Usually I write reviews in a sort of "royal-Books-Inc.-we" kind of voice. But this time, I had such a personal reaction to the book that I felt like I owed it to the content to write a personal review. Hi, I'm Maggie, and if you come to the NYMBC events you know me as the rambling, babbling emcee who usually doesn't say the right thing before the authors start being awesome. I run NYMBC because I love YA, and this new novel from John Green is exactly why. I loved The Fault in Our Stars. Sixteen year old me is PISSED that grownup me got to the be the one to read it first.
Rather than explaining what this book is about, I'd rather tell you why it's worth reading. Again and again. And then passing to a friend, and telling strangers to read, and then giving it as a gift to all the cool people you know.
In a genre that is currently pretty light on realism, John Green presents the reader with a story that is so unflinchingly real that it left me bawling. On a plane. On the flight home from New Orleans. With a bunch of hungover people who really didn't care that the crazy lady next to them was bawling. My boyfriend and supplyer of tissues was concerned. "Are you ok?" he asked. And I didn't know what to say.
In the novel, the two main characters are obsessed with a fictional book called An Imperial Ailment. It's so formative for both of them, that they feel as though it predicts the way they feel, that it is somehow speaking only to them. I remember reading Slaughterhouse Five when I was that age and feeling the exact same way. There is, incidentally, a "So it goes" in the narration, much to my delight. What is amazing about this book, is that I imagine it will do for many readers what Slaughterhouse Five did for me, what An Imperial Ailment did for these characters. It will pull back the curtain of consciousness, which can be so isolating, and remind us: You are and you are not alone. Life is cruel and beautiful, and then it is over. I kept thinking of Billy Pilgrim's headstone as I read this book:
Everything was Beautiful, and Nothing Hurt.
So go read The Fault in Our Stars. Then share it with someone who matters to you.