So here's my story with John Green. I have read...three of his books? An Abundance of Katherines, Paper Towns, and Will Grayson, Will Grayson. Don't ask me why I haven't read Looking for Alaska, even though it's the ONE book of his that I actually own.
The problem that I have is that while I was mildly quirky and fairly intelligent for a teenager -so long as you ignore that year that I was fourteen- those were not my only character traits. Quirkiness is not something you can base a character on, unless it somehow ties into an actual trait. I can't see it as a foundation for a character. John Green does.
That's the major problem I have with this book. And maybe I wouldn't feel so strongly about it if I wasn't attacked from all sides by people telling me that John Green is the greatest YA author ever. And maybe I wouldn't have felt this sort of apathy while reading the book if I hadn't been disappointed in his previous books that I read, admittedly not his best books, but still.
So before pitchforks come out, let me say that this was not a bad book. It wasn't. But was it so much more different than other cancer books I've read? Yeah, no. Nothing stood out to me except for the quirkiness of the characters, and like I said above, I was not too impressed with it.
Also, if this were not a John Green book and I was not promised it was his absolute best ever, I would have dropped it early in. And here's why, in one nicely wrapped up word:
The beginning of the book absolutely oozed with the feeling of pretentiousness. I was worried my Kindle was going to become infected. And there were three things that irked me pretty much off the bat:
One: The Basketball Metaphor.
It may come as a surprise that I LOVE sports. I'm rubbish at all of them (except fencing), but I love watching them. Seriously. Football (American and soccer), baseball, hockey, softball, basketball, tennis, volleyball, and I'm slowly starting to get into rugby too. I'm glued to the television during the Olympics. I love sports.
So this analogy, that basketball was just putting a ball through a hoop like a child would put a block in the correctly shaped hole? Yeah, didn't fly with me.
Do you know everything a point guard is thinking during any given play in a basketball game? Yeah, there's the basics like keep dribbling and ball goes in hoop. You're also listening to the coach and relaying messages according to the game plan. Should that plan mess up, you're in charge of creating a new one, relaying that to your team mates. Oh, you also have to keep an eye out for them too because their positions in reference to the defending team's position can change the game plan as well. But you have to consider your teammate's strengths and weaknesses. Think you can get an easy foul to get at the free throw line? Gotta take that into account too.
The shot clock in college is 35 seconds, which some people want reduced to the NBA's 25 seconds. That's twenty five seconds to get down the court, have your team set, scout the defense, and try to get your team the most probable shot.
If all you're doing is putting a ball through the hoop, you're not really playing basketball correctly.
And everything can really be set down to a very basic form. What is writing but putting the next best word after the other?
Two: V for Vendetta.
This point's really personal, so it's probably not a big deal to anyone but me but V for Vendetta is my second favorite comic of all time and second favorite film of all time. To say that it's specifically a boy movie is one thing. I get it, it's a character choice. But you went on to question why boys try to get girls into things like that?
Sweetie, first of all, I don't understand how V for Vendetta is purely for boys. That's a legitimate question. You watched 300 later in the book and didn't comment on its masculinity. What part of revenge, taking down a facist government, and questioning the passivity of people is purely male?
Three: You make fun of cancer books...in a cancer book.
I'm not sure I need to go through with any detail here. It would be different if I thought it was for comedic effect, but I didn't get that feeling.
I point out these three specific instances because they happen in the span of a few pages. All of those things scream 'I'm too good for you!' to me. I'm too good for basketball. I'm too good for V for Vendetta. I'm too good for "normal" cancer books.
But the single most pretentious thing was the dialogue. If you can point out real life teenagers who talk like this, I will give you a million cookies. No joke. I will start baking this very second. While the rule in writing, "Write like you speak" is asinine, there is a point to it! Characters should sound real.
Is a real teenager going to tell you that he buys cigarettes, doesn't light them, for the thrill of it? For the metaphor? I fucking LOVE metaphors. I loved them more when I was a teenager, but who is seriously going to do that?
The characters feel fictional, which in a character driven story, is no bueno.
Now, there's me bitching, but I did say this wasn't a bad book. It's not. The writing is solid, and there were parts that made me laugh and smile. I wasn't wanting to pull my eyes out like I do most YA books nowadays. I did like the parents, they felt more real than a lot of parents in young adult, though I still wonder about the trip. I also liked Isaac.
The ending....I couldn't....like, it was sad, but it wasn't sad. I don't know, maybe I expected too much. (view spoiler)[I really wanted it to drop off in the middle of a sentence. (hide spoiler)] When it came around....eh. In its defence, I knew what was going to happen, but I still know what happens in The Deathly Hallows and I cry every time I read it and watch it.
I was constantly aware that it was fictional. In the end, I wasn't emotionally invested because I couldn't see the story outside of being a story.