Paper Towns

January 9, 2009

papertowns-rightJohn Green’s latest and greatest novel. After an inspiring debut and a less relatable second novel, Paper Towns was a very pleasant surprise. It is definitely the best young adult book I’ve read this year; and it will be interesting to see if another will take its place as the year unfolds.

In the first part, the book takes us on a dizzying to-do list of adventures (I tend to like novels that contain lists). It promises to be a page-turner with tons of fun and no  deep moral. But the second part makes a character disappear, veering away from such a prediction completely. There is a lot of meditation on understanding other people, and in particular, on misimagining others by seeing them as idea[l]s.

The hunt for clues left by the missing person continues almost until the end, making this another novel for whose answer-in-the-lack-of-answers ending I feared. Although the characters do finally reunite, the message Green sends out is not one that inspires comfort. Basically, he puts Maugham’s tower of brass into words intelligible to the impatient Google generation. True and complete understanding between people is impossible; you cannot be someone else.

The novel ends with a brilliant metaphor about human suffering and understanding.

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Quotes from “Lock and Key”, by Sarah Dessen

August 19, 2008

Which was not as impressive as her other works.
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The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl

August 4, 2008

by Barry Lyga.

(Try to ignore the bombastic title.)

Skinny guy living in his mother’s basement, computer and comic book geek, bullied at school, convinced everyone hates him. Self-proclaimed brainiac loser and his bullet, good liar, surviving from week to week between gym classes, hoping to start over in college. Sounds familiar? Sometimes it’s good to know, there are people worse off.

With more than a fair deal of unrealistic moments (IM date, Dina) and obvious plot turns (stolen bullet, step-fascist helps, she’s at the con), this novel is only as good as its sarcastic narrator. I liked the ending a lot, though.

Quotes:

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Looking for Alaska

July 27, 2008

by John Green.

A novel which made me wonder about so many things.

Miles “Pudge” Halter, 16, decides to leave his friendless and uneventful home town and seek the Great Perhaps at an out-of-state boarding school. There he meets Chip “The Colonel”, Alaska, and Takumi, and their undying love for mischief soon introduces him to the world of smoking, drinking, and pranking. Miles notices:

The phrase booze and mischief left me worrying I’d stumbled into what my mother referred to as “the wrong crowd”; but for the wrong crowd, they both seemed awfully smart.

It’s interesting to see how Miles becomes a different person (in many ways) by associating himself with these people. But this is just the setup scene for what is about to happen, and it will leave nobody unaffected.

This is about as much as I can tell you without spoiling your reading pleasure. So you’d better stop here and read the book.

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The Perks of Being a Wallflower

July 15, 2008

by Stephen Chbosky.

Here’s how the novel starts. If such a beginning can leave you indifferent, you’re very unlike me.

August 25, 1991
Dear friend,
I am writing to you because she said you listen and understand and didn’t try to sleep with that person at that party even though you could have. Please don’t try to figure out who she is because then you might figure out who I am, and I really don’t want you to do that. I will call people by different names or generic names because I don’t want you to find me. I didn’t enclose a return address for the same reason. I mean nothing bad by this. Honest.
I just need to know that someone out there listens and understands and doesn’t try to sleep with people even if they could have. I need to know that these people exist.

Charlie is a high school freshman caught between the colliding forces of inner turmoil and outside influences. The novel tells the story of a year in his life, in the form of letters to an anonymous friend. While it was difficult, at times, to believe that such deep thoughts could have originated from a 15-year-old, that didn’t stop me from feeling and relating with the character.

One could say the novel is a testimony of the friction between two desires: to embrace life, and to run away from life. But it is discussing a lot more than that. Since I have not grown up in an American high school environment, I cannot think of this in terms of “realistic” or “non-realistic”, but it certainly opens a clear and honest window into the world of a teenager.

I find it very lucky, if not downright miraculous, that Charlie manages to find a mentor (Bill, his English teacher) and friends (Patrick and Sam), who are older than him. Bill tells him to participate and stop using thought to remove himself from life. V fubhyq yrnea fbzrguvat sebz gung…

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