I have a soft spot for John Green. The Fault in Our Stars exposed me to a new type of young adult novels where before I was only reading dystopian (The Hunger Games) and fantasy (Harry Potter). He does YouTube videos with his brother Hank called the vlogbrothers and he is open about his mental struggles. His newest release is called Turtles All the Way Down and even though it doesn’t beat The Fault in Our Stars as my favorite, I enjoyed reading it and the story managed to surprise me.
The story is about Aza Holmes, a high schooler who lives in Indianapolis, Indiana. Her best friend is Daisy and she lives with her mom, a teacher. She misses her deceased dad every day and drives his car to school. Aza has obsessive compulsive disorder. She is constantly worried about the bacteria that could be infecting her body. And when she decides to investigate the disappearance of a local billionaire with Daisy, her mental health starts to spiral out of control.
Green has used the missing person angle before. Looking for Alaska and Paper Towns both deal with boys going after girls that they are fascinated/infatuated with. When I began Turtles I thought I was getting more of the same. Aza’s singular focus on what is going on in her body irritated me as the story of the eccentric billionaire didn’t hold my interest. But as I kept reading, I began to empathize with Aza. I don’t know if it is because sometimes I wish I could get out of my own head because of the destructive thoughts or if I could relate to her feelings of almost drowning. The mystery became secondary to her getting worse and those around trying to help.
If you like young adult novels (and you really should because there are so many great ones out there), I recommend Turtles All the Way Down. John Green obviously cares about the younger generation and it is reflected in these characters he creates with attention.
I hope you have a go to list of things that make you happy and you get to enjoy them over the weekend. Thanks for reading!
My daughter is on the last one hundred pages of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows this week. It has been rough. She was able to handle those deaths from the previous installments. She was outraged when she started Deathly Hallows and a beloved pet and teacher were killed. By the next day she was okay. But ever since Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, my girl has become obsessed with the Weasley family (who can blame her?). Ginny is Scarlet’s favorite. Ron is the brother she wishes she had (she does she just hasn’t given him a chance yet). But the girl has turned her adoration to twins Fred and George in the past month. And with that I knew the death that would devastate her.
Even though I have read many books since I was a kid, I don’t remember many character deaths that had an impact on me. Maybe there weren’t a lot. Between the Ramona books, Judy Blume, and V.C. Andrews, there were little to no deaths (yes, people died in Flowers in the Attic but that book had so many wrong things going on it was hard to focus on just the deaths). Then I started reading the Sweet Valley High series by Francine Pascal. Character Regina Morrow was the first book character death that hit hard and has stayed with me 25 years later.
The Sweet Valley High series is the story of twins Elizabeth and Jessica Wakefield who are high schoolers that live in a sunny California town. Elizabeth is the conscientious and sweet girl while Jessica is the fun and gossipy one. They have a large group of friends. In the story On the Edge, one of them is Regina Morrow, a beautiful, wealthy girl. She is kind and close to Elizabeth. She dates Bruce Patman, who is known for being a douche. When Bruce decides to dump Regina to go out with someone else, she takes it hard. She goes to a party where she does cocaine and it leads to her death. Her dying left me numb I was so shocked. I read these books to escape and for enjoyment. I didn’t expect the darkness that came in just a moment. All this time has passed and I still remember that feeling.
When Scarlet read that Harry Potter death, she came to me the next day with tears in her eyes and told me he had died. I told her how sorry I was and cried with her. After a few minutes I was able to tell her that out of all the deaths in the Harry Potter world, his death was the one J.K. Rowling regrets the most. This made her feel a little better. But I also know his death will stay with her and remind her how much she cared about him and this fictional world.
A suggestion was made to me that I might want to start reviewing books. I read at least two books a month and don’t feel like myself unless I have a book on my person at all times. The idea made sense and it pushes me to write more (practice, practice, practice).
Today’s book is called Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell. It is a young adult novel about two teenage outsiders who fall in love in the midst of child abuse (hers) and peer pressure (his). It is set in Omaha, Nebraska in 1986. It has been compared to a John Hughes film and that point couldn’t be more spot on. The dialogue between the teenagers feels so real and the emotions comes effortlessly. Nothing ever feels put upon. I grew up in the 80s and was 11 in 1986. The music she references (The Smiths, New Order, and Joy Division)were too cool for my preteen years but once I hit high school there was nobody cooler than Morrissey and Johnny Marr (my junior year winter formal date looked just like Morrissey-true story). Eleanor at one point is talking to Park on the phone on the floor of her deadbeat Dad’s apartment. She is browsing Dad’s collection of records. Rowell creates such a picture in my head that I could smell the records, the incense, and even the marijuana. The terror and subsequent dread that comes with riding the bus to and from school flooded me with memories. I only wish I had found young love on the bus like the frizzy red headed girl and her punk rock Asian boyfriend (they are definitely not your stereotypical beautiful/dashing heroine/hero).
Eleanor and Park is my new The Fault in Our Stars. It is filled with sweet awkwardness. I was having an inner battle between wanting to read the book slowly so it would never end and wanting to finish it quickly so I could return it to the library so somebody else could experience the joy of reading it. It even has a Star Wars reference for goodness sake. I am still working on my young adult novel and I can now say that Eleanor and Park is the book I strive to write.
A message to the idiots who banned this book in Minnesota: Censorship doesn’t solve anything. It only breeds ignorance. So STOP IT.