Sunday, December 9, 2012

What I'm reading



I'm silent on my blog for a mother-loving WEEK (the longest break since I committed to writing frequently, over two years ago) and then I plop a post about "What I'm reading" down here?

Um, yeah.

So you might get the feeling I don't want to talk about my life right now. And you'd be right.

I'm struggling.

I'm whining, whinging, stuck, avoiding and generally being a cranky person and I really really don't want to bore you with that.

I have a post I started to write a few weeks ago called "Wrestling the Black Dog" and there's a single sentence in it: "It's that time of year again, when the days shorten and so does my concentration, my capacity for joy, and my temper. Depression"

And then I stopped.

I'm being good at stopping and bad at going, at doing.

And what I have done my whole life when I am stopped, stuck, and withdrawing from life is read.

I can't talk about my feelings anymore right now. (What little I've let out here is making me uncomfortable enough. I am really not OK with how not OK I am. Because I'm a mom and this has the potential to affect not just me, but the kids. Not OK.) But I CAN talk about what I'm reading.

So here goes:

At Thanksgiving dinner with my family this year, the teens (17 year-old Aaron & 14 year-old Greta) were talking about a book they were reading: Paper Towns by John Green. It sounded really wonderful. A YA novel that was smart and literate.

I have an affection for good YA books, and finally a reasonable excuse for reading them: vetting for future reading by my soon-to-be-teen boys. (And also I will confess: I harbor a secret desire to maybe write one some day.)

So I picked it up. And it was good. More than just good. Smart, funny, literate; a pleasure to read yet deep, full of soul, lots of things to ponder. A coming of age story, of course, but so much more.

John Green's main characters tend to think too much - like me and most of the people I like - and are really interesting to spend time with. 

So then I grabbed another John Green book, his latest: The Fault in Our Stars.



This is the kind of book that makes you want to stand up on a mountain top or soapbox and shout: "READ THIS BOOK!" to everyone you see. (Well, it makes me feel that way, anyway.)

After I read it I found it to be on a lot of people's "Best of 2012" lists. And not just in YA, but for fiction in general. Best NOVEL of the year lists. And yes, it deserves that place.

I know I will be reading it again. And again. It's one of THOSE. Characters you fall in love with, who then break your heart, which you willingly hand to them, and let them do what they will.

It's a rip-your-heart-out-but-also-fill-it-to-the-brim story about a 16 year-old girl who will be dying of cancer.

It is moving and touching without ever being trite, mushy, sacharin or maudlin. The storytelling is taut as a bowstring and each sentence finds its target perfectly - zing!

The language sings.

You would think a book full of teenagers wise in the ways of pain and loss and facing their immanent mortality would be heavy beyond belief; and yet this book shimmers with light.

And it's a perfect antidote to my unlovely attraction towards a good wallow, the mighty pull of  self-pity in these times of darkness. Let's just say I needed this.

I am not going to describe the plot one iota, because it should be experienced as the story unfolds.

I will say it's the story of a girl. And a boy. And some other girls and boys. And their families (parents who are neither monsters nor superheroes; all very real, very human).  It's about love. And being alive, truly alive. And courage. And fear. And dying.

And it's also about a book, and that book's author, who is important to the main characters -- because that's how John Green rolls. His books are always also about the books his characters are obsessed with, which I - a book lover - find delightful (like I said, it's literary, literate YA fiction).

And I will say: READ IT! You won't be sorry.

(OK, coming down from the mountain, stepping off my soapbox now.)

Finally, I will leave you with a quote from the book, whet your appetite a tiny bit (and hopefully I'll be back soon with some more words of my own)...

“Sometimes, you read a book and it fills you with this weird evangelical zeal, and you become convinced that the shattered world will never be put back together unless and until all living humans read the book.”
― John Green, The Fault in Our Stars


  1. I keep seeing The Fault in Our Stars popping up on must read lists. Maybe I will actually read it. Or maybe it will go the way of Twilight and 50 Shades and I won't just because everyone else is reading it.

  2. I adore book recommendations and I'm holding up you up from across the country, hoping things get easier and lighter.

  3. And I'm not ok with your not being ok. But I know that if you can forgive yourself the hard feelings, eat some veggies along with your comfort foods, and just keep going one minute at a time, one moment at a time, it will get a little easier eventually. It will.

    Until then, you are loved, you are prayed for, and you are not alone.

  4. Well, despite being a voracious reader, I cringe at the YA genre. However, you've convinced me to order this one, and I ordered the other for my son!

    Dear Varda, I do hope you're feeling better soon. I've missed your writing and your presence online and hope that you find some ease and peace soon. Sending love to you.

  5. I just read Fault In Our Stars, too, and loved it. I have not read his other books (yet) but have watched some of his Youtube videos. He has this whole "Don't forget to be awesome"/Nerdfighters (for them, not against) vlog campaign with his brother. One of my teenagers introduced me to it.
    Anyways, I am sad that you are feeling low and I hope you feel free to handle it in any way that is best for you.

  6. I wish everyone in the world would read this book. And when finished, start up again. I wish this was a movement, I wish there were T shirts that came with the book.

    It's that important. Was thinking: would your mother like you to read it to her out loud??

  7. I SO relate to this, for good and for bad. Your black dog is my black cloud. Hang on, day by day, and Spring will revive us, if nothing else helps first. Love you and so sorry you're mired in in this sludge too. I've been reading a book a day, going broke self-medicating with fiction and carbs. Thank goodness for talented writers. And thumbs up for The Fault in Our Stars.

  8. Just circled back to you r blog after WAY too long...I love John Greeen and yes, the Fault In Our Stars is not just "YA" but for all of us. Have you read Wonder? Maybe it can be next on your list - also YA...which I like simply due to the fact that my shorter attention span these days can handle YA very well...Look forward to catching up on some of your other posts.


I am so sorry to have to turn word verification back on, but the spam-bots have found me - yikes!