Book Review: The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

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The Fault in Our Stars

The Fault In Our Stars

John Green

Penguin Books

313 pages Genre: YA

 

Seventeen-year-old Hazel Grace Lancaster is dying.  She tells us in the first chapter. “…depression isn’t a side effect of cancer. Depression is a side effect of dying.”  Due to her depression and dying for that matter, her mother and doctor want her to be in a support group. She grudgingly goes, pretends to listen then escapes back home to enjoy the latest addition of her favorite reality show.

Ironically, the only friends she really can relate to are those in the dreaded support group. Isaac who has a rare cancer that will leave him blind and his friend Augustus Waters, a newcomer to the group, make her feel as normal as she can while dragging her ever present oxygen tank behind her.

Augustus was once a star basketball player until cancer claimed one of his legs. He is a video playing, wise cracking guy. Hazel opens up to him in a way she has not connected with anyone in a long time. She tells him of her favorite book, Imperial Affliction by Peter Van Houten. It haunts her because Van Houten ends the book in the middle of a sentence and Hazel feels she has to know the end before she dies.

Van Houten lives in Amsterdam. Gus and Hazel end up connecting with him, but find the source of her obsession may just not be worthy of either of their efforts.

The most striking thing about this book is the concern Hazel has for her parents after she is gone. She is afraid they will divorce or maybe even curl up and die themselves because they no longer have anything to focus on after caring for a dying child for the last several years. This was not an egotistical assumption on her part, she is afraid she has robbed them of their lives.

Wise beyond her years, Hazel also wishes people will look at her and not see someone with cancer. She just wants to be Hazel Grace. That is so profound for a young adult novel. Hazel is wise beyond her years. Not afraid of dying, she is afraid of what her dying will do to anyone close to her. She feels like a bomb ready to explode so she keeps everyone she can at arm’s length so they won’t be hurt when she dies.

I highly recommend this book to young adults and adults. I especially recommend this book to anyone who has or has had a child with a serious illness. Speaking firsthand, it is difficult not to worry, coddle, make exceptions for and obsess about a sick child. Even when they get better, it is hard to see them as well. We need to look beyond the illness and at the person. No special treatment, no worrying about what they eat or don’t eat even though it is hard to treat them like their siblings.

Kudos go to John Green for writing a wonderfully emotional book from the viewpoint of a dying teenage girl. If I could give it more than five stars, I absolutely would.  If you have seen the movie, I beg you to read the book. Everyone has heard “the book is better than the movie”. Even though the movie was good (aside from the teens loudly trying to out- sob each other) but so many important plot points were left out,  you need to read this book.

Copyright © 2014 Laura Hartman

Book Review: Death Spiral by Janie Chodosh

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Death SpiralDeath Spiral: A Faith Flores Science Mystery

Janie Chodosh

Poisoned Pencil (An imprint of Poisoned Pen Press)

ISBN-9781929345007

301 pages Genre: YA Mystery

 Faith Flores on the surface is an angry, angst filled high school student. In reality, she is so much more. She recently moved in with her aunt after her mother’s apparent drug over dose death. For the first time in her life she lives in a home without roaches or drug paraphernalia, has good food instead of junk purchased from street vendors and a chance for a stable life with her aunt. How could this bright young woman possibly not see the opportunities now available to her?

Everyone knows her mother was a heroin addict. Faith would bet her life that her mother was clean at the time of her death. She was in an experimental program that was helping her kick the habit. Why did the police find drugs at their apartment after her death? Faith is convinced it had something to do with the program her mom was on and is determined to prove that she did not die of a drug overdose, but from something gone terribly wrong with the treatments they were giving her.

She grudgingly goes to school, even though she is bright and extraordinarily gifted in science, but has trouble focusing because she cannot help going over the events of her mother’s death. She makes a few unlikely friends. Anj , a very together girl that seems to do everything right. Her clothes, makeup, studies all scream college bound preppie, but she has taken a reluctant Faith under her wing.  Then there is the new boy, Jesse. Under the grunge exterior is a smart, quick-witted doctor’s son who is predestined to follow his father’s footsteps.

