Tag Archives: John Green

BOOK REVIEW: Turtles All The Way Down – John Green

Turtles All the Way DownTurtles All the Way Down by John Green
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

It’s possible that John Green enthusiasts already come steeled to deal with heavy duty emotional toil, given that his past books place teenagers in cancer, fatal accidents and parental neglect. Still, this book is a different kind of monster and it’s a shock when you encounter it. The last time I felt so desperately bleak was when I read 13 Reasons Why and that’s a book that really should be restricted reading. Should this book come with trigger warnings? Yes. And here they are: Mental illness, OCD, Child abuse. These are spoilers but I think the need for trigger warnings trumps the need to entertain the reader.

My complaint with John Green is his stock characters. Looking for Alaska and Paper Towns were both about the same confused, entitled girl and a confused, enamoured boy. This book arguably gives you again the starring duo from The Fault in Our Stars except instead of cancer, one has OCD and the other has some kind of parental neglect-triggered anxiety. There is even the high-strung best friend you feel sorry for, except this time it’s a girl and she’s poor, not blind.

Still, if you like your familiar characters and can handle teenagers in horrific situations, this book reads quite nicely, showing off Green’s strengths. Say what you will, but the man is good with his words. The conversations feel familiar but never trite. All his characters seem overly obsessed with literary references but they’re vulnerable and grey.

True to his formula, the book does not end on the expected happy ending but still on a positive note. Also, if you’re wondering what the title means, you get the reference in the last quarter of the book (again on formula, just like Paper Towns and The Fault In Our Stars). Maybe teenagers and other audiences for YA novels need a certain level of formula, especially to deal with the kind of gristly themes Green takes on. And in that, he manages to pull off another successful story that warms your heart, makes you cry a little and wish the world were kinder and then get up and move on.

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BOOK Review: Looking For Alaska – John Green

Looking for AlaskaLooking for Alaska by John Green

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

My first John Green was ‘The Fault in Our Stars‘ which I came to reluctantly, assuming it would be soppy and shoddily written. I was wrong. Falling in love with that book led me to rush out and buy ‘Paper Towns‘. And that was a HUGE letdown (with a great title). I also bought ‘Looking for Alaska‘ but after ‘Paper Towns‘, I put it away, my taste for John Green’s neurotic teenagers soured.

I picked it up again this week, meaning to clear my unread shelf and we’re back in love. Just like ‘Paper Towns‘, the heroine of this novel is self-absorbed, flaky, impulsive and just plain bad for you. But unlike in that one, she’s glorified a little less and the protagonists are a bit more self-aware of how destructive she is for them.

The ending (or should I call it the middle, since the book is roughly split into Before, During and After) is a shock in a good way because it makes you realise just how much you care about the characters. The lines are funny and then tragic but always poignant in that teenage way where everything is intense but also true. The plot transitions smoothly too even if it takes awhile to get started.

John Green’s writing is warm and intimate and makes you feel close to the situations and characters even if you don’t like them or relate to them much.

I don’t know what went wrong with ‘Paper Towns‘ but ‘Looking for Alaska‘ gets it right in all the ways that ‘The Fault in Our Stars‘ did. If you liked the latter, you’ll definitely like this one. I’d even go so far to say this is the better book, because it manages to touch you without all the cancer melodrama of TFIOS. Skip ‘Paper Towns‘, move right on to Alaska and the stars.

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