DISCLAIMER: This is the very first audiobook I have listened to in its entirety.
And so my love of John Green grows. How can one man be so awesome?! I know that this book was a joint effort between John Green and David Levithan but I’m going to add it to my growing obsession with Mr. Green and also acknowledge a growing interest in David Levithan.
This is an amazing book and the audio version just capitalizes on everything that makes the writing so poignant. The book is about the collision of two high school boys who both happen to share the name Will Greyson. Neither one of them is exactly thrilled with the current status of his life. And so the book essentially explores the highs and lows of finding yourself in the midst of the highs and lows of high school.
It is brilliantly written in that it somehow captures all of the wonderful emotions from high school. The book literally made me laugh out loud at times and then before I knew it I would also find myself tearing up. The ending of the book literally had me weeping. The writers do a great job using alternating stream of consciousness of two separate boys, both named Will Greyson, to capture two very real possible realities of a teenager. Now I was never a teenage boy so I don’t know everything about that specific experience but I do remember being a teenage girl and I was awkward and angsty. I didn’t really understand love but I knew that I wanted to be loved. And I remember how scary it was taking chances on people as I navigated my way through building new relationships. There is an ongoing paradox when it comes to building relationships. We want human contact but it requires a leap of faith. Every meaningful relationship requires trust but trusting someone makes you vulnerable and opens you up to hurt. I have loved. I have been hurt. And I know that somehow it all ends up being worthwhile.
All I know for sure is that talking about this book just makes me want to read it all over again. The characters are endearing. You’ll love Tiny, the enormous gay football player who decides to celebrate himself by writing a musical about his own life. The audibook brilliantly sings these songs. You’ll also definitely feel sympathy for the raw emotion that both Will Greyson’s bravely and boldly lay out for you. I think that there is something in this book for everyone. Whether you like wit or emotion, you’ll undoubtedly relate to the characters and sympathize with their struggles. No matter what, you’ll end up rooting for them and praying that somehow everything will work out for them.
I have been considering HOW I wanted to wire this review post for quite some time. This book reminds me of every reason that I read (and occasionally take a shot at writing).
At first glance, the book seems to just be a typical young adult novel. Actually, I don’t think that is even true. From the first page, I knew that there was something different about this book.
The main character of the novel, Hazel, is a total bad ass. She has wit and personality. Even more, she is hilarious. There are multiple pieces of the novel that made me laugh out loud. Not to mention that she is a cancer survivor. Despite the fact that she is only sixteen years old, she has incredibly complex thoughts. She can’t really act her age because of everything that has happened to her. She is a survivor.
And then she meets her male counterpart in what is actually a somewhat expected place: support group. Augustus is also a cancer survivor. And for whatever reasons, even though they had totally different experiences with cancer, they ended up fitting together like two beautifully crafted pieces of fabric cut from the same cloth.
Their relationship isn’t a fairytale romance at all. It is filled with conflict, disappointment, and a deep-rooted understanding of the fact that life doesn’t make sense. What ultimately brings them together i not their cancer, it is a book about cancer. A book that is missing closure. A book written a completely horrible man. And yet, he becomes a beacon for them. He becomes a living symbol of all the ambiguities that continue to exist in their precarious post-cancer worlds.
Although all of this might sound kind of cheesy from my poor description of it, nothing about it is cheesy. It is masterfully written to achieve depth and sincerity. I wept as I read it. And even as I was crying, I wished that I could just keep on reading. I wanted more. Even though it hurt to come to some of the harsh conclusions that Green vividly and rawly illustrates, I still eagerly wanted more.
And now even after I’ve finished the book, it stays with me. My only hope is that more and more people will read this book and sing its praises.
I’m not ashamed to admit it: I’m a huge Harry Potter fan. I have read each of the seven books multiple times and have seen each of the eight movies multiple times. When the books came to an end, I cried like a baby. When the movies came to an end, my devastation was equally as severe. I think that all of the above evidence would suggest that I’m a fan of J.K. Rowling.
