Searching for the Great Perhaps in: Looking For Alaska by John Green Book Review

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Looking for Alaska

By: John Green

Published: December, 2006 by Speak

Length: 221

Genre: YA Realistic

Rating: Five Stars

Acquired: Gift

 In searching for “The Great Perhaps” Miles “Pudge” Halter finds himself at boarding school with a new life, new friends, and Alaska Young. It all comes to Alaska. The taken Manic Pixie Dream Girl.

Miles Halter grew up in Florida with very few friends and a limited existence. It isn’t until he is attending Culver Creek Boarding School in Alabama that his life starts to change. He goes there, inspired to find his “Great Perhaps” the famous last words by poet François Rabelais. Obsessed more with famous people’s last words and biographies, Miles doesn’t know know how to really live until he meets Alaska Young. Alaska Young is beautiful, smart, well read, and completely unattainable. She is moody, careless, reckless, and fun. She is your A-typical Manic Pixie Dream Girl. And Miles “Pudge” Halter is in love. But, there is more to Alaska than he, and even her closest friends, know. 

Split in a before and after an event you don’t find out about until the end of before, Looking Up for Alaska is John Green’s debut novel about a boy learning the ins and outs of growing up, falling in love, and what it all means. It’s a well written story that deserves every ounce of the acclaim it has received. Part humorous, part heart-warming, and part heartbreaking, John Green crafts a universal story of what it means to grow up. How hard it can be at times. And, when something happens, who you can count on. The event that happens is somewhat surprising and somewhat expected. How Green handles it is metaphorical beautiful. It’s all in the title. If I ever have a child, my teen is receiving this book from me hands down. It’s universal. Teaches you about friendship, love, and letting go. Even Miles’s obsession with famous last words was great.

There are two major themes/questions in this book both based off of famous last words. The first, of course, is the Great Perhaps. I loved this immensely. Especially through the eyes of a teenager. You are always looking for something, at that age. It’s not always philosophical,  but it’s something. The depth Green added worked. It was convoluted; nor, was it too heavy to understand or believe. It was perfect. The second major theme was more of a question that was asked by Alaska Young, through the possibly fictional words of Simon Bolivar, ” How will I ever get out of this labyrinth?” That question, which Alaska often repeats and becomes central to the plot, `perfectly sums up her. She forever thinks she is living in a labyrinth; but, she is also one to everyone she knows. You never knew what Alaska you would get that day; what wall you would hit that day. Green crafted her well.

I cannot recommend this book enough. Although The Fault in Our Stars is still my favorite book of his, and Paper Towns was more adventurous, this was more realistic and philosophical. It surprised me. I connected to it more than Paper Towns. And, I can see more of a universality to it. This is definitely a book not to miss. I agree with the hype. Maybe not to the whole extent, but to most of it. It leaves you with something. A good something.

 

Tales of Love told through the eyes of a feathered girl: The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Lesyle Walton Book Review

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The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender

By: Leslye Walton

Released: March 25th, 2014 by Candlewick Press

Length: 320 Pages

Genre: YA Fantasy-magical realism

Rating: Five Stars

Acquired: via netgalley

 

Born with feathers, and a silent twin, Ava Lavender narrates the story of the three generation of women in her family that faced love– the fanciful phase, the heartbreak, loss, and everything that comes with it in a moving tone.

The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender is one of those books I couldn’t put down. Full of magical realism, it pulls you in from the beginning. Starting with a very brief detail of Ava’s extraordinary birth, she begins to tell the story of her female ancestors, based on a single emotion-love. And, oh, how these Roux/Lavender women have been affected. And, how unique they all are. After the great-grandfather dies, after being mistaken from someone else and is gruesomely murdered, while the wife maman, and everyone else, thinks he left with another woman begins to almost melt until she literally becomes a pile of blue ashes in their sheets. Then her daughter, Pierette, becomes a bird for the man she loves who never loved her back. A bird! There’s another sister who carves her own heart out after she gives birth to a child whose father is the betrothed to her older sister- Emilienne, all out of love. Emilienne is Ava’s grandmother in the story who lost her husband early on in the marriage, but not before giving birth to their daughter Viviane, Ava’s mother.

Ava takes center stage much later in the novel, but when she does her story shines just as much as the other women. Each, melding into the others so seamlessly. The novel doesn’t necessarily have a plot, which at times I would normally have a problem with, but with this novel I didn’t. I loved how fluid it felt, even without it. The center plot, or theme really, was love and that was the driving collection that made everything make sense and hold a connection. There were no gaps, or holes in the story. Even as each generation of women took center stage in their own way, Ava was always there, guiding and keeping everything together. For a debut novel, this was an ambitious undertaking– to tell four generations worth of stories based on an emotion almost solely told by a person, somewhat of an outsider at certain points. Walton succeeded wonderfully. I look forward to reading her next work.

