Book Review: The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

8174411852_f0f9f3b139_z

I’m generally reluctant to jump on bandwagons, but sometimes my curiosity gets the better of me and I have to see for myself what all the fuss is about. Such was the case with The Fault in Our Stars by John Green.

While I expected it to be an easy and engrossing read, I’ll admit that I didn’t expect to love it. Here’s why:

1) It’s classified as Young Adult (YA) Fiction. Prior to reading TFIOS, I hadn’t really read any YA novels since I was about 13, because a) I hated being a teenager and would prefer not to vicariously relive that period of my life, and b) I just assumed that any book aimed teenagers would be shallow and simplistic. (Side note: Remember that saying about making assumptions? Yeah, that.)

2) Sometimes I feel that writers exploit cancer by using it as a tool for guaranteeing a strong emotional reaction from their readers, because they know that nearly everyone has had some kind of experience with it, either directly or indirectly. Of course, it’s not necessarily a bad thing to write about heavy issues that we can all relate to, but I did wonder what TFIOS could possibly have to offer that hadn’t already been covered in the array cancer-centred fiction that preceded it.

3) The bandwagon thing. I’m way more critical of things that everyone loves (probably not my best quality, but anyway).

Thankfully, my slight skepticism came back void. Here’s why:

1) John Green doesn’t patronise his audience. He seems to operate from the perspective that teenagers are intelligent and do concern themselves with some of life’s more profound questions – questions that the majority of people will continue to wrestle with for their entire lives. There are also lots of cool (but not immediately obvious) symbolic themes and metaphors running through the book, for those who enjoy a little artistic excavation. Plus, the lead characters do NOT talk like real-life teenagers. This actually irritated me a little at first, until I heard Green explain that the dialogue was not supposed to be an accurate depiction of teenage discourse, but had been intentionally stylised in order to show what the main characters might think/hope they sound like.

2) Although the central story is a romantic one, Green doesn’t romanticise cancer itself and offers a pretty accurate and gritty depiction of its many ramifications.

3) Sometimes bandwagons become bandwagons for a good reason.

So, count me among those who are aboard the TFIOS bandwagon! I really enjoyed this book, and recommend it to anyone looking for an easy yet thought-provoking read. The writing style isn’t at all taxing, yet there are enough layers to keep the reader engaged from beginning to end. The first layer is the love story. The second layer is the issue of mortality and how scary it is to be confronted with death in a real and immediate manner. The third (and my favourite) layer is the greater question of what constitutes a meaningful life. (There are probably many more layers that I didn’t uncover in the first read.) I love that John Green has encouraged people, young and old, to think deeply about these questions, because questions are the beginning of discovery.

Have you read The Fault in Our Stars? What did you think of it? Let me know in the comments section below!

 

Photo of books courtesy of L on Flickr.

Four Things To Do When You Have Writer’s Block

676375346_02ff7abae8

All writers have experienced the disheartening sense of creative bankruptcy that is writer’s block. The good news is that you don’t have to wait in a state of passivity until it disappears. Here are four tips for getting over the proverbial hump:

1. Read. When I’m feeling totally uninspired, I read. I read all kinds of things – novels, blog posts, short stories, news articles, song lyrics, poems, etc. Once I begin to truly appreciate the infinite ways in which language can be utilised to convey a message or tell a story, I start itching to further develop my own style of communicating through words.

2. Write. No, I haven’t totally lost my mind and forgotten what the title of this post is. But really, sometimes the only way out is through. Unless you’ve truly and completely lost the ability to string a sentence together (in which case you should stop reading this post and call a doctor immediately) then the only thing standing between you and some words on a page is the fear of writing something bad. So, face your fear, write something bad, and eventually you’ll be rewarded for your diligence with inspiration.

3. Do Something New. This could be as simple as going to a new coffee shop, taking up a new hobby, learning a new skill, meeting a new person or visiting a new place. Newness is stimulating and can cause us to notice things we may have previously overlooked. Sometimes a simple change of scenery can be just the ticket for recharging those creative batteries.

4. Stay Calm. Writer’s block can be an extremely humbling experience. That’s a good thing – humility makes us strive to be better writers. Don’t get too freaked out by your current lack of creative energy. Keep to your end of the bargain (see No. 2) and this too shall pass.

 

How do you deal with writer’s block? I’d love to hear from you in the comments!

 

Photo courtesy of Neal Sanche on Flickr. 

 

Genie, I’m Gonna Miss You

14892173165_f3f82e4169_o

I don’t often publicise my thoughts and feelings on the deaths of famous people. There are a couple of reasons for this. One, I don’t want to perpetuate the myth that the death of a celebrity is somehow more tragic than the death of an “ordinary” person. Two, I know that whatever sadness I may feel pales in comparison to that of the family and friends who are dealing with the very real loss of someone they loved dearly. That said, I have been struck by the outpouring of gratitude for Robin Williams’ life that has been flooding my various social media feeds since the news of his death was made public, and I am compelled to issue my own thank you note to the man whose voice is deeply embedded in the consciousness of my generation.

Laughter is an amazing gift. It lifts the soul, nourishes the mind and even boosts the immune system. Robin Williams punctuated our lives with many beautiful moments of sweet laughter. He brought lightness to many heavy topics (such as divorce, love, death and loss) without belittling them in any way, and in doing so helped many of us to deal such issues in our own lives.

Life is both a comedy and a tragedy – it is comprised of both laughter and tears. Williams always brought a deeply human element to even his most comedic roles (amazingly, even when playing non-human characters). His voice alone could clearly convey a broad range of human emotions. And although Mrs. Doubtfire is a movie that is widely noted for its hilarity, what sticks in my memory is the earnest, teary-eyed expression of a man who is brokenhearted at having to live apart from his children. This, I believe, is what made Williams so unique and so beloved – his ability to make us both laugh with joy and cry with compassion.

Thank you, Robin Williams, for the laughter. A major component of our collective grief is undoubtedly the wish that we could’ve returned the favor and given back to you in kind. Thank you also for the tears, which can be just as healing as laughter. That the world feels your absence so profoundly is a testament to how many lives you affected through your art.

Genie, I’m gonna miss you.

 

Image courtesy of scarlett1854 on Flickr. 

 

 

Video 30 of 30: Cover of “I Am Still Running” by Jon Foreman

Read about the 30 Days of Videos challenge here.

Challenge completed! And what better way to end than with a(nother) Jon Foreman song? (For the record, Jon Foreman is the only artist I’ve double up on during this challenge – tripled, if you count the Switchfoot song!) Thanks so, SO much to everyone who watched, liked, shared and commented on videos, and generally cheered me along! I really appreciate the support and hope that you enjoyed watching these videos as much as I enjoyed making them! To everyone who made requests that I haven’t gotten to yet, I still intend to post regular videos, so be sure to subscribe to my Youtube channel in order to keep yourself in the proverbial loop!

If you enjoyed this video, please spread the love and share it via Facebook, Twitter, email, carrier pigeon, or whatever other method of communication you may favour!

Video 29 of 30: Sing To Me Again (Original Song)

Read about the 30 Days of Videos challenge here.

It’s hard to compete with the sound of the surf, but if you wear headphones you should be able to hear my voice above the oceanic roar. If not, I’ve included the lyrics in the video description!

If you enjoyed this video, please spread the love and share it via Facebook, Twitter, email, carrier pigeon, or whatever other method of communication you may favour!