Down, I had low expectations.

Aza is not an easy character to relate with. Not at first. And my problem with this is the fact that she’s our gateway to this story. A character that questions the reality around her. It’s hard to grab hold of that. It’s like entering a fantasy world, and being told by your host that everything is fake. Not even unreal. Straight out fake. And it takes some getting used to. Especially since for the first few chapters, we are merely spectators in an expository journey.

And then Aza and Davis meet. Again, since in the story, they already had a shared history. Normally, this is where I put a pause on reading to question the author’s motives. Really? We finally see chinks in our character’s armor when she meets the love interest? But Aza doesn’t see Davis as a love interest. Not yet. She sees in him a kindred spirit. It helps that they have a built-in history. One that we get to slowly rediscover with the characters.

With Davis, his father’s disappearance, and the complications their reconnecting brings, the story begins to pick up speed.

The characters begin to feel real.

Somewhere between Chapters three and six, I realized that I couldn’t put down the book anymore. I realized I related to Aza, and Daisy, and Davis–and yet none of them are stereotypes of a character. In my head, I began to debate the pros and cons for the possible endings to the relationships that the book was presenting.

The book became engaging. Unlike previous John Green books that felt paint-by-numbers, Turtles All The Way Down was pushed by chaos, by circumstances that was inherent to the characters and the plot, but never felt like a driving force even as they push the story forward.

And I love how the book deals with certain issues realistically. Maturely. And I like how the book ends with a promise.

Turtles All The Way Down lives up to the hype.

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Movie: The Fault in our Stars

"The Fault in our Stars"

Hazel and Gus are two extraordinary teenagers who share an acerbic wit, a disdain for the conventional, and a love that sweeps them – and us – on an unforgettable journey. Their relationship is all the more miraculous, given that they met and fell in love at a cancer support group. THE FAULT IN OUR STARS, based upon the number-one bestselling novel by John Green, explores the funny, thrilling and tragic business of being alive and in love.” (C) Fox

I understand that The Fault in our Stars is a love story. I do. But the thing that sets it apart is not that it’s a love story between teens with Cancer. What sets it apart is that their love story helps them understand that the world doesn’t revolve around them. That life will go on for the people who love them. This is why The Imperial Affliction plot thread was important, because it was a representation of their fears. But the only thing we got out of this very important plot thread was lip service.

The film version of The Fault in our Stars focuses on the love story between Augustus Waters and, our protagonist, Hazel Grace Lancaster. And, if I’m going to be honest, it’s not really any different from other doomed love stories. Boy meets Girl. They fall in love. But can’t be together because of ‘reasons.’ And yet they still get together anyway, making the most of the time they have together. And then one of them dies. The end.

Oh, come off it. That’s not a spoiler. They’re people with cancer. You know one of them is going to die.

Going back to my point: The Fault in our Stars distilled down to just romance isn’t special. Not for me. Because it was the relationships of this two star-crossed lovers to people other than each other that really made their love story special. Because they were learning from each other not to better themselves, but to be better people to those around them.

The source material deals with death. The book is brimming with death. Not explicitly, but we feel it with the way characters stop being mentioned. We feel it when one character loses his eyes. We feel it whenever Hazel Grace looks at her mother watching over her, caring for her, rushing to her if she so much as gasps out of air.

Yes, the film did take said scenes to the big screen version. But most of it was played to comic effect. The rest became merely words that needed to be said.

Unlike some people online, I don’t think John Green is infallible. Nor do I think that The Fault in our Stars is the be-all and end-all of books. But it was a book I recommended to people because of the fact that that it was a love story not just between boy and girl, but between the main characters and their family and friends too.

Because the book was bigger than just another love story.

Separate from the book, the movie was decent enough. But it’s not a good adaptation for me. I already had more, so I wasn’t going to expect less. I just hope that the film encourages people to read the book, for a better experience with The Fault in our Stars.

Book: The Fault In Our Stars

"The Fault In Our Stars"

Despite the tumor-shrinking medical miracle that has bought her a few years, Hazel has never been anything but terminal, her final chapter inscribed upon diagnosis. But when a gorgeous plot twist named Augustus Waters suddenly appears at Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazel’s story is about to be completely rewritten.