Unexpected Faith gets a call from, Melinda, one of her mom’s junkie friends who is in the same experimental program that her mom was in. When Melinda turns up dead, Faith will risk her own life to expose the clinic’s responsibility in the two deaths. Afraid for the safety of her aunt and her two newfound friends, she pushes them away from her as she descends deeper into the illegal activities and the cover-up that she is discovering with her research. People involved with the clinic are turning up dead and Faith might be next.

Death Spiral is Janie Chodosh’s first novel and the first in her Faith Flores Science Mystery Series. Not only does this book appeal to the YA crowd, but adults will also enjoy the underlying tension as Faith tries to adjust to her new life without the mother she truly loved and how close she spirals away from all of the good aspects of her life forsaking them to go up against something much bigger than she imagined.

This wonderfully written, fast paced mystery does not shove boring facts at the reader, but mixes them masterfully in. Chodosh takes on the genetics of addiction much like her characters would, it is obvious she has done her homework . Her author notes state she has …”strived to be scientifically accurate” as well as lists the things that are fiction. I love that she does that because readers are often left wondering which part, if any, is accurate. She also suggests learning more by visiting the Genetic Science Learning Center and their website.

Faith could have easily been a character that the readers do not like. That is far from true. Her rough edges are merely there to keep herself and others from getting hurt. She is smart, tenacious and loyal. She will stand up well in the next books in Chodosh’s series.

Copyright © 2014 Laura Hartman

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy that I can keep for consideration in preparing to write this content. I was not expected to return this item after my review.

Book Review: Montooth 3 Red Cross of Gold by Robert Jay

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Montooth 3 Red Cross of Gold

Robert Jay

Cloverleaf Corporation

ISBN-978-0-989117-0-4

512 pages

Genre: YA Historical Fiction

Monthooth 3, Red Cross of Gold is the third book in the Montooth series by award winning author Robert Jay. He begins this book with The Crew – a group of high achieving high school students on the cusp of graduation. The story continues through their college years, ending in graduation and the beginning of their adulthood.

The main story line is laid out for the reader in the first chapter when an experienced archer commits a murder. This sets the stage for Carty (the main character of the series) to be accused of the crime. She and The Crew have to find the real killer in order to save her from arrest.

There are several other stories within the main storyline. First, there is the story of Montooth as told to The Crew by Sally, a woman that was a witch in one of the previous books, but now a close friend. Montooth , a giant Florida alligator is the star of a group of fables written by Sally’s ancestors. This story features bees and bears. It is a typical fable with a moral at the end.

There are also two large sections of history interspersed with the book. One is the story of hidden gold and a society called the Templars of Scotland, dating back to 1307 and the more recent history of the overthrow of Cuba’s government. Both portions of history tied to the main story. The Templars via Sally and her family fortune and Cuba by Elena, Carty’s best friend and roommate, explain various plot points and turns. To me, this book felt like it should have been broken up into two novels as the first half is almost a separate story from the half about Cuba.

It wasn’t difficult to pick up the characters or backstory without reading the previous books in the series. What was difficult for me was the long sections of history that read like a textbook instead of a novel. It became rather dry to have so many pages of history without referring to the main story or characters, especially the chapters about the Templars. The Cuban portion was a bit more interesting because Elena and her brother were a part of the story at times.

As a work of fiction, the footnotes at the back of the book are not my favorite. Footnotes on the page don’t interrupt a reader as much has having to page back 400 pages to find the right reference. I understand the author’s need to explain history and people outside the text, but a work of fiction calls for the footnotes on the same page.

I would recommend this book to anyone who loves delving a bit deeper into history than the typical historical novel.

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy that I can keep for consideration in preparing to write this content. I was not expected to return this item after my review. Copyright © 2014 Laura Hartman

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