When The Casual Vacancy hit stores, I was excited. I missed Rowling’s voice. That’s probably my favorite aspect about the Harry Potter series. You pick up one of those books and you get a special feeling. She creates a specific and easily recognizable atmosphere. You recognize that what you’re reading is uniquely Rowling. I knew that this new novel was going to be very different from the familiar halls of Hogwarts, and was excited that an author I enjoyed and respected so much was turning over a new page in her writing repertoire.
However, The Casual Vacancy was released in the midst of a very hectic time for me. I hadn’t been doing much recreational reading because I was so focused on preparing lessons for my classes. I discovered that keeping up with the reading that I was assigning was going to be more of a challenge than I expected. Also, I had learned that grading was a gift that kept on giving. Instead of reading from my long TBR list, I found myself reading student papers on most nights. But every time I passed the book in a bookstore, it seemed to be calling out to me. So finally on one night of quiet desperation, I bought it on my iPad.
And reading it was a journey. I usually wouldn’t be able to put down the Harry Potter books. Even though they were chunskters, I would find a way to put everything else in my hold in favor of getting myself to the finish line. With this book, I discovered I could only read it in small sections. I took me MONTHS to finish. I don’t necessarily consider that a bad thing. It’s just that this book isn’t for the feint of heart. Although it does in so many ways contain that familiar Rowling voice that I have grown to recognize and love, the story was a bit difficult for me to take in.
I am thinking that maybe this was just the wrong book at the wrong time. I found myself in this strange state of consuming too many pieces of media that left me feeling hopeless about the state of the world (and humanity). I hated the fact that even in the charming town of Pagford, bad things could happen. The ending broke my heart and I find that even now, about a month after finishing the book, I can’t seem to make sense of it all. But perhaps the fact that the book has stayed with me for a month and is still haunting me (on my drive home from work, I frequently find myself thinking about it) is a sign that it is something that is worth reading. It is beautifully written and at times I found myself laughing and smiling, but in the end I couldn’t help but wish that it was a bit more like Harry Potter.
Have you read The Casual Vacancy? Did it live up to your expectations? What’s your verdict about the book: love it or hate it or somewhere in between? What did you think bout the ending?
I have been putting off writing my New Year’s post. I usually make a laundry list of resolutions that I keep for maybe a month and then they trickle off into a distant memory until the end of the year when I realize that I did not really reach my goals. Don’t get my wrong 2012 was an amazing year. I became a teacher and landed my dream job right out of the credential program. I officially moved in with my boyfriend. In so many ways, I find myself becoming an adult. And all of that feels good. But there are still so many things I want to do. So many more things I want to be.
My reading and writing life has largely been on hold this last year. I made big plans to come back to Justice Jennifer stronger than ever but those fell away when I discovered how difficult first year teaching can truly be. I found myself drowning in grading and planning. Despite all the seemingly never ending work, I found myself feeling fulfilled and happy at the end of every work day. And I gladly gave up huge chunks of my weekend in an attempt to perfect my craft.
So at the end of 2012 I think it was safe to say that I was happy. But I know that i can be happier. So this year, I’m going to be embarking on a happiness project inspired by Gretchen Rubin’s book The Happiness Project. I haven’t completed all the details of the plan for my happiness project, but when I do I promise I will share it on here. After getting a plan in writing and having people to keep you accountable are two huge keys to achieving your goals.
Before I get that official plan in writing, I am going to share some of the categories of my life I’m going to be working on. I’d love to hear some feedback from my readers on these. Any advice about concrete actions that can help in these areas would be amazing! You guys are obviously more brilliant and put together than I am so I’m hoping to get a little help here!
- Accept my imperfections. Be Jennifer.
- Strengthen my relationship.
- Build more meaningful friendships.
- Become a better teacher.
