Even though I’m actually on a writing break, I’m managing to get in a good deal of reading as well. Last week I got through a couple of young adult novels: Paper Towns by John Green and Gone by Christine Kersey.
John Green is likely to be familiar to readers of YA. His novel The Fault in Our Stars has recently been made into a movie and he’s also famous for his VlogBrothers project with brother Hank. If you haven’t heard of it, I’d strongly suggest checking it out. (Go here to find out how it started.)
The first John Green novel I read was Will Grayson, Will Grayson, co-authored with David Levithan, which I quite enjoyed, and was one of the reasons I fell upon Paper Towns. It’s a story of unrequited love, of Quentin Jacobsen who secretly “admires” the unattainable Margo Roth Spiegelman. Then, one day, after a night of unbelievable (literally!) adventures, Margo disappears and Quentin embarks on a quest to find her.
There’s some wonderful writing, a cast of entertaining characters and some intriguing plotting. This isn’t intended to be a review, so I won’t go on and on, but it had me turning pages compulsively even though there were things I didn’t like. For one, it felt like I’d met some of the characters before—Jane from Will Grayson… and Margo seemed uncannily similar in many ways; Green’s Will in Will Grayson… and Quentin again seemed somewhat same-y. Also, I wasn’t a great fan of the philosophizing when Quentin was attempting to read Walt Whitman’s “Song of Myself”. There was some of this in Will Grayson… as well. I am waiting to read some more of John Green’s work to find out if this is a common thing in his work.but I’m not. Even if it is, I’m not really complaining—it’s not that often you find engaging and non-stereotypical boys and girls in fiction.
Christine Kersey’s Gone is part one of the Parallel Trilogy. It was offered free and the premise sounded interesting. Morgan Campbell is a sixteen-year-old who decides to run away from home. She runs a bit further than she intended and ends up in a parallel dystopian universe where the (US) government is forcing a Federally-Assisted Thinning (FAT) programme down their citizens’ throats, which they must pay for themselves. In this new universe, Morgan’s family has had to sell their house and relocate after her father was dragged off to FAT rehab, and everyone is obsessed with sport and health foods.
As a concept, it is quite brilliant and put me in mind of Scott Westerfeld’s Uglies, about a world obsessed with good looks. It’s also extremely relevant given the consuming preoccupation with being thin in our present world. However, the writing leaves quite a lot of room for improvement. Right off, the opening—Morgan’s conversation with her mother after which she decides to run away—left me cold. It was completely unconvincing and the exchange between them (and some other conversations later on) stilted. The style of writing is very passive and cringingly clunky at times; that thing they always tell writers, “show, don’t tell”—Gone has done it all by telling rather than showing. Yet the plot was interesting enough for me to read through and think about getting the rest.