I don’t think it’s any secret that I’m not a John Green fan. But prior to me not being a fan, I made the mistake of buying all of his books that had already come out. And all because I really enjoyed reading Paper Towns. Since then, I’ve gone through his books slowly, and one by one. I found out that I wasn’t a big fan of Looking for Alaska, or of An Abundance of Katherines–but I found myself liking Will Grayson, Will Grayson, even with the author’s tried and tested formula.

One book remained: The Fault In Our Stars.

People raved about the book, and I was intrigued. Again. Will Grayson, Will Grayson allowed me to have faith in Green’s writing again. But some of these people also raved about the other John Green novels that were not Paper Towns. So I approached the last John Green book in my possession with a lot of hesitation and very low expectations. And you know what they say about setting low expectations, right?

I loved The Fault In Our Stars. Mostly because it didn’t follow the John Green formula of having a quirky male lead fall in love with a too cool to be popular girl. Nor did it have the overweight best friend who was very humorous and/or well-loved. The Fault In Our Stars had Hazel, a girl who knows she will soon die–and the boy she didn’t want to love, but did anyway.

Not even a quarter into the novel, I was already tearing up. Out of all the characters John Green has created, I think Hazel is the first to actually feel real. From her matter-of-fact way of dealing with her cancer, her relationship with her parents–and her reaction (and reluctance) to falling in love with a boy who will definitely lose her to cancer.

I liked Hazel. And the reason why I, I think, enjoyed this book is because I was rooting for Hazel. I wanted her to have a happy ending. I wanted her to take a leap, to risk loving Augustus Waters.

And I loved the fact that both of them weren’t perfect, but were beautiful to each other.

I loved the fact that while Hazel has accepted her destiny, she never bowed down to it. That she continues to enjoy the life she does have.

And I love how, even though they were background characters, Hazel’s parents had lives of their own.

Notice the number of times I’ve used the word love? I really love this book, it seems.

Within the story, Hazel and Augustus become enamored by a book that dealt with dying. Said book ends in mid-sentence, never really revealing what happened to the characters in it, only implying that the main character, the one telling the story, has died. Being the type of guy who refuses to peek at the last page, I must admit to being afraid that John Green might do the same thing for the book. (Spoiler alert: he doesn’t.) But that’s not the point.

The point is this: Hazel and Augustus are frustrated that they don’t know the end to the stories of the other characters. And that got me thinking. Why don’t I ever wonder what happens to the other characters once I put down a book? I guess that’s because I like to imagine them leaving healthy, happy lives afterwards. And I’m content with that. But Hazel and Augustus aren’t. Maybe because their book ends so abruptly.

If they had read their own story though, I don’t think they’d have been frustrated. While John Green doesn’t tie up everything with a nice little bow, he does give closure to almost all the characters. And that needs to be enough.

I must say, The Fault In Our Stars has placed John Green back in my good graces. I hope whatever his follow up is won’t fall into the formula of his older books.

In the meantime, let’s check out what other people have said about this book:
Quingdom
Read & Riot
Refracted Light
YouTube Review: ollivandermo

Book: Will Grayson, Will Grayson

"Will Grayson, Will Grayson"

One cold night, in a most unlikely corner of Chicago, two strangers cross paths. Two teens with the same name, running in two very different circles, suddenly find their lives going in new and unexpected directions, culminating in heroic turns-of-heart and the most epic musical ever to grace the high school stage.

I have to say, out of all the John Green novels I’ve read–this one is the best. Maybe it’s because he wrote it with someone else. But I think–I hope–he does take something from this exercise. I haven’t read his latest book yet, so I wouldn’t know. But Will Grayson, Will Grayson takes off so much from other Green novels because the author is forced to include three new characters that aren’t part of his hit formula.

In Will Grayson, Will Grayson, we get two characters with the same name but are from the different sides of the personality spectrum. The funny thing is, the two are essentially the same–except, they dealt with their fears and insecurities differently. One unconsciously became a shadow of a much bigger personality, while the other rejected all offers of connection.

David Leviathan’s Will Grayson is the latter. And he’s the more interesting character, in my opinion, because he’s filled with so much self-hatred that it pours of him–and it affects his relationship with everyone. And he tries so hard not to care, but he can’t help but do. Especially when it comes to his mother. Whereas John Green’s Will Grayson is of the stereotype the author has created for all his heroes. A little quirky, unpopular, friends with someone big (this time, literally and figuratively), and hopelessly in love with a girl too cool for him. Forced to face each other, the two Will Graysons bring out something different.