What I loved most about this novel was the magic in each woman. Not magic like Harry Potter magic. But magic, like something different we can’t explain. Emilienne had hers, where, in the beginning, the people in town thought she was a witch. Then there was Viviane, who could smell things and give emotions to them. Even silent Henry had his own idiosyncrasies. Plus, there was Ava with her wings. It wasn’t completely reminiscent of Sarah Addison Allen, but somewhat. As I am a huge fan of hers, I instantly became a fan of Walton’s. I enjoyed how there was nothing simple or ordinary in this novel. Even the town was special. It was an unique read I couldn’t put down.

Walton stuck to the theme of love very well, her analysis pretty head on. She didn’t take the pretty route. She didn’t show all the good, happy parts of being in love. Didn’t write about all the bad, either; although she wrote a lot on it, but not everything. I enjoyed her take on love; especially how she used it to fuel her plot. Each character found love and its meaning in different ways; and how it could effect them, too. There was so much beauty in the words and descriptions Walton chose, even when love’s ugliness reared it’s head.

I can’t recommend this book enough. It really is a must read. There is something about it that I think makes it one. Not just the words. The characters, the magic, the unsugar coated realism. It’s all there and more. I was initially giving it four stars, but realized I love it so much more. I’m moving it to five. It’s that good. I am planning on buying a copy for myself. There is something about it that just sucked me in. It wasn’t just those feathers. I hope you pick this one up. It’s worth it. It really is.

Greetings from Lost Lake: Lost Lake by Sarah Addison Allen Book Review

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Lost Lake

By: Sarah Addison Allen

Released January 21st, 2014 by St. Martin Press

Length: 302 pages

Genre: Women’s Fiction, Magical Realism

Rating: Five Stars

Acquired: via netgalley

 

You can never the beginning. But you can always change the end.

That one sentence, said by a somewhat minor character staying for one last summer at Lost Lake echoes throughout the entire novel; although it is said closer to the end, it is true throughout the hole book. Each main character, newly widowed Kate, her daughter Devin, Kate’s estranged, great Aunt Eby, Kate’s old childhood friend she spent one good summer with, Wes, they all are stuck and looking to change their ending–they just don’t know it yet. Even the rather minor characters like Selma, who wears a charm bracelet that allows her to marry eight already married men and she’s on her last charm. And, Bulahdeen, who said that heavy statement; her husband has Alzheimer’s, and as many times as she has read novels, she has tried to change her endings.

This novel isn’t just about Eby selling Lost Lake; or Kate “waking up” after a year since her husband died; or Devin befriended an alligator no one thought was on the property, that could only be seen by her, leaving clues; or, each of the three guests at the lake; or, Wes who never stopped loving Kate. It is about creating your own ending that isn’t an ending after all. It’s more of a “in the mean time”.  A “happily ever right now”. Allen creates characters that are somewhat more than broken in many ways and puts them back together in only ways that she can.

Allen still has her Southern charm. And that magical realism that got me when I read my first Sarah Addison Allen book; and, never stopped. I loved the allegory of the alligator. I won’t give away the reason behind him, but the reason is touching, sweet, and really special. Brings the book together. I loved the theme and idea of creating a new ending for yourself. Not really rejecting the one you had, but doing a do-over. A second chance on our own terms. Allen proved, to me, once again, why she is one of my favorite authors. Her voice is so unique and offers something I don’t normally get from other contemporary authors.

I would highly recommend reading any of Allen’s fabulous books. She is so talented. This book is no exception.

When two heartbeats get each other: Heartbeat by Elizabeth Scott

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Heartbeat

By Elizabeth Scott

Released: February, 2014 by Harlequin Teen

Length: 240 Pages

Genre: YA Realistic Fiction

Rating: Five Stars

Acquired: Via netgalley

Everything can change in one…

That’s what happened for seventeen year old Emma. Before she went to school her mother was pregnant..and alive.  Now, angry and living with her step dad, Dan, she once loved as her biological, Emma visits her mother everyday in  the hospital as she is brain dead and struggling to keep the baby she struggled two years to conceive alive. At a loss, Emma struggles every day with the fact that her step dad chose her soon to be born brother over her brain dead mother.  Didn’t he know how scared her mom was all the time about being over forty and pregnant? These thoughts constantly run through her head as her grades drop, her anger rises, and she begins to form an unlikely friendship with a druggie and car thief from school, Caleb Harrison. But they share something Emma and her best friend don’t at the moment and won’t for a long time: grief and losing someone you love prematurely and in a bad way.

This was the first Elizabeth Scott book I have read and I absolutely loved it. I mean completely, absolutely, head over heels fan girl loved it. I read it in one sitting until 2:30 in the morning. There was something about Emma that I really related to. My mom may not be brain dead with a baby in her body, but I have lost someone. And have felt this overwhelming grief that some of  my friends haven’t in their life yet.  I see Emma in myself. And, she is wise beyond her years. She’s smart, very feisty, loyal, and beyond everything loving. I would want her by my bedside any day.

Then, there is Caleb Harrison. Oh, Caleb Harrison. Elizabeth Scott, like Sarah Dessen, knows how to craft a male love interest. He reminds me a little of Macon from Someone Like You by Sarah Dessen (has the good Macon qualities, plus the woundedness). He was a redeemable bad boy. But, not really all that bad. Doing “bad” stuff doesn’t necessarily make the person bad. He made wrong choices, but his heart was hurt and so forth.

