Fiction interlude: John Green
14 February 2012
I am sneezing all over the place today, and I am blaming John Green for it.
Did he give me the cold? Of course not. Was he responsible for me staying up way too late last week reading his new book The Fault in Our Stars?* Why, yes, as the author, he was. So because I didn't get enough sleep, my immune system was compromised, and now I have the mother of all colds.**
Luckily, Green's latest novel is about two teenagers who have cancer, so I'll say this: it puts my case of the sniffles in perspective. I won't bother with a plot synopsis; as with a lot of fiction (with the exception of thrillers and mysteries) the plot really isn't the point here. What is the point is that John Green can write a book about two teenagers with cancer who fall in love (even though one of them fights it) that somehow isn't a) melodramatic dreck, a la Jodi Picoult***, and b) makes you cry but then ends up leaving you feel somehow more hopeful than sad.
Is it is characters? Are they so intelligent, so imperfect and yet so charming, that you feel better just thinking that somewhere, somehow, teenagers who are this interesting and well-read (although preferably not suffering from cancer) really do exist? Or is it his prose?
"The only redeeming facet of Support Group was this kid named Isaac, a long-faced, skinny guy with straight blond hair swept over one eye.
And his eyes were the problem. He had some fantastically improbable eye cancer. One eye had been cut out when he was a kid, and now he wore the kind of thick glasses that made his eyes (both the real one and the glass one) preternaturally huge, like his whole head was basically just this fake eye and this real eye staring at you. From what I could gather on the rare occasions when Isaac shared with the group, a recurrence had placed his remaining eye in peril.
Isaac and I communicated almost exclusively through sighs. Each time someone discussed anticancer diets or snorting ground-up shark fin or whatever, he'd glance over at me and sigh ever so slightly. I'd shake my head microscopically and exhale in response." (p. 6.)
There's nothing fancy there but man, does it flow. It flows like that for 300 pages, so easy and pleasurable to read that you feel it would be almost churlish to stop. So you don't.
I really liked it. And it did leave me wondering, are there smart, kind, well-read teenagers still out there? Preferably ones without cancer? I wasn't able to find a whole lot of them when I WAS a teenager (although I did find a few, bless them) so it makes me wonder.
*Although in all fairness, I was really up because CRjr had a cold, and once I heard his congested breathing it got me worrying about fevers, influenza, etc. So I was really just kind of glad to have the Green book to at least give me something to do while I couldn't sleep.
**I'm fine. It's actually a very run-of-the-mill cold. I'm just being the mother of all babies about it.
***This book includes a jacket blurb from Jodi Picoult, which annoys me, but I suppose they're trying for adult women readers, even though the book is marketed as YA.