And that’s when the book became interesting.

Will Grayson, Will Grayson, unlike other John Green novels isn’t just about coming of age. While it is that, it focuses more on the importance of connection. How other people affect us, and how we (in turn) affect them.

What I like about it the most is it’s a young adult novel that doesn’t celebrate standing out. Because, really, not everyone can stand out. What makes any one of us special, if all of us are special? This book talks about how, no matter how different you might be, you have someone you’re the same with. Whether by interest, by love, by family–or, by name. And yet, at the same time, the things that make us common are the things that make us who we are. It’s the things that shape who we become.

And in the era of the me generation, a story about people who help someone else stand out, is the one that stands out the most.

From the books I’ve read this year, Will Grayson, Will Grayson is a clear front runner for being a favorite.

But what do other people think?
A Little Shelf of Heaven
Fyrefly’s Book Blog
YouTube: Book Review

Book: An Abundance of Katherines

"An Abundance of Katherines"

When it comes to relationships, Colin Singleton’s type is girls named Katherine. And when it comes to girls named Katherine, Colin is always getting dumped. Nineteen times, to be exact. On a road trip miles from home, this anagram-happy, washed-up child prodigy has ten thousand dollars in his pocket, a bloodthirsty feral hog on his trail, and an over-weight, Judge Judy-loving best friend riding shotgun–but no Katherines. Colin is on a mission to prove The Theorem of Underlying Katherine Predictability, which he hopes will predict the future of any relationship, avenge Dumpees everywhere, and may finally win him the girl.

Ever since I read Paper Towns, I’ve been on a mission to find the next best John Green novel. I was a little disappointed with Looking for Alaska, so I approached An Abundance of Katherines with caution. A lot of caution. And I must say, it’s not as bad as Looking for Alaska was for me–but it still isn’t the next best John Green novel I’ve been looking for.

From the three John Green novels I’ve read, I’ve already noticed a pattern. Your male lead’s a geek with a weird characteristic and he’s antisocial. Or, at the least, he hasn’t a lot of friends. The best friend is almost always overweight, and is the funny guy–but he’ll show some heart and insight later on. And the leading ladies? They’re beautiful girls who should be popular, and are popular, but they’re not content with what they have. They’re Belles, in a way. And by Belles, I mean Disney’s version of the female lead in Beauty and the Beast.

Now, most of you know how I feel about formula. Not a fan. And I know the books are different enough to warrant being published as different books, but it’s really hard for me to enjoy something when I know what’s going to happen next.

Okay, maybe not all the time. But most of the time, that’s how I feel.

And after An Abundance of Katherines, I think I lost hope that I’ll ever find the next best John Green novel. Except, I already bought another John Green novel before I read An Abundance of Katherines. And while I’m not a fan of formulaic stories, I can’t really discount the fact that John Green writes very well. And so now I turn to Will Grayson, Will Grayson for Green salvation.

As you can see, this is barely a reaction post. But some people have already shared their opinions of the book online, why don’t we check those out?
The Garden of Books
Pretty Books
Books Devoured

Book: Looking for Alaska

"Looking for Alaska" by John GreenBefore. Miles “Pudge” Halter is done with his safe life at home. His whole existence has been one big movement, and his obsession with famous last words has only made him crave the “Great Perhaps” (François Rabelais, poet) even more. He heads off to the sometimes crazy, possibly unstable, and anything-but-boring world of Culver Creek Boarding School, and his life becomes the opposite of safe. Because down the hall is Alaska Young. The gorgeous, clever, funny, sexy, self-destructive, screwed-up, and utterly fascinating Alaska Young, who is an event unto herself. She pulls Pudge into her world, launches him into the Great Perhaps, and steals his heart.

After. Nothing is ever the same.

I tried really hard to like this book, but I have to say–I think the synopsis is more inspired than the novel it’s trying to sell. But this is just me. I know people who will swear by this book. I just don’t see it.

Come to think of it, prior to reading Paper Towns, I wasn’t really interested in this book at all. But because I liked that book, I decided to give the other John Green novels a chance. Clearly, I have not learned from my Twilight mistake. Never buy books by bulk. Only get the ones you’re really interested in. Don’t be fooled into complacency by one good book.

That said, I’m not saying Looking For Alaska is bad. It’s not. A little talky, yes, but not bad. Thing is, while reading it, my mind kept flashing back to Paper Towns. Both are novels about self-discovery, about growing up–I just think Paper Towns did it better. And with that mindset, I guess Looking for Alaska was doomed midway through.

Also, call me a prude, but I’m not really a fan of novels that have teens getting hooked into vices. In this book’s case: drinking and smoking. And I know that it’s part of growing up. Supposedly. But I just find myself giving negative points to books/stories that have this character devolution. I mean,  development.

Of course, this doesn’t really factor in when I find myself engrossed in the story. Or even if it does, I tend to forget about it when the book is really, really good. Which, in this case, it’s not. Not for me, anyway.

But, as I always say, this is just my opinion. If you want second opinion, why don’t you check out these blogs:
The Bookaholics
Mindful Musings

Book: Paper Towns

"Paper Towns" by John GreenWho is the real Margo?

Quentin Jacobsen has spent a lifetime loving the magnificently adventurous Margo Roth Spiegelman from afar. So when she cracks open a window and climbs into his life–dressed like a ninja and summoning him for an ingenious campaign of revenge–he follows. After their all-nighter ends, and a new day breaks, Q arrives at school to discover that Margo, always an enigma, has now become a mystery. But Q soon learns that there are clues–and they’re for him. Urged down a disconnected path, the closer he gets, the less Q sees the girl he thought he knew. . .

To be quite honest, I thought this book would take me a bit longer to read. This was one of the books I didn’t mean to buy. I remember reading about it from my fellow Filipino Book Bloggers. And then I saw it in a bookstore. Having gone two months without a book purchase, I decided to buy it. In short, it was an impulse buy. I didn’t even read the back, just picked it up and went to the cashier money in hand.

I don’t regret that decision.

What is there to say about John Green’s Paper Towns? It’s one of the most well-written books I’ve read that deals with high school; most of the characters are realized and well-rounded; and, lastly, it’s very philosophical.

Paper Towns follows Quentin in the last weeks leading up to his high school graduation. If we want to read too much into it, we could say that graduation is a symbol for the rest of his life–a daunting feeling for everyone who has ever graduated. So in the time leading up to the rest of his life, Quentin decides to go on an adventure. Unwillingly? He would like to think so. But somewhere deep within, Quentin wanted to experience his current life differently, before he went off living the rest of it as he used to.

We all have a Margo Roth Spiegelman. She’s that person who can do no wrong–and even when she does, she still looks cool. She’s an aspiration. But as Quentin realizes as he journeys throughout the book, Margo Roth Spiegelman is not a person. She’s an ideal. She’s that person we can admire for everything she does, but can never do ourselves. She’s that person who we can live vicariously through–at a safe distance.

But the problem with Quentin is this: he’s in love with Margo Roth Spiegelman. And though he does start out content with his life, and his placement in the life of Margo Roth Spiegelman, one night of closeness gives him the delusion that there can be more. That he too can be a Margo Roth Spiegelman.

I mentioned, earlier on, that Quentin has a journey. The literal journey happens near the end of the story, but all throughout Quentin is making a journey to self-realization. When he realizes that Margo Roth Spiegelman is missing, he goes on a search for her, following clues that she is wont to leave. But, as I read it, these clues and this journey stand for something bigger. Quentin isn’t so much looking for Margo as he is looking for himself: who he is really, other than the person projected by other people: by his parents, by his friends, and even the bullies who insult him. He goes on a journey that many people, standing at life’s crossroads, would only ponder. What if I had done this? What if I had done that?

Quentin did it. And in a way, his journey can inspire a reader to do it too. Live life as someone you idolize. Live life as you were meant to live it: with no second-guessing, no fear.

In a way, Paper Towns remind me of the play Waiting for Godot. The main difference is, the characters of the play are content with just waiting. No, content is the wrong word. They are stuck with waiting. They feel as if they might miss something if they leave. And that same thing powers Quentin throughout his search for Margo Roth Spiegelman. If he doesn’t search for her, he might miss out on something. And he would have.

He would’ve missed out on a great realization.

Also, we would’ve missed out on a great story.

If you’re looking for a book to read this coming holy week, or whenever, do give Paper Towns a try. I’m sure you won’t regret it. But that’s just my opinion, here are a few more to help you decide:
Teen Book Review
One More Page
Guys Gone Geek
Ace of Books