Everything about this book was done well. The plot was heart wrenching. It really was. It pulls at you, tugs at your moral consciousness, and shows you what you are made of. I mean, how many books are out there, young adult or otherwise, have a mother on a ventilator solely to keep her baby in her belly alive? A baby that may not even make it? Add in brain dead, a devastated daughter, and a hatred/secret love for the baby and you’ve got a whirlwind of emotions called Heartbeat. There just aren’t many books that tackled this subject, in this way or that. Scott did it in a way that was raw, realistic, emotional, and authentic. I felt Emma break each time she said Hi to her mom knowing she wasn’t “there” anymore. I didn’t want to take away her pain, or take it in, I just wanted to listen. And, I did. Such an emotional, rewarding book. Again, I highly recommend it. If you love Young Adult books, or looking for a book that you think maybe your teenage daughter will like or so on, PICK THIS BOOK UP! You won’t regret it.

 

Paper Towns are real: Paper Towns by John Green Book Review

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Paper Towns

By John Green

Published in 2008 by Brilliance Audio

Format read: audio

Length: 8 hours

Genre: YA realistic/romance

Rating: Five Stars (and added to favorites shelf on goodreads)

Acquired: bought through audible.com

 

“What a treacherous thing to believe that a person is more than a person.” 

Quentin “Q” Jacobsen has loved his childhood neighbor, the wild Margot Roth Spiegelman ever since they discovered a dead body in Jefferson Park when they were nine; with Margot sneaking in through his window to update him on her investigation. Nine years later, and loving her from afar, Margot reenters Q’s life the same way she entered it nine years prior-through his window dressed up like a ninja with black face paint, a list of eleven things that need to be accomplished that night, and cash. What she needs-him and his car. Quentin doesn’t know what to do, but soon finds himself discovering who Margot Roth Spiegelman has become. As Margot Roth Spiegelman runs away, she left more clues, this time for Q. As Q and his gang of misfits, Ben and Radar, search for the missing Margot Roth Spiegelman  (she is one of those girls that are only called by their full name apparently)   Q starts to see who she really is-not the girl he thought she was. She is like a paper town, like one she sets the boys on an adventure to find.

This novel, on the surface, is another Young Adult novel to add to your shelf. It has a good plot, well developed characters, and quirkiness that is always a plus. The characters are about to graduate from High School, meaning another lifetime achievement to be earned. There is love, and unrequited love. Funny sidekicks, house parties, prom, and a missing girl. When you read beneath the surface, delve deep into the theories of how much can you know a person, truly; and is everything relative? You got this novel on the top spot (or close to) on your bookshelf.

John Green first wowed me with The Fault in Our Stars; now, he wooed me with Paper Towns. I loved the idea of paper towns: a town put on a map to prevent piracy. To turn that concept into a novel, and to do it successfully is a feat. But, then use paper towns for a metaphor about knowing, truly knowing a person and how some can just be paper towns is brilliant. The concept of paper towns existing is presented throughout the novel. The question of why, how  exist is a good question. Green takes it further by making the reader guess how much they really know people in their lives. Not just the mysterious Margot Roth Spiegelman.

“When did we see each other face-to-face? Not until you saw into my cracks and I saw into yours. Before that, we were just looking at ideas of each other, like looking at your window shade but never seeing inside. But once the vessel cracks, the light can get in. The light can get out.” 

This isn’t the only passage where identity comes up, it is one of my favorites though. I can say I know my best friend. Or I know my neighbor very well. Or this person, and that person. Yet how well? And how well do they see me? We all have cracks, windows, and curtains. You don’t see this much depth in Young Adult novels anymore. Sure, there are the ones that talk about “real” issues because books just about first love, growing up, and high school are fake issues; but, there aren’t many novels like these that are light on the surface, and heavy below. That makes us completely wonder, even after the last period is reached.

“It is easy to forget how full the world is of people, full to bursting, and each of them imaginable and consistently misimagined.” 

Yes, Mr. Green, well-said.  I could go on and on and quote this book. But, I won’t. Because I think you, all of you, should read this. Or, just read all the quotes on goodreads. It’ll take some of your breath away by how articulate he is; and how so much meaning and truth is jammed packed in his novels.

I loved listening to this book. I might have to buy a copy, actually. I bookmarked many quotes. including the one you see up top and through. It was a great that I think should be required reading in high school. Going too far with my love of this novel, no, I think not. I think this should be even just considered for required school reading because of how much it touches on individuality, knowing, truly knowing the people around you, and knowing yourself. Also, it involves a character running away, which is a topic I also think should be looked at sand discussed. Green’s depictions of Margot Roth Spiegelman’s parents alone and their reactions to their run away daughter is a great topic to dissect.

Now, one more quote before I leave you to run to the nearest bookstore.

“Imagining isn’t perfect. You can’t get all the way inside someone else…But imagining being someone else, or the world being something else, is the only way in. It is the machine that kills fascists.” 

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