- Get more enjoyment out of my hobbies (focus on reading and writing).
- Accept help.
- Overall wellness: think fitness, spirituality, health, ect.
- Stop stress.
Obviously this is not at all an exhaustive list. This is just my starting point. Each “category” will be broken down for the actual project into three or four tangible goals and I plan to focus one month on each of these. I will undoubtedly be asking for more help along the way. After all, accepting help is one of the categories I know I need to work on!
2013 is going to be another exciting journey. I know that the start of a new year doesn’t mean a blank slate per se, but I am erasing from my mind (for now and as much as I can), the “failures” of years past. I’m accepting myself where I am right now and looking forward to making a few changes in the hopes of a happier future. I think that is ultimately the spirit behind new year’s resolutions anyway.
When my students were studying American Philosophy I was trying to teach them about priorities and consequences before setting them off to read the thoughts of the great American thinkers of the mid-1800s. I didn’t want them thinking that by having them read Thoreau and Emerson that I was advocating that they drop out of high school to live in the forest. As I attempted to illuminate my point better with concrete examples taken from my own life, I shared bits of my high school dreams. Many of them lay shattered as distant memories. They filled up many journals that I’m sure I could find if I dug deep enough. Anyway, in my reverie I recounted that when reading about Transcendentalists and Existentialists, I pictured myself becoming a writer secluded in some sort of wooden oasis. Obviously this wooden oasis would be finely furnished with the most beautiful hand carved writing desk and plush reading chairs. I would have a fully stocked kitchen with all of the finest appliances so that when my writer munchies hit I would be prepared. Apparently I wasn’t completely in line with the ideals of Henry David Thoreau, but it seemed close enough. As I shared my fantasy with my class, one student raised his hand and asked me a question that I can’t seem to shake out of my mind: “What would you write about?”
Back then I would have automatically answered romance. I was in love with the idea of love. I still recognize the importance of love but I don’t think I fall into it quite as easily as I did back then. I’m more weathered by the pain of lost love. I don’t fall for silly theatrics as easily. I suppose some might say that I’ve become more practical. But I still do have a longing to write. And so the question still lingers: what am I supposed to write about? For a while I filled this blog up with reviews. I talked about the inspirations that other people penned. And I still plan to do that because consuming media: books, short stories, poems, movies, television … I still find immense value in doing that. But when I finally get around to writing my novel, my masterpiece, my inspiring words … what will they be about?
I can’t help but think about all the writing advice I have accumulated over the years: great writers write what they know; good writers steal, great writers borrow, ect. Are my writing underachievements due to the fact that I haven’t experienced enough? Have I not read enough? Have I changed so much that writing doesn’t register in the high priority zone anymore? All of these possibilities have worriedly been crossing my mind lately. I’ve been consuming mind numbing video games and movies instead of focusing on what really matters.
And then that’s when it hit me. I want to write about what really matters. When I write my book, it will be difficult to place in one genre because it will cover a smattering of different issues. I’ll write about love, family, priorities, consequences, finding yourself in a world that doesn’t always make sense. My book will be about life. I will write about the truths that I have managed to uncover thus far. I’ll find a way to articulate in a fictional character not yet named what matters to me. And although I haven’t fully figured all of those details out yet, I’m working on it. I’m still a work in progress so why shouldn’t my writing still be a bit of a work in progress?
So my teenage dreams of living in the forest and devoting my life to writing haven’t materialized. I found that my priorities changed and the consequences of certain actions led me down a different path that I originally anticipated. I adapted and I find myself feeling pretty content with where I am now. I have somehow acquired my new dream job: teaching at my alma mater. I live in a cozy little apartment with the love of my life. I’m creating a life for myself based on the realities of life. And that keeps me tethered. It keeps me humble. It ensures that I am blessed with treasures I didn’t even know existed. And so my writing purposes have changed a bit. But the most important thing is that I still do have a writing purpose and so I better keep on writing.