(John Green, 2017)
Sixteen-year-old Aza never intended to pursue the mystery of fugitive billionaire Russell Pickett, but there’s a hundred-thousand-dollar reward at stake and her Best and Most Fearless Friend, Daisy, is eager to investigate. So together, they navigate the short distance and broad divides that separate them from Russell Pickett’s son, Davis.
Aza is trying. She is trying to be a good daughter, a good friend, a good student, and maybe even a good detective, while also living within the ever-tightening spiral of her own thoughts.
(via John Green Books)
I honestly hate when the synops is misleading. If you are in the bookish community, you have already yourself read, or at least read a dozen reviews of John Green’s new book. And truthfully, having just finished the book myself, I am surprised by the mostly positive feedback. I commend Green for writing a character’s point of view like no other I have ever read personally, or heard about in other books. He really dives into the “spiraling” thoughts of this teenage girl, which to be perfectly honest, made me uncomfortable at times. I read a review somewhat recently (before finishing the book myself), that warned those who suffer from OCD and/or anxiety that this book MAY be a trigger. More warnings like those should be posted in connection with this book though. That being said, the majority of this story does NOT revolve around the case that is presented in the description. In fact, it is very much a completely minor part of the story.
Correct me if I am wrong but it seems like the tone, and the whole atmosphere of this book, in comparison to his others, is different. Granted, I have only read the Fault in Our Stars and Looking for Alaska, both quite a bit of time ago. But at least for me, the whole tone felt a bit off, as if it may have been influenced or co-written by someone else.
(Do not read any further if you do not wish to spoil any part of the book)
I did however find the reference to the title (and apparently famous expression) to be interesting. I mean it made a lot more sense when it was finally presented- something I also always keep in the back of my mind- but the timing and explanation of it was the most interesting. Up until that point I had never heard that expression (or thought to look it up when the book came out) so it was completely new to me. It is not how I personally feel, but still, understandable for those who may think that way I suppose.
As for questions surrounding the book, I found these questions here, that I felt really wrapped up the book nicely for me.
- Does the book make you feel empathetic toward those living with mental illness or compulsive thinking disorder?
- Who’s a role model in the story? What character strengths does that person display?
- How did the ending make you feel? What are some of the messages about first love and hope and the future?
As I am sure you have noticed so far, there is that word empathy again. This is a huge part of whether or not I enjoyed a book, whether I empathize with the character(s) or not. I know that for me, I felt sorry for what Aza was going through. I could also see very minor pieces of myself in her. I mean it is an exhausted debate today; it seems everyone suffers from mental illness, and it is still extremely under-treated, and not really talked about. People are just “crazy” and that is excepted as the end of the conversation.
I took an acting class in college, that one of the assignments was to watch this video of a girl who had disabilities, and “get into her skin.” Really feel what she was feeling, take on her life, her thoughts, her feelings, and get lost. I think that this would be a terribly difficult assignment for many people right now, because we do live in that “me” society where it seems everyone is only thinking of themselves, and not of others.
Who were the role models? My goodness, I just don’t know how to answer that. I feel like Davis handled his burdens with grace, while still being a teenager. But I don’t know that I would call him, or anyone a role model to be honest.
On the other hand though, I really did think that Green hit the nail on the head when he talked about “first love” at the end. Yes, I was sad that things didn’t work out for Aza and Davis, but who isn’t sad when their first love ends? It is true though, they don’t just say “you never forget your first love” for no reason. It teaches you lessons about yourself, and about the future that you really cannot get from reading a book or watching a movie (or playing a game). I am worlds away from the type of life that my “first love” lives, but I think of him often, and fondly, despite things not working out. I know that I could never be with him now, or in the future because we have drifted so far apart in life, and I am ok with that, mostly because I acknowledge that it was a first love, and those don’t always have to be the “only” loves. It is a good message to give to teens today who are so desperate (it seems) to hold on to the first thing that touches their life. I am guilty of that too. Many people find it hard to walk away from someone you care about, and I think John Green did a great job making it seem alright to do that. That things would be ok if you did.
I have always wondered about authors who write from a different sex’s point of view, like when a male author’s main character is female, or visa versa. It intrigues me, mostly because I wonder if they (the author) truly feels they can understand the workings of the opposite sex’s mind, or whether or not they did extensive research, via interviews, etc. How confident do you have to be to not only write a character from the opposite sex’s point of view, but also sell it to that particular sex? Not that a man couldn’t understand how a woman might feel/act/think, or that a woman couldn’t write a convincing male narrative, but it does always catch my interest, and make me wonder if they did additional research for their book or if they simply sat down and wrote.
THANK YOU for bearing with me. I know my posts are lengthy,- they most likely will not get shorter. This has been such a nice outlet for me at the end of the day, it doesn’t bother me if you don’t read the whole thing. Until next time..
Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan