2 penny Book Report: I graduated high school in 2000, just missing Speak‘s introduction to the high school classroom. I’m sorry to have missed it then, but lucky to have found it now. Speak is an issue book, for sure, and an important one, but this is also a book about loneliness, judgment, voicelessness, and falling against the sharp end of the high school social stick. Anderson’s portrayal of the aftermath of a terrible, silencing incident has been much-hyped over the last decade, but it’s not just her deft navigation of post-trauma and adolescent cruelty that keeps Speak in the critical and popular spotlight. Freshman year, as experienced through Melinda, is spot-on in its distraction, triviality, cliquiness, and occasional humor (“we are the hornets, the horny horny hornets…”). Read Speak because it’s an important book. But also read Speak because Anderson gets it right.
2 penny Book Report: There’s a reason everybody loves this book. I’m pretty sure Hazel’s voice is that reason. Yes, this is a book about cancer kids. Yes, it is appropriately sad and miserable. No, it is (very thankfully) not particularly heartwarming or inspirational. No, they do not discover a cure or establish a cutting edge treatment center. To be honest, I’m not sure how well John Green writes cancer or cancer treatment or support groups or terminal adolescents. I’m not an expert, and I would not argue with you if you said “he screws this thing up big time” or “he got this thing all wrong.” But what I can verify that John Green does very, very well is create an intelligent, snappy voice for his protagonist. Is the dialogue 100% believable? Probably not. No, probably we do not converse with that much wit and exactitude most of the time. But is it endearing and engaging and entirely emotionally resonant? Yes, yes, and yes. That’s what makes Hazel, and Hazel’s relationship with Augustus, and Hazel’s relationship with her mom and dad, really work. (Side note: the one relationship that no amount of edgy voice or well-honed dialogue could save is that between Hazel, Gus, and Peter Van Houten, great-on-the-page-but-lousy-in-person author of Hazel’s favorite book, An Imperial Affliction. Maybe Green is just better at writing lovable characters than despicable ones, or maybe his Good Guys and Bad Guys don’t do well in a room together, but their interactions hit the book’s low note on the believability scale for me.) All in all, believe the hype. Read the book. (Then maybe watch the movie? Haven’t seen it yet. But read the book first.)
2 penny Book Report:
Some of it is beautiful.
Some of it is tragic.
Some of it is chocolate & sunshine & lemonade.
Some of it is ugly & selfish & horrible.
When you get to the end, you’ll want to rewind to the beginning again.
Consider this book report a courtesy.
Consider it all